in nature’s lap
Nestled between majestic mountains and azure waters is the Sam Roi Yod National Park in Thailand, a site of outstanding natural beauty as well as great ecological significance
As I write this from my sea-facing room at a resort that lies on the periphery of a national park in Thailand, I realise how lucky I am to be in a place that is nestled between majestic mountains and stunning emerald waters. As the winds waft towards me, I feel that I can almost touch the tranquility pervading this bird sanctuary that lies within the confines of Thailand’s most picturesque national park, Sam Roi Yod National Park, that means ‘three hundred mountain peaks’ in English. The limestone mountains here make it a site of outstanding natural beauty, but it is the freshwater marsh and coastal habitats, that give the park its ecological significance.
The 10km drive into the headquarters of the national park is over a dusty road along the banks of lagoons and mangrove swamps. All along the way, you can spot several migratory herons, cranes and storks which begin to arrive here by the end of December. Several large waterbirds including herons, egrets, robins and magpies can be seen nestling on the branches of the mangroves.
After you enter the park, an innovative footboard over the waters takes you to the interiors of the forests over numerous small bridges. On some islands, it is possible to walk across to the other side before continuing further on the wooden pathway. At several junctures where the water levels are uneven and deep, wooden planks have been strategically placed such that you can tiptoe over them with minimum noise so as not to disturb the extremely soundsensitive waterbirds.
After a 30-minute trek over the wooden boards, you come across a forest road which winds its way through the mangroves. A leisurely walk through this path, flanked on one side by the giant hills of rock and granite, and by shallow mangroves on the other, is all that is needed for close encounters with several species of the feathered kind. The bird species that can be found inside the national park include the Bronze Winged Jacana, Purple Heron, Brahminy Kite Grand Coucal, Green Billed Malpuha, Great Egret, Oriental Magpie- Robin, Purple Heron, Chinese Pond Heron, Rufous Woodpecker, Blue Billed Bee-Eater and Stork Billed Kingfisher, among hundreds of other migratory birds. Carry along a book to quickly identify the birds, and know more about their dwelling and behaviour. Arm yourself with a camera with a great lens if you wish to capture the avian species in pictures.
As mangrove swamps are a natural habitat for macaques, one can sight several species of macaques including the lion-tailed macaque, stump-tailed macaque and the pig-tailed macaque inside the mangrove swamps that dot Sam Roi Yod National Park. The unique feature about this national park is that the hills surround this park in a way that they form an inland sea. The sea runs parallel to the road for at least six kilometers, and walking alongside the sea is a tryst with nature which is bound to be memorable. Because this park is hemmed between the sea and the hills on either side, it has a picture postcard look that will be etched in your memory for long.
Do take time out to see the migratory birds from northern China, who fly down every winter to nestle among the hundreds of miles of mangroves around the park. The moderate climate, thick mangrove cover and numerous lakes and lagoons make it an ideal sanctuary for large waterbirds to make their nests and provide a secure environment for laying and hatching of eggs. It also provides amateur birdwatchers and tourists alike, an opportunity to observe the beauty of these winged crooners at close quarters.
The bounties of nature including clear skies, a cool sea breeze and lush greenery on all sides can also be enjoyed if you choose to trek alongside the mangroves. You can also venture deeper into the mangroves on small boats to spot macaques. However, they scatter away at the first sounds of approaching humans. A more relaxed technique to spot these gentle creatures is to wait patiently alongside the reedy plants. As we learnt from experience, feeding wild monkeys is neither advisable nor expected. Suddenly, one of the more adventurous ones landed on the branches nearby. After keenly observing the scene, it squeaked and signaled to his mate. Soon, out of nowhere, seven to eight long tailed macaques landed alongside us and swung wildly from one branch to the other.
If you are feeling adventurous, we suggest you pitch a tent on the Sam Phraya Beach to get away from the crowds. As you stumble upon natural wonders in this gorgeous park, you will realise how some things are meant to stay in the deepest recesses of your mind, ensconced in your memories forever.