A Guest's Perspective
Mention the likes of Phuket and Khao Lak to backpackers and travel enthusiasts, and most people will know what you are talking about. Tourist hotspots on Thailand’s Andaman Coast – Bustling, Vibrant and full of people soaking up the nightlife, cheap Pad Thai, mopeds for rent, Chang Beer, beautiful temples and eclectic culture.
But, what lies beyond these well-known locations on Thailand’s Western Shores? What if we mentioned Khao Sok? How many of these Avid Adventure Seekers would know of the hidden gem that is the Khao Sok National Park just 3 hours north of Phuket and Krabi, we wonder?
Having packed up our lives in the UK indefinitely in October 2019 after deciding to up sticks and move to the paradise island of Koh Phi Phi, we wanted to give ourselves a couple of days seeing a completely different side to Thailand before we got stuck into our new lives. It didn’t take much time researching before we stumbled upon some incredible pictures from the Khao Sok National Park. And almost instantly, we were hooked but also surprised. Why had we never heard of this breath-taking looking area before?
This incredibly dense Jungle region in the Surat Thani Province was to be our first stop upon landing in Thailand – our new home for the foreseeable future. Choosing our accommodation for Khao Sok was a straightforward process. We knew we wanted to be as close to the incredible nature and wildlife this area had to offer as humanly possible and, we knew we wanted to stay somewhere unique. Not a corporate hotel chain, but accommodation with a heart and soul. A hotel that cared about the environment in which it was situated and a hotel that offered more to its guests than miniature plastic bottles of shampoo, a comfy bed, and freshly prepared breakfast. Enter Our Jungle Camp – Eco Resort!
Our Jungle Camp is situated in the Khao Sok Rainforest. Although, we don’t think the word ‘situated’ does this eco-resort justice here. To say that, Our Jungle Camp is ‘One With’ the Khao Sok Rainforest seems more appropriate. Made from bamboo and renewable materials, Our Jungle Camp blends effortlessly in with its surroundings. It almost seems to be connecting to the ground on which it lies instead of simply being built upon it. The architecture of this place really blew us away, and it was immediately evident that the resort has been purposely designed to be as unintrusive and natural as physically possible.
Our three nights at Our Jungle Camp were spent in two different accommodation types which the resort has to offer. Our First night was spent in the ‘Hornbill Treehouse.’ Rising up from the undergrowth of the rainforest, the word treehouse could not be more suitable. What we instantly realized upon entering our treehouse for the first time, was just how much effort had been put into making the accommodation as rustic as possible with not a molecule of plastic in sight.
It was incredibly refreshing, and it made us feel like we were sleeping amongst the inhabitants of the rainforest, both flora and fauna, sharing and utilizing the very same materials.
The open plan design and generous balcony really gave us an appreciation of the habitat in which we were so fortunate to stay in. All of these feelings were dialed up when we were lulled to sleep by the infinite sounds of the rainforest coming to life. The next two nights were spent in the ‘Hibiscus Earth House.’ The only difference between this fantastic private bungalow and the treehouse was that it was situated at ground level – surrounded by incredible plants and trees blooming up over the balcony.
Each room contained an ample supply of filtered water in a glass dispenser with the intention of encouraging people to restock their water supply, as opposed to the continuous purchase of plastic bottles of water. We arrived in Thailand with our own water bottles, precisely for this purpose. As such, we were delighted to see this implemented at the Eco Resort. The environmentally-friendly, minimal impact and ethical ethos of our Jungle Camp really did shine through in every aspect and area of the resort.
We could have wandered around the grounds of Our Jungle Camp alone for days. The resort has its own farm, growing local and seasonal produce which in then utilizes in the resort’s restaurant. As the resort lies next to the River Sok, you can easily access the warm flowing waters from the gorgeously manicured gardens of the resort.
Hammocks and areas for rest and relaxation can be found in the Resorts incredible open plan bar, and you can even climb up Our Jungle Camps 3 story bamboo tower (used for massage sessions) to gain an amazing bird’s-eye view of the entire resort. In terms of activities offered by Our Jungle Camp, you couldn’t be more spoilt for choice.
Would you like to bath an elephant ethically? Hike through the national park with a local guide and swim under waterfalls? Take a full-day trip to explore Cheow Lan Lake or even stay there overnight? Learn to cook authentic Thai Food? Start or End your day with a yoga session in the resorts stunning grounds? The options for enriching, educational, and unforgettable experiences really are endless.
Had we have had the time, we would have definitely ventured to the Cheow Lan lake for an overnight stay in one of the rivers raft houses! However, Koh Phi Phi was calling – but we managed to squeeze a lot of activities into our short stay at Our Jungle Camp. On our first day, we decided to go trekking in the Khao Sok National Park with a local guide. His name was Jame, he was 24 and had really quite a staggering wealth of knowledge about the area. We spent 4 hours laughing and learning with Jame. From useful Thai phrases to learning to distinguish between a handful of the 1,000+ species of Bamboo (Yes, you read that correctly, over 1,000 species of bamboo!). But the best thing we took away from our trek with Jame was how much the locals care about the rainforest. How much they rely on it and simply how much they love it and the creatures that inhabit it. It was a simple but beautiful symbiotic relationship. The next day, after significant research on the matter, Our Jungle Camp organized for us to visit the Hillside Elephant Sanctuary, home to only 4 Elephants, all of whom were rescued from previous lives of abuse in unethical tourism experiences or being rehabilitated for terminal injuries. The sanctuary operates under the policy that limited and strictly regulated encounters with Elephants CAN be ethical, primarily when they exist to fund medication and welfare for these four incredible animals. Ensuring that we never engage in unethical touristic activities is very important to us – its a fundamental aspect of our ethos as bloggers.
We never encourage or advocate experiences without significant research into the ethics and benefits of each activity. Having said this, we were blown away by the operation at the sanctuary.
No Bullhooks. No Chains. Freedom to Roam. Guided by verbal communication and never forced to move by ropes. Limited Numbers allowed at the sanctuary per day. Extensive briefings about animal interaction and also history into the past of each of the Elephants living at the sanctuary. Our experience visiting the sanctuary was nothing but magical. You could tell that the few staff that worked there were not out to make a profit – quite the opposite. The sanctuary is open to the public to fund the upkeep, rehabilitation, and medication for these retired beauties. If you’re going to engage in Elephant tourism in Thailand – we could not recommend this sanctuary more! Our experience organized through the Eco-Resort really restored our faith in the fact that ethical encounters with these creatures ARE possible when we have a strict moral compass on the matter and do plenty of research.
Ultimately, our stay with Our Jungle Camp could not have been any more magical. We were able to reconnect with nature on a level we had not experienced for a very long time. The resort implanted in us a deep appreciation for just how unique the Khao Sok area is. And we left feeling like we couldn’t have experienced the local environment any more organically than we did. We felt apart of the rainforest during our stay there, and the feelings of admiration and adoration for the natural environment that were planted during our stay with Our Jungle Camp will stay with us forever. THANK YOU to Our Jungle Camp for creating Our magical Jungle Eco Experience!