Friday, October 26, 2012

Trip Report, Part 27: Kung Krabaen Bay Nature Center

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
The mangrove trees that dominate the area are classified as Sonneratia alba (of the family Sonneratiaceae). Their extensive root systems, both above and below ground, filter salt from the water, making the brackish mix of salt water from the gulf and fresh water from the rivers usable where it couldn't sustain many other varieties of plant life.

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


Glenn said...

Hi - love your positive posts and photos for Chanthaburi. I was at Khung Krabaen on Saturday 3 Nov, and sure enough, six buses of school children there as well, same every time we go. Oct-Apr there are kayaks for hire on the estuary, lovely way to spend an hour or more. We hope to see a dugong one day, sadly the last one seen here was April 2006.

khunbaobao said...

Thank you, Glenn! I took a brief look through your site(s)- there are several, featuring different places - and will visit again as time allows. For those interested in seeing it the link is: Worth a look!

khunbaobao said...

Let me correct the above link here. That's a sub-page.

The home page is actually

Glenn said...

thanks; we're in our second year in Chanthaburi, most of my travels are by bicycle, lots of places to go within easy riding distance, always take my camera, lots to do/see in a relatively small area.
A sad dugong story in yesterday's Phuket news, one of the three that feed at Cape Panwa hit and killed by speedboat propeller, an ever-decreasing population.

khunbaobao said...

It sounds like you're living the good life. I'm a little bit envious!

I hadn't heard of dugong but one other time (from a Filipino friend) so when I saw the sign at the reserve I had to look it up that evening online. It's a shame they look as though they're heading for extinction.