With the opportunity of joining a Khao Sok Lake Group Tour Experience last week, we got the chance to visit the fascinating Nam Taloo Cave and stay at TonToey Raft House, one of the oldest raft houses on the lake!
The first day we started with the visit to the Nam Taloo Cave, which we heard is over 500 meters long and in total darkness, but first we had to make it there. During the hike we crossed a small river several times which was a welcome cooling for the feet.Those who were skilful enough could try to swing on a Liana vine over the river and keep their feet dry!
But we knew our feet would get wet anyway, since the Nam Taloo cave was formed by the river erosion. Another interesting fact about the cave is that it was used as a hideout for a group of student activists between 1975 – 1982. These communist insurgents, in disagreement with the Thai government, were able to hold off the army for seven years. They also prevented loggers, miners and hunters from exploiting the area and therefore contributed to the preservation of the beautiful National Park we still find today. On the hike to the cave we passed some shelters, holes in the ground covered with bamboo roofs, which served as stash for the communists.
Before we entered the cave, our guide advised us to go to the “Pi Pi Island” around the corner, in order to keep the water level low;) Anyway, in the cave we were walking one after the other through narrow passages and water ponds amazed by the beauty of the stalagmites and stalactites. Everyone was so busy looking around and admiring the sparkling cave wall and the swarm of bats sleeping at the ceiling, that it was hard to watch your step. It was nice to see everyone taking care of one another since the ground was hard to see when we were walking in the water. We always got advices from the guide or persons walking in front: “watch out there is a big stone! Or “take care, it’s getting deep here”. Some of the water ponds were even so deep that we had to swim through.
When we came out of the cave again, the weather had changed completely from a bright sunny sky to pouring rain. Controversy to what most of us western people might think, that rain is a negative thing, it appeared to be a really nice experience.
The impression of the jungle is totally different. The dropping rain coming down the leaves, the grayish light in which the jungle looks even more mysterious and the soothing noise of the rain were sensational. The rain in the jungle also elicits different kind of animals such as leeches which some of us found on their legs. Luckily they don’t do any harm and can easily be removed when you grab them with some tobacco to get hold of them. The tobacco can also be used to put in the top of your socks as a leech deterrent.
Back at Ton Toey raft house, we really couldn’t complain about the food provided. The table was fully served with delicious Thai food including Green Curry, Massaman Curry, stir fried vegetables and fresh fish. And after having eaten we could already chose our breakfast ranging from Congee (rice porridge), fried eggs to pineapple pancakes. Ton Toey Raft House is one of the oldest raft houses at the lake and was a former ranger station. Its’ location is a perfect spot for kayaking because there are many inlets which are nice to paddle around and the chances to see some Macaque monkeys on your own by kayak are fairly high.The next morning we started with a Morning Mist Safari where we got incredibly close to some Long-tailed Maquac monkeys. They were having breakfast in a tree which branches were hanging down into the water. I was quite surprised how little they were afraid of falling into the water and our guide told us that they are very well able to swim and even dive for up to 5 minutes.
They like to sleep in trees close to the water and stay in groups together. Macaques also have cheek pouches in which they can store food and transport it away to still enjoy it to a later time.
Furthermore we saw some Lar Gibbons (White Handed Gibbons), they were hiding in the tree and with a closer look one could even spot a Lar Gobbon family. In the morning hours Gibbons can be heard singing in the trees. It sounds like they are responding each other from one tree to another and our guide even joined in doing Gibbon calls.
While quietly waiting in the boat for some animals to appear in the trees, we heard a whooping sound coming closer and when we looked up the sky, we saw some hornbills passing by. One might think that it is a weird sound for a bird, but what actually causes this noise are their wings.
Hornbills owe their name to their physical appearance. The bill is way bigger than the rest of the head and roundly shaped like a horn in yellowish color.
“ The way is the goal” this was the motto of the following hike to the viewpoint. The jungle and its’ variety of plants were wonderful to see. What especially amazed me were the huge buttressed roots of the so called Ban Yen trees. If you would look at the bottom profile of the trees trunk, it looks rather stellar than round and if you knock against it, it sounds almost like a drum.There are several theories why the roots of the tree are formed like this. One of them is that due to intense winds and tropical storms they built up strong roots which don’t go deep into the ground because the water is near the surface. Instead the root systems of large trees are often partially exposed, spreading wide and shallow and keeping the tree upright. Another or further explanation of this feature is that flared roots greatly expand the surface area of the bark at the base of the tree. Nutrients are important to supply the massive foliage in the canopy.
Those Ban Yen trees can measure a size of 65m above the ground and generally get between 150 – 300 years old. The one on the picture for example is estimated to be 120+ years old.
Summarizing, we had a great tour experienced and would have loved to stay even longer. It was incredibly relaxing to be out at the lake and at the same time exciting to see the wildlife and astonishing natural environment.