Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park was declared as the first coastal park in Thailand on June 28th, 1966. This 98 km •2 park is located approximately 300 km. southwest o Bangkok, in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan. The name Khao Sam Roi Yot can be translated into “The mountain With three Hundred Peaks”, a series of magnificent grey limestone mountains, which rise dramatically from the Gulf of Thailand and adjacent coastal marsh to a maximum height of 605 m.
The wooded mountains make it a site of outstanding natural beauty, but it is the freshwater marsh coastal habitats (an important stopover and breeding area birds), that gives the park great ecological significance. Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park also has great recreational and educational value. It offers the visitor a tremendous variety of attractions. These include fine sandy beaches, spectacular caves, superb mountain viewpoints, offshore island, boat excursions, and estuarine and mangrove habitats, all within a relatively small area. This unparalleled variety of habitats makes it one of the most interesting national parks in Thailand.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park contains a divers array of habitats : ten distinctive habitat zones in all. One of the most interesting is the dry limestone. These are sparsely covered by dwarf evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs which grow in the thin soils and on the barren rock. The average rainfall I just over a meter, falling mainly between August and November. This quickly drains away so plants have had to adapt to this unique environment. A mixed deciduous forest, including areas of secondary growth and bamboo grows on the foothills and in the valleys.
Thung Sam Roi Yot, the largest freshwater marsh in Thailand, provides an important environment for a large number of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has recognized these fragile wetlands as a site of global importance. Other areas of habitat include scrub, salt pan, cultivated areas, mudflats, brackish waters, mangroves, sand beaches, offshore islets, and open sea.

Wildlife Treasures
Due to the steep and relatively inaccessible nature of its mountainous interior, the park still supports a population of Serow, a blackish goat-antelope now rare in Thailand. To catch a glimpse of the Serow, try scanning the rugged mountain crags with a pair of binoculars in the early morning, or evening when it is active.
The park also supports populations of three species of primate: Dusky, or Spectacled Langur, Crab-eating, or Long-tailed Macaque, and the Slow Lorris. The visitor is virtually guaranteed views of the delightful Dusky Langur as the park is on of the best spots in the world to observe this amusing primate, which is easily recognized by its distinctive spectacle eye patches.
The Dusky Langur and the less retiring Crab-eating Macaque are often seen in the vicinity of the park bungalows at the headquarters or the forested sloped behind. More difficult to see is the shy, nocturnal Slow Lorris. To see the Slow Loris try searching the tree canopy at night with a flashlight which will pick up its’ eye reflection.
Other mammals found here are the Barking Deer, Malayan Pangolin, Fishing Cat, Common Palm-Civet, Malayan Porcupine, Jana Mongoose, Siamese Hare, & the Grey-bellies Squirrel. Dolphins can occasionally be observed in the coastal waters.
Khao Sma Roi Yot National Park has become a popular spot with bird watchers due to the approximately 300 recorded species found here and the park’s accessibility. The large number of species found within a relatively small area can be attributed to the unique diversity of habitat, and because the park is located on the East Asian/Australian Flyway. Migratory visitors account for half of all the listed species.
The park is reportedly on of the best locations in Thailand to observe shorebirds. Between September and November hundreds of migratory shorebirds from Siberia, China, and Northern Europe arrive at the mudflats to feed and rest, before continuing their southern journey. Some will spend the winter months (November to March) here. These birds will begin the long return journey to their northern breeding grounds between March to May.
The freshwater marsh near the village of Rong Jay provides a good opportunity to view a number of large waterbirds, songbirds and raptors. The marsh is one of only two sites in Thailand where the Purple Heron breeds. The area around the headquarters also makes an ideal location to see birds associated with deciduous woodland, scrubland, and mangrove.

Getting to Know Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Visitor Center
Located at the park headquarters, this is the focal point of the park’s educational programs. The center has excellent exhibits on a range of topics and a slide show is available for visitor viewing. Here a person can rent a pair of binoculars or a telescope and watch shorebirds from several bird blinds during September to March or walk nearby nature trails.
The horseshoe Trail and the Mangrove Nature trails, both located near the Visitor Center offer excellent opportunities to view a variety of habitats and wildlife. On the Mangrove Nature Trail, which is self-interpretive, mudskippers, crabs, monitor lizards, kingfishers, herons, egrets and a variety of other bird life can seen. The horseshoe Trail may offer views of macaque and langur monkey, squirrels and an assortment of colorful songbirds, the best time observe wildlife and bird is early morning or before sunset.
Laem Sala Beach
This cape has a fine sandy beach protected on three sides by limestone hills, and when approached from the sea it appears to be an island. Amongst the plantation of casuarinas (a pine like tree), you will find a restaurant, bungalows, a camping area, a small visitor center, a picnic shelter, and washrooms. Lame Sala is accessible either by land or water.
A boat, holding up to 10 persons, can be hired from Bang Pu Village for the trip, which takes about 30 minutes. Lame Sala Beach can also be reached by taking a steep, but well constructed trail, starting near the seashore about 200 m. from the village’s temple. This 20 minutes walk offers a splendid views of the coast and offshore islands.

Sam Phraya Beach
This a beautiful, quiet beach located 5 km. from the headquarters. This one kilometer long beach is sheltered by hills on either side. Casuarinas trees have been planted throughout the area making it an ideal location for a picnic or a place to pitch a tent. A restaurant and washrooms are available.

Phraya Nakhon Cave
This vast cavern high on a hill with a royal history is a favorite destination for visitors to the park. The cave is actually two large sinkholes, the roofs of which have collapsed allowing sunlight & rain to reach the floor, where trees have rooted reaching for the ceiling.
The cave was named for Phraya Nakhon, a former ruler who discovered it over 200 years ago after being forced ashore by a violent storm. The central focus within the cave is a four-gabled roofed pavilion bathed by natural light, which was built for the visit of King Rama V on June 20th, 1890.
This royal pavilion has become the symbol of the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan. King Rama VII visited the cave in June 1926, and one can view the signatures left by both kings on the walls. King Bhumipol (King Rama IX), the present King of Thailand has twice visited Phrya Nakhon continuing the royal legacy.
Phraya Nakhon Cave can be reached from Laem Sala Beach, by a steep rocky trail, 430 m. long and rising to a height of 130m., taking about 30 minute to climb. Caution should be used and proper footwear worn as the rock is sharp and can be slippery.
Kaeo Cave and Sai Cave
These are just two of the many caves that have formed in the limestone mountains of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. Stalactites fall from imposing domes and stalagmites rise from the floor. Spectacular petrified waterfalls cascade down the walls formed by thousands of years of dripping water. Extreme care should be taken not to damage the formations, which includes touching as oils from human skin inhibit lime deposition. Both caves are very dark with rough floors so the use of a flashlight or lamp is required. The services of a guide can be obtained by contacting the park headquarters.
Sai Cave is situated on a hill facing the ocean near the fishing village of Khung Tanot. The road to Khung Tanot ends at the base to the trail, 2.3 km from the main road. A narrow sandy road, runs through the village along the seafront and vehicles can be left near the beginning of the trail. Lamps for exploring Sai Cave can be rented from villagers who wait at a shelter. The 280 m trail takes approximately 20 minute to climb. Take a lamp and use caution within the cave as there are steep drop offs!..
Kaeo Cave is located in Hup Chan Valley 2 km from the turnoff to Bang Pu Village. A narrow road through shrimp farms ends at the trail head. Lamps can be rented from nearby villagers. To enter Kaeo Cave you descend a ladder and then pass through a series of chambers of various sizes connected by narrow passageways; emerging at a large hillside opening. One of the interesting cave features are formations that glitter like diamonds, as a result of calcite crystal deposits from the mineral laden water droplets. Visitors should not explore Kaeo Cave without a park guide since its hidden ledges are very dangerous and it is easy to become lost. Please contact the park headquarters to arrange for a park guide.
Khao Daeng Viewpoint
This viewpoint is located between the park headquarters and the village of Khao Daeng. A quiet, shady picnic area, can be found at the base of the trail. A 30 minute climb up a steep rocky 320 m trail takes you to the top of Khao Daeng, at an elevation of 157 m. A spectacular panoramic view of the coastal area and dramatic mountain scenery are the rewards. One of the best times for a visit is at dawn (about 6 am), to watch the surise over the Gulf of Thailand.

Khao Daeng Canal Boat Trip
Visitors can hire a boat in the village of Khao Daeng for this trip, a 10 passenger boat for a 1.5 – 2 hours cruise. This pleasant boat trip journeys along the canal for 3-4 km and visitors can see various species of birds and trees which fringe the banks. The best time for this trip is in the early morning or late afternoon (about 4-5 pm), when the birds are most active and the lighting creates some scenic photographic opportunities.
Getting there & away
The park is about 40km south of Hua Hin, and best visited by car. From Hua Hin, take Hwy 4 (Th Phetkasem) to Pranburi. In Pranburi, turn left at the main intersection, drive 2km, stay right at the fork in the road, and go another 2km. At the police substation, turn right. From there, it’s 19km to the park’s entrance and then another 4km to the headquarters at Hat Laem Sala. If you’re trying to reach the park from the south, there’s an entrance off Hwy 4 – turn right at highway marker 286.5, where there’s a sign for the park, then drive another 13km to the headquarters at Ban Khao Daeng.
If you don’t have your own wheels, catch a bus or train to Pranburi and then a sawngthaew (50B, every half hour between 8am and 4pm) to Bang Pu, the small village inside the park. From Bang Pu you can walk to Hat Laem Sala.
You can also hire a sawngthaew (400B) or a motorcycle taxi (250B) from Pranburi all the way to the park. Be sure to mention you want to go to the ùtháyaan hàeng châat (national park) rather than Ban Khao Sam Roi Yot. Transport can also be arranged at travel agencies in Hua Hin, most of which also run tours. Hua Hin Adventure Tour has the best selection of more intrepid activities.
National Park fees
These fees were yet again amended on December 1st 2007. There are now four categories of National Park. The first and most expensive will cost a foreign adult THB 400 and a foreign child 200, whereas a Thai adult gains entry for THB 80 and a Thai child 40. These parks are mainly found in southern Thailand around Phuket and the north.Category 2 will cost THB 200/100/40/20 repectively.Category 3 will cost THB 100/50/20/10 respectively.Category 4 are free for all.In the past, foreigners holding Permanent Residency, a Work Permit, a Thai driving licence or on foreign exchange student status were able to gain entry at Thai prices. If you have one of the above, it will be worth while discussing it with the rangers.If you visit more than one National Park in a day, there is no additional charge unless any are more expensive than the first, in which case you will pay the difference. The above prices are still current as of January 1st 2009.
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