For those of you enjoy nature and a bit of peace and quite, there are still relatively undeveloped stretches of shoreline along the Gulf of Thailand. In Chantaburi forest, there are protected coastal woodlands, mangrove forests and coastal forests, part of a vital effort to save this diminishing, yet crucial habitat. Kung Krabaen Bay, so named for the bay’s sting ray-like shape, is a fine example of Thailand’s mangrove forest conservation efforts.
Natural History of Mangroves
Mangrove forests are natural rare because they only exist in areas that provide the correct conditions. All of Thailand’s pristine mangrove forests are thought to cover only a third the size of Bangkok (7,761 square kilometers) and less that 0.5% of Thailand’s total land area.
These forests have a tall canopy, often reaching 15-20 meters. At Kung Krabaen Bay, the forests cover 100 hectares. The forests consist primarily of Rhizophora trees that stand in the brackish water(saltwater and freshwater mixture) with their taproots branching out from their trunks down into the water.
Kung Krabaen Bay Mangrove Forests
The Kung Krabaen Bay Royal Development Center is actively working to protect and preserve this unique habitat by reforesting another 82 hectares, as well as overseeing the entire area. When you visit the area, you can see Rhizophora tree saplings planted in straight rows. Rhizophora is one of the pioneer plant species in this ecosystem and as the saplings mature, they help buffer the coastline against erosion and expand the suitable environment for the creatures living in the mangrove forests.
You can enjoy the Kung Krabaen Bay mangroves in one of two ways. There is a self-guided Mangrove Forest Study Walkway that stretches 1.6 kilometers. It starts and ends in the reforestation zone and loops through older, more pristine forests. You will also venture through areas where mangrove and woodland forests meet. As you walk along the wooden walkway, you feel that you are walking with an “in the mangroves” feel. This is the ideal way to understand how the forest changes as it develops through the life stages from seedlings to mature forests. You can also see birds by day and fireflies by night.
More adventurous visitors can take a ranger-guided kayak route along the seaward edge of the mangroves. The route continues through the shadowy depths of the forest along natural gaps in the trees and access channels. You will also pass an area where you see how locals acquire food from the mangrove forests by setting small cages for fish and crabs. The best time to visit is during the cooler months from November to February and the tide will determine when the tours run.
There are many conservation efforts being made to protect the mangrove forests since the environment they provide is very important for various marine life. They are feeding grounds for sea animals and sea birds.
At low tide, egrets, macaques and civets feast on the sea creatures exposed in the mud. Above the water’s surface, mangrove trees are homes for large waterbirds. Among the roots of the mangroves, many crabs, shrimps and young fish hide and live in the teeming waters. They spend their early lives in the mangrove forests before they are large enough to survive in the ocean.
At Kung Krabaen, the mangrove forests also draw tourists. The additional revenue from tourism in the form of nature tours, homestays and other accommodations is another motivating factor for locals to help preserve the forests.