You’re heading to KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK in southern Thailand today to take part in what will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable experiences of your entire trip. It’s a very early start – you’ll need to leave your hotel at around 5.30am in order to catch the 7.10am AirAsia flight to Surat Thani – but you won’t begrudge it. A brilliant (and extremely convenient) way of seeing Khao Sok is with Elephant Hills, whose two-night packages include accommodation, activities, meals and transfers; they will pick you up from Surat Thani airport at 9.40am (your flight arrives at 9am) for the two-hour journey to their Elephant Camp in Khao Sok.
Settle in to your family tent and enjoy the buffet lunch before kicking off the afternoon’s activities with their signature ELEPHANT EXPERIENCE, an unforgettable encounter with the camps’ resident herd of Asian elephants. You’ll spend a couple of magical hours showering them down, scrubbing their hides clean with hunks of coconut fibre and then feeding them pineapple halves and strips of sugar cane. Elephant Hills has won multiple awards for the ethical way the experience is conducted (there’s certainly no elephant riding here), and it’s reassuringly clear that these pampered pachyderms are lovingly cared for.
Once you’ve bid a fond farewell to your sparklingly clean, well-fed new friends, it’s time for a slow paddle along the KHAO SOK RIVER. Your guide will do all the work, so you can sit back and relax and enjoy the national park’s stunning scenery. You’ll probably spot birds, monkeys and the occasional frog or snake as you glide along in your inflatable canoe, but this is more about taking in the limestone peaks that rear ahead of you, and the thick jungle that spills down to the river on both sides.
TOP TIP If you’re not staying at Elephant Hills, a good alternative way to see Khao Sok National Park is with Our Jungle Camp, staying at their new treehouses in Khao Sok and getting them to arrange a number of similar tours activities with local operators, including an Elephant Encounter [1pm or 3pm | ฿1200, ฿600 for under-11s, free for under-4s], where you help bathe a couple of Asian elephants in the river (probably best for older children), and a canoe ride down the Khao Sok River [฿800, ฿600 for under-11s, free for under-4s]. They can also arrange transfers from Surat Thani Airport [฿2000].
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From jungle treehouses to floating bungalows – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in Thailand
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of Thailand’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety and how to get around
MORE AMAZING TRIPS
Eight days across Morocco, from spice souks to the Sahara
Eight days taking in Dubrovnik and the best of the Dalmatian coast