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Tech Diving Expedition: 500 Rai – Khao Sok National Park

Technical divers explore previously prohibited area of Khao Sok National Park

500 Rai, Thailand

Continuing the expedition James Foleher and James Thornton-Allan arrived in Khao Sok National Park to begin open lake trimix diving and cavern diving over the next few days in a man made called Chiew Larn Lake which is part of Rachaprabha Dam located inside the national park.

Remarkable Khao Sok National Park is dotted with limestone peaks and rugged cliffs and cloaked in rainforest and is inhabited by rarely seen wildlife. Add to this tube rafting and elephant trekking and there’s much to recommend it.

Established as a National Park in 1980 Khao Sok today covers 646 sq km. It is best reached from Surat Thani, for many the gateway to Ko Samui, or, from Phuket to the south. The park comprises of rugged limestone mountains and cliffs cut by rivers and dotted with caves and waterfalls. Rare flora such as the famous Rafflesia can be found, and the park is home to seldom seen wildlife such as wild elephants, leopards, serow, banteng, gaur, dusky languors, tigers and Malayan sun bears; there are over 180 bird species.

Arriving at Rachaprabha Dam both divers were tired from the night boat and the road trip down from the north and decided rather than spending the first day exploring the sunken forest on trimix we would explore a previously prohibited area of the park called 500 Rai, this would give the divers a chance to relax and rest before the coming dives.

500 Rai (Ha Roy Rai) is a secluded area of the national park which was closed last year after some damage was made to the forest. Located adjacent to Cheow Lan Lake, this secluded raft house is the ideal quiet retreat and home to limestone caves which have never been accesses by divers.

Arriving by a one hour longtail ride through the national park we had a 25 minute trek through the jungle up hill in temperatures in excess of 35 degrees. Arriving at the other end completely sweating it was clear there would be significant difficulty getting technical diving gear into the area to do any exploring.

Rather then walk back defeated the divers explored a dry cave called “Coral Cave” which was a chance to show the formations of caves and talk about stalactites and stalagmites before experiencing them during future dives.

Returning to the lake and then the pier the divers headed off to their hotel and a game of golf to end the day in preparation for diving the next day.

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