Today we departed for the Raft, Trek, and Caving Adventure Tour, excited to get a deep jungle trekking experience in Khao Sok, within the Klong Phanom National Park, situated next to the Khao Sok National Park.
This tour shows a jungle side that not many tourists have seen because, typically, almost all of the excursions are made to the Khao Sok National Park itself. So we were quite excited to see what lay ahead of us, and we were ready for the adventurous promise made by our guide.
At first, we walked on a regular dirt path, with beautiful scenery of limestone mountains ahead of us, and luscious palm trees roaming the way. A scorching and humid day unraveled as we continued walking along rubber tree plantations, and proceeded into the jungle of Klong Phanom Nationalpark.
This was when the adventure started, as there was no longer a smooth dirt path guiding the way. With our hiking shoes, we walked through the greens, with plants brushing against our legs and skin, always facing a steeper path up towards the mountains. Our guides lead us through the bushes, and we continued on like this until we stopped at an enormous Buttress Tree to admire its size and incredibly thick stem and roots. It was so tall that you couldn’t see the top, with the shorter trees around this tree blocking the view of its branches leading towards the sky. We were amazed at the tree’s sheer size and stopped here for a short break following our steep climb. After the short water break, we continued climbing upwards, through untouched jungle nature. There was no trail leading us to these caves, we were utterly dependent on our guide to bring us through the thick vines, branches, and leaves blocking our way.
It was a tough medium hike, and as much as I love a challenge, there were moments in which I needed help with my balance to maintain a stable grip beneath my feet. Our two guides were very helpful and aware of us, always looking out to see how we were doing during this steep, adventurous climb. So needless to say, I felt very safe and looked after.
There was a short moment of our guides not finding the pathway they wanted us to be on, though, so they asked us to wait nearby another gigantic tree while they searched for the right, safer path towards the caves. Especially in the rainy season, the jungle is alive, and its plants were growing at a very rapid speed, which explains why the pathway they were expecting may have just been covered with newly developed plants. This definitely contributed to the adventurous feel of this hike! Although it may have appeared like we were lost, I knew that our guides would find the way and were just doing their best to keep us feeling safe. Not long after, they found the way, and one of the guides reappeared and led us back in the right direction.
We hiked and hiked, and with the damp and hot air, we were all covered in sweat (yum!), but it was such an alleviating and fun experience. I truly felt like Jane from Tarzan the whole entire time, becoming one with the jungle. Admiring the life surrounding me, the beautiful, fresh, green leaves and insects within the rainforest. Except for the mosquitoes, those I truly wished just to drop dead. Don’t forget covering yourself in long, breathable cloth and mosquito spray! You’re in the jungle where human blood smells fresh and is foreign and exciting for these little beasts!
After this long, steep hike up the mountain, we finally arrived at a pathway leading to the cave’s entrance. Coming there was such a breathtaking experience, with the enormous cave so high above us, and its grandiosity was indeed a spectacular scene. Something out of a movie, I felt so tiny compared to this large cave mouth. It is hard to describe with words which feelings have arisen within me at that moment. But staring at the cave’s entrance with the nature surrounding it, I felt so peaceful and meditative, you could hear the whole jungle alive, with the wind brushing through the leaves and the cave breathing, inviting you to explore its depths.
We walked up the steep ladder covered in ivy plants into the entrance of the cave. Going inside, we needed to watch out because there were deep puddles of water in the pathway. So we avoided the puddles by stepping onto the walls of the cave, while slowly moving forward. With our guides always on the lookout for us and guiding the way. They had also given us headlights before entering the cave so that we could see what was in front of us without having to be dependent on them.
This cave is 400m deep, so you can imagine (or maybe not, because I couldn’t before entering the cave) how insanely large it is. We entered deep within the cave and stared in awe at the enormous stalactites surrounding us everywhere, shimmering like crystals a breathtakingly beautiful experience I never had in my life before. Everything was so quiet, the grandiosity of the cave weighed upon us, with the cold air and its darkness surrounding us.
Our guide told us that monks used to (and still do) meditate in the cave, and he even showed us decomposing pots that were left there from an era long past.
Being there, imagining hundreds of monks meditating in this cavern, felt surreal to me even though I felt so at peace inside the cave. We proceeded to walk into the next cavern, and in this section, there were hundreds of bats dangling above us, which we shined our lights on and watched for a few minutes. We spent around 20 minutes in total inside the cave, just being there, walking around and admiring the vast beauty of the stalactites and letting the size of the cave have its effect on us. What a wonderful experience.
Going back out of the caves again, we continued trekking to the next, much smaller caves between the limestone cliffs next to the river, which would lead us to the end of our trekking tour. The trek leading there was a gradual incline down the mountain again, it was easier and much shorter than the steep hike up to the cave. We arrived at the river and followed the stream towards the limestone cliffs, where we were greeted by Buddhist shrines and a Temple setting at the opening of the limestone cliff’s pathway, following through to the other side. Our guides gave their offerings to the Buddhist shrines.
We proceeded to walk through to the other side, where a table with dragonfruit, banana, tea, and coffee was awaiting us, placed on banana leaves and cups of bamboo to drink out of. We were all quite exhausted after this long hike, which felt like a day of proper exercise, and everyone was super content. We freshened ourselves up with the fresh fruit, and a lady approached our table and gifted us with steamed sweet rice in banana leaves, which tasted so delicious.
Afterward, we were picked up by car and taken to the nearby river to end our day by drifting further down the river on a raft. We sat inside the canoes, and our guides steered the boats for us, giving us the time to relax and completely unwind, appreciating the beauty surrounding us. We even spotted some monkeys in the trees during our canoeing experience.
The river raft at the end really gave the perfect ending note of this tour, I really enjoyed just laying on the water and feeling the fresh breeze against my skin, completely relaxing after such a strenuous hike.
All in all, this hike was a marvelous and very fulfilling experience, I had not expected to be so intrigued and fascinated by the cave. It was also a very challenging hike, so I would recommend this to the true adventure-seekers out there!