Sam Roi Yot National Park
Sam Roi Yot National Park, in Prachuab Khiri Khan province,
covers an area of approximately 99 sq.km encompassing a number
of varied habitats including steep limestone mountains, freshwater
marsh, beaches, limestone islands, mangrove remnants and coastal
pools. The name Khao Sam Roi Yot means "The Mountain
With Three Hundred Peaks", and whilst the number may
be an exaggeration, the mountains, which rise to a height
of 605 m, are certainly a magnificent backdrop to the aquatic
habitats that provide the main ornithological interest.
on the mountains receives very little rainfall and the vegetation
reflects this as does a fairly sparse avifauna, however, the
wetland habitats more than make up for this and provide an
opportunity to see a large number of species in a short length
marsh & mountains
(Photo by Dave Gandy)
Sam Roi Yot is the largest freshwater marsh in Thailand, provides
an important habitat for numerous species of birds and other small
animals. It is a shame to see that encroachment into this area still
regularly occurs and that almost all the wetland areas to the seaward
side of the mountains have been converted to shrimp ponds despite
the international importance of the site.
In spite of
these problems, this remains an excellent region to find wetland
species and indeed, some of the shrimp ponds appear to be reverting
to a more natural state. Additionally, Khao Sam Roi Yot seems to
be visited less often than it was in the past and large areas of
habitat that are seldom visited exist, and the potential to find
exciting birds here is high.
are the primary reason for visiting Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park,
with a large number of species present. The beaches here are one of
the few places where Malaysian Plovers nest in Thailand along with
small numbers of Little Terns, but plenty of other wetland birds can
be found on the coastal shrimp ponds and the freshwater marsh.
(Photo by Stijn De Win)
such as Spotted Redshank, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Kentish
Plover are quite numerous here and Malaysian Plovers breed
in small numbers along the more lonely beaches. Birds such
as Caspian Tern and White-bellied Sea Eagle are also regularly
seen, not to forget that Spoon-billed Sandpiper has been recorded
here amongst flocks of Rufous-necked Stints, but not for some
are well represented at Khao Sam Roi Yot too, with Eastern
Marsh Harrier fairly common and this is good place to look
out for Greater Spotted Eagle and Oriental Hobby which likes
to associate with the limestone outcrops. With more observers
visiting this area during migratory periods impressive numbers
of raptors are likely as at the raptor watch site a few hundred
kilometres to the south at Chumpon.
Tours : Check the suggested itineraries
for ideas on creating a tailor-made birdwatching trip
to Thailand: Thailand
Sam Roi Yot National Park is a fairly easy place to get to;
regular buses run from the southern bus terminal in Bangkok
to the town of Pranburi via Cha-Am and Hua Hin; the journey
takes a little over 3 hours.
run from Pranburi to a small village in the national park.
There is some accommodation where this terminates, but if
you are heading to the headquarters or Hat Laem Sala then
a motorbike taxi from Pranburi is probably a better way to
get there. Motorcycle taxis can be found in various places
around the town.
way into the park is a gate where the entry fee of 400
baht will be collected, although if on the songtaew you
may get away with not paying.
driving from Bangkok, simply follow the main route south and
follow the signs to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park from Pranburi.
These signs are in English.
coming from the south any bus heading northwards will pass
through the town of Pranburi where the driver will stop if
without transport wanting to visit Rong Jai marsh when staying
on the seaward side of the park it is worth asking the national
park staff to arrange a lift. I managed to get a ranger to
take me on his motorbike for 200 baht a number of years ago,
but I'm sure a bit more would be appropriate now.
birds are the real attraction at Khao Sam Roi Yot and birdwatching
in any of the wetland areas along the roads is likely to reveal a
good number of species.
Around HQ: A dirt track
leading from HQ to the sea passes through some areas of mud
and wet patches. Areas of coastal grassland in this area hold
Red-throated Pipit in winter and Yellow-legged
Buttonquail at all times. Although the trails sort of peter
out here, it is possible to find ones way along the coast
in both directions and carry out circular walks. Many wetland
species can be found along here including Broad-billed Sandpiper
and White-bellied Sea Eagle, but perhaps the most sought after
species that is regular here is Malaysian Plover. This species
is pretty much restricted to the beaches, be careful in identifying
it as Kentish Plover is also found here but prefers the inland
pools and mudflats.
Khao Daeng: It is worth
looking around this village, particularly in the "winter"
as rare starlings such as Rosy Starling and Brahminy Starling
have been found and Plain-backed Sparrow is a resident. A
track leads to the coast where many other species can be seen
- Malaysian Plover being the most noteworthy.
of Sam Phraya: If one
walks south along the beach from Sam Phraya some scrubland
is passed through and at low tide a large mudflat is exposed.
This is a good place to observe many wading species such as
Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Sand Plovers and Egrets. The scrubland
often holds birds such as Forest Wagtail, Black-naped Oriole
and other passerines.
Wetlands: Wetlands in this area
consist of shrimp ponds and overgrown fish ponds. Walking along the
road and spending time watching these pools can reveal a large number
of species Including crakes and rails, Black-winged Stilt, Pintail
and Common Snipe and a number of terns species; occasionally Black-headed
Ibis turns up.
(Photo by David E. Lewis)
Fresh Marsh: The road
runs through the edge of the Rong Jai fresh marsh and spending
time here can reveal birds such as Eastern Marsh Harrier,
Oriental Reed Warbler, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Blunt-winged
Reed Warbler and Purple Heron in addition to many other open-country
and reedbed species.
Rong Jai Marsh: A walkway
into the marsh allows visitors good views of reedbed species
and the large and colourful Purple Swamphen is easily found.
Other excellent birds like Yellow Bittern, Purple Heron and
Oriental Reed Warbler are often encountered. A dirt track
along the marsh's edge allows birders to find a high number
of species here. The national park office here is the start
of a trail which leads into the forest, passing through patches
of marshland and scrub. The forest here is not particularly
rich in species but I've seen Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
and Greater Flameback and there is the chance of other forest
species along the trail that eventually leads to a viewpoint.
Wetlands: More wetlands along
the road are worth stopping at and looking for waders, rails and
crakes, egrets and herons and other open-country birds. Although
some of the ponds in this area look rather sterile they do attract
species of waders when water levels are right. The road leading
to Bang Poo village runs along some mangrove remnants, where Collared
Kingfishers can be found, and close to some rocky outcrops which
are occupied by Oriental Hobby.
Sala Beach: The trail over
the rocks to Laem Sala isn't particularly rich in species but does
provide views over the Bang Poo bay where a few shorebird can be
found. From Laem Sala beach a trail goes to a cave where Blue Whistling
Thrush usually hangs out and the beach itself is a nice place.
seaward side of the national park has a number of options for accommodation,
but the freshwater marsh side did not on my last visit, however,
the visitor centre and ranger station at Rong Jai may have a few
rooms. It is much more pleasant, though, to stay on the coast, not
least because the light breezes clear the mosquitoes.
there are some rooms for rent and a small restaurant which serves
quite decent food at low prices. The staff at HQ also have bicycles
for hire which can be an excellent way of getting around as walking
everyone can be extremely exhausting due to the long distances and
intense heat. There is a campsite here too, but on my last visit
the toilets were very neglected and the campsite was infested with
At Ban Khao
Daeng there are a number of small shops that sell snacks, refrigerated
drinks and simple meals. There is also a company that organises
kayaking trips and boat trips along the river.
At Sam Phraya
beach there is a campsite with toilets and a restaurant that serves
passable food. It is a pleasant place to sit on the beachfront and
cook food if coming with camping gear.
Laem Sala is
a very picturesque spot and there are rooms for rent or one can
camp for a small fee. The rooms are for large groups but the staff
allowed me to stay in one for a small fee way back in 1998, so it
is worth asking. A restaurant here serves food into the evening;
I had possibly the worst meal I've ever had in Thailand here, but
I'm sure that things have improved by now; if anyone eats here please
e-mail me and tell me how the food was.
At Bang Poo
village and further north along the coast there are a series of
small resorts. I've never visited any of these but I'm sure the
standard of accommodation is good and the food typically excellent.
For those with their own transport, these resorts probably provide
the best opportunity for comfort, with only a short drive to the
main birding spots. Also at bang Poo village, in the parking area
where the trail to Laem Sala begins are a number of small restaurants
serving all sorts of cheap meals. The seafood here is great and
an assortment of barbecued food is sold; this is a good place to
relax after a day's birding, eating good food and drinking beer.
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