Gliding through the serene waters of Cheow Larn Lake, deep in the heart of the world’s oldest evergreen forest, it’s easy to forget where you’ve come from and where you might be going. The natural splendour of Khao Sok National Park's jagged cliffs, dense forests and tranquil shores is spellbinding, to say the least.
After centuries of logging, the national park remains one of the few areas that make up the 15 per cent of Thailand’s remaining forests.
There are no roads here and few paths; many areas are off limits to humans, even on foot. Yet nestled in Khao Sok's ethereal interior is the Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp, a destination you can only reach by boat.
This is where the wild things are and the team at Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp document and monitor endangered species indigenous to this land with hidden cameras in the wilderness.
The diversity of species living in Khao Sok could compete with the vast biodiversity of the Amazon. There are wild elephants, gibbons, tapirs, Malayan Sun Bears and Clouded leopards, just to name a few.
The main reason small groups of curious visitors leave the comforts of civilisation and glide across Cheow Larn Lake each day is to see the elephants.
Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp is home to 12 Asian elephants who were bred in captivity and trained to work in logging or the tourism and entertainment industries. Unfortunately, due to their past lives, these elephants cannot be simply reintroduced into the wild.
The conservation camp ensures a high quality of life for the animals with natural environmental stimulation, wide roaming and social group living to meet physical and mental needs.
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Guests of Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp are offered an interactive, yet respectful encounter with these magnificent animals.
You could find yourself bathing the elephants with coconut husks to remove dried mud from a cheeky mud bath (an elephant's biggest vice) or chopping down earthly delights from the forest to feed them. Covered in mud and elephant saliva, you can consider your work done for the day.
If you are fortunate enough to stay at Elephant Hills for more than one night, as travel and lifestyle photographers Matt Cherubino and Tim Clark were on their recent Flight Centre Instagram journey, you'll have the luxury of staying in one of 20 floating tents on Cheow Larn Lake.
In your own canoe, you and a guide will paddle past the towering limestone karst mountains and dense forest teeming with wildlife to your luxury buoyant abode.
Matt and Tim, being the intrepid explorers they are, also canoed 12 kilometres up the lake’s tributaries to photograph the extent of southern Thailand’s largest stretch of primary rainforest.
The only thing ensuring the guys paddled back to camp was knowing the roar of wild tigers would only intensify as the sun set.
While tigers and other wildlife are aware of the floating camp, rest assured they keep their distance. Settling in and falling asleep to the dulcet sounds of nature is an experience you'll never forget.
Matt and Tim embarked on a three-day, two-night Jungle Lake Safari which included all meals and activities. They were guests of Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp and travelled on behalf of Flight Centre Australia.