Discover an ancient floating forest in this national park in Thailand
A boat ride through an emerald forest older than the Amazon? Where do we sign up
image Pakin Songmor / Getty
words Lucy O'Brien
Welcome to Wanderlust Wonders: each week we’ll be cleansing your feed with a feel-good snapshot of somewhere beautiful, both in and out of this world.
Today, we’re taking you to the ancient waterways of Cheow Lan Lake at Khao Sok National Park, Thailand.
What am I looking at?
We know what you’re thinking. It’s giving Pandora (you know, the mystical ecosystem in James Cameron’s Avatar) vibes, and you’re not wrong. But this is not in fact a fantastical wonderland on a planet far from Earth, but the serene Cheow Lan Lake in Southern Thailand. Found in Khao Sok National Park, the vast forests that make up this tourist attraction are thought to be over 160 million years old, and is home to rare species like the clouded leopard and wild elephants. Famous for formations of sedimentary limestone rocks that tower over the waterline, this natural phenomenon has long attracted tourists from across the globe. And in case you haven’t quite grasped the scale of it, the park is estimated to be five times as large as the Great Barrier Reef – take a moment.
Tell me more…
So how do these floating rocks…float? Well, in all actuality they don’t float at all, but are actually remnants of old mountain peaks that have reformed drastically as a result of geological change. The process is far from easy – tectonic plate movements over millions of years have forced parts of bedrock that were once joined together to break apart and emerge from the water. The rocks, which are made from limestone, endure a special kind of reaction with water and oxygen, which creates the holes, caves and crevices that characterise this landscape, and creates what is known as karsts. Thankfully, they make for great viewing on a scenic boat ride!
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Is the park under threat, and how can we help it?
Cheow Lan lake plays a vital part in the wider sustainability ecosystem of Thailand – the lake is regulated by a dam which produces hydroelectric power for large parts of Southern Thailand. But the creation of the dam led to a man-made reservoir – the consequent flooding made drastic changes to the ecological landscape and its wildlife. As the flora and fauna population still continues to adapt to higher water levels and recover in numbers, the current biggest threat to the national park is logging, unregulated tourism and interference with wildlife.
Thankfully, a large portion of these threats can be easily resolved by our actions. If you plan on visiting the park, make sure you do so using the park’s chargeable, eco-tourism visitor packages. The fees go directly towards essential park maintenance and ecology projects. Respecting the beautiful land and avoiding littering any non-biodegradable items is also an essential part of the park’s code of conduct. Remember, we're just visitors: local animals and plants are the attraction's permanent residents, and they depend on its good health for their survival!
Best views from the grid...
Tune in next week for another dose of visual healing...