Cave Diving in Thailand – Khao Sok – Day 1
Today we departed from Koh Tao on a 2 hour ferry to Chumphon in mainland thailand to start our journey to Khao Sok National Park for a ANDI Cavern Level 2 diver course. Arriving in Chumphon we met up with the Truck we sent the previous day filled with cylinders to take us on our trip.
We let Yvonne sit in the front while the boys listened to Ipods and relaxed in the back. The road from Chumphon to Khao Lak takes a very diverse and scenic route giving everyone a taste of Thailands urban and rural wonders.
Leaving from Koh Tao at 10am, i wouldn’t be until 6 when we arrive in Khao Sok and met up with Bruce Konefe who would be conducting the course for the 4 students eagerly awaiting the challenge ahead.
Although many on the course had experience in overhead environments or had dove in caves before, this course would prove to be educational and rewarding for all.
Arriving in Khao Sok everyone had dinner and went to be early, awaiting the next day’s activites and the arrival of John from Siam Dive N Sail who was joining us.
A brief history of the National Park
The 401 road was constructed between Phun Pin (Surat Thani) and Takuapa (Phangnga). This opened up the whole area for settlements and plantations, the modern weapons and tools that came with the new peoples meant nature was in trouble. The logging and mining (tungsten and tin) industry soon followed, to the cost of the rainforest and the Sok river, which began to run brown with sediment runoff as a result of the soil erosion.
Thai students, who had joined the communist insurgency groups, set up a stronghold in Khao Sok, since it was ideal territory to hide and operate guerilla warfare. Between 1975 and 1982 these students not only kept the Thai Army at bay, but also kept the loggers, miners and hunters out. Had it not been for this seven year occupation, Khao Sok’s forests may well have gone the same way as much of the rest of Thailand’s wilderness – up in smoke.
Also during this period there was considerable interest from the government and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), since research had shown Khao Sok to be the largest watershed in southern Thailand. The National Park Division also carried out some research and established the fact there was still considerable biodiversity worth protecting in the region.
22nd December 1980
Khao Sok National Park was established.
EGAT established the Rajjaprabha Dam – closing off the Pasaeng river and creating a 165 square kilometre lake, inside the National Park Boundaries. This dam was built to guarantee a source of electricity to the south, which by now had become a major holiday destination. EGAT attempted the largest capture and release operation (to save the animals facing drowning in the lake) ever in Thailand. Unfortunately, this operation was largely unsuccessful and many of the species captured died from the stress. A World Bank study in 1995 revealed the loss of some 52 species of fish from the river, because they were not adapted to the deep waters of the lake.