|Mangrove trees (Sonneratia alba) from the walkway of Kung Krabaen forest|
Along the Gulf of Thailand in Chanthaburi, Kung Krabaen Bay - also known as "Stingray Bay" to the locals because of its shape - is home to a huge area of mangrove forest: the Kung Krabaen Mangrove Forest and Nature Center.
|A wooden bridge spans one of the open areas in the forest|
While there are many many other mangrove swamp areas around the gulf, this park is, I'm told, about the largest and more visitor- and education-friendly of them all. At a little over 500 acres (1,300 rai) it's difficult to get a big picture of it because it's so dense you can't see the forest for, well, for the trees. Literally, in this case.
|Over a mile of raised wooden walkways wind through the forest|
It's like stepping back into prehistoric times when you enter the forest, if you you can forgive a little over a mile of raised wooden walkways that meander through the place. The open waterway in the lead photo today is one of a precious few I saw as I made my way through beneath the dense canopy of mangrove branches and leaves.
|For height reference, here are|
people climbing up to an
observation tower, above
the tree tops
There was very little air movement in the forest, even though you could see movement in the tree tops high overhead, and I was lucky it wasn't a hot day; the humidity in the area might have been overwhelming otherwise.
Birds sang out with a variety of calls around me, and every so often you could catch a glimpse of wildlife - if you were taking your time and being observant. Butterflies were visible near the edges of the forest, but I saw very few beneath the canopy itself.
What you could see were several varieties of small crabs, skittering over and around the tree roots. Most were in the three inch wide category; blues, greens and reds being their predominant colors. The light under the trees was low enough that I got quite a few blurry pictures, but not many worth sharing here. Here's one:
Another unexpected creature were the freshwater rays that rested on the surface of the mud in some of the shallow areas. These two were either snuggling or mating; perhaps both.
The park is open from early morning to dusk most every day, and because of the educational value of the place it's a regular stop for school outings. It's not far from the area I stayed in the Laem Sing area for my long weekend holiday. On the map below the park is on the bay with the purple dot, and Laem Sing is indicated with a green one.
|Image from Google Maps|
Even if you don't make the five hour drive from Bangkok to visit here, try looking up other similar areas and check them out. I've seen photos posted by a friend of another park like this near Hua Hin. It's worth the effort.
|A common tiger butterfly near the edge of the mangrove forest|