This week’s planned outing required something very different for us – an early morning!! Instead of the usual 7:40am alarm bells it was a 5:00am alarm! AAUGH!!! Why because we were off to Thung Sam Roi Yot (wetlands) section of Sam Roi Yot National Park.
A few weeks back we had taken a day trip to Sam Roi Yot National Park but did not get to the wetlands as we could not find the entrance road. You can read more about our initial trip to Sam Roi Yot National Park in this blog post. And as an aside you can read more about the alarm clock reference in this post.
Back to our early morning and why such madness – Birds!
And to put Birds in context – you see Vivien’s parents fell into bird watching once they retired and started travelling around Australia in their little camper trailer. For 20+ years they developed a deep interest and love of birdwatching. They kept records, were members of birdwatching groups and even assisted in organising trips to known ‘birdo’ sites. From our time going camping with Ralph and Jean we also started taking an interest, with Vivien in particular expanding her knowledge and fascination.
So when we learnt that these wetlands are an important site for native and migratory birds it was a no-brainer.
We just needed to be there when the birds are most active i.e. early morning or late afternoon. Early morning it was to be!
Sam Roi Yot National Park is located south of Hua Hin around 45 – 60 minutes drive. It features beautiful coastline, marine park, some three hundred mountain peaks, rivers and canals, wetlands, caves, nature trails, lookouts or viewpoints and the Park supports a diverse range of birds, animals and plantlife. In our mind the Park is in essence 3 enormous parks.
In this blog post, we focus on Thung Sam Roi Yot, the freshwater marsh covering around 36 sq/km to the west of the Parks’ limestone mountains and one of the largest wetlands in Thailand.
We arrived around 7.30am, and the National Park officers were not on duty as yet to take our park fees – luckily the gates were open so we drove straight in. The Visitors Centre had just opened and although we walked around the large information panel and displays they were all in Thai so only the pictures made sense!
From the front of the Visitors Info Centre raised timber walkways lead you out onto the wetlands seeming to stretch around in an arc for a kilometer or so. You can see red roofed gazebos situated at distances along the walkways – places to sit quietly and take in your surrounding and observing nature do it’s thing.
Nature lovers will enjoy this serene, peaceful and natural setting. And birdwatchers will be in heaven with thousands of birds to get your sights onto and to hear their soft, noisy or gregarious calls.
For the next couple of hours we wandered the walkways – Vivien spotting birds, looking them up in her Birdo reference books and lists whilst I took in the natural atmosphere, relative peace and quiet and snapping photos of the scene as it unfolded around us.
As the sun peaked over the mountains around 8.30am the colours of the reeds, birds, fish, mountains and everything started to pop.
So what makes this place so special – other than the natural beauty – a significant section the marshlands is a Ramsar site. Ramsar is an international convention on wetlands, for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. Thailand has 14 Ramsar sites and entered into the treaty in 1998.
According to the Ramsar website, Sam Roi Yot Wetland is important because of the freshwater marsh and coastal wetlands – rare in Thailand and in the Malayan Rainforest biogeographic region.
The freshwater marsh we visited, is a biodiversity hotspot with at least 292 plants species in 233 genera, 92 families including 174 aquatic plant species. Moreover, the marsh supports at least 113 wildlife species including at least 41 freshwater fish species. Many of the species recorded are included in the IUCN Red List i.e. critically endangered. The local people are heavily dependent on the marsh for its freshwater fisheries, seasonal wild food gathering, crop growing, grazing grounds and water for livestock. Aquaculture is also becoming increasingly important, as is tourism given the wide variety of natural attractions within the national park.
The Wetland is very important for the thousands of birds that migrate here for wintering, some staying up to 5 months. Our visit was at the end of the busiest period for migratory birds (January, February) so we may not have seen all that we could but that just gives us another reason to return to these wetlands again!
We were both surprised and enthralled with our visit here and are already scheduling another – this time late afternoon. No alarms clocks necessary next time around!