About 3-3.5 hours from Bangkok, in the south-eastern province of Chantaburi, is a small hammerhead-shaped peninsula; near the western end of this peninsula is the royally initiated Khung Kraben Mangrove Education Centre, which overlooks a small lagoon that once held dugongs, while at the eastern end of the peninsula is a rocky headland which is protected as Khung Kraben Non-hunting Area. Between these two ends is about 6 km of beach, including Chao Lao Beach, which are popular destination for holidaying Thais.
While neither of these two sites – as far as I know – hold any fauna of signifcance, avian or otherwise, the non-hunting area has seen sighting of Copper-throated Sunbird, a scarce resident of Thailand that can be tough to track down. Additionally, the coastal locations, positioned not far from the migrant magnet of Koh Man Nai, means that there is potential for these very underwatched sites. While that doesn’t mean these places should be on your itinerary, if you’re passing by, well, who knows!
If you want to read about my May 2019 trip to the area, here’s the link: May 2019.
Khung Kraben Non-hunting Area
Number of visits: 1 Exact Location:
As mentioned above, this site is located at the eastern end of the peninsula, just past the tourist destination of Chao Lao Beach. The first thing to note, is that as this is a protected area, an entrance fee is charged, and being a foreigner, I was charged 200B to enter – not a great amount, but probably not value for money if just travelling the area for fun. Nonetheless, I wasn’t too perturbed when I visited this place, as mentioned above, it is known to hold a scarce Thai resident, Copper-throated Sunbird.
During our May 2019 visit, which fell on a long weekend, the non-hunting area was quite busy, and it also appeared to have a few simple accommodation blocks; however, I’m not sure how these would be booked. The site itself has a road/trail that leads along the coastline for several hundred metres, before a separate trail leads up the hill on one’s right. On our only visit, we continued along the coastal trail, which continues for several more hundred metres over the pink rocks the site is famous for, before eventually taking the trail over the hill upon our return.
The trail up the hill is steep, but quite short, and leads to a small sala which offers amazing views south-west over the Gulf of Thailand. And while there is a trail that supposedly heads further along the headland, it was quite overgrown, so we didn’t walk further along it. I did, however, walk down the hillside along a trail that lead to nothing more than another nice viewpoint.
In all, Khung Kraben Non-hunting Area is probably only worth a visit for those looking for a new place to explore, or for probably the best chance of seeing Copper-throated Sunbird this close to Bangkok (a reason why I will probably be back!).
Khung Kraben Mangrove Education Centre
Number of visits: 1 Exact Location:
This site is located near the western edge of the peninsula, fronting the small lagoon rather the the open sea. On my only visit to this site – in 2019 – I was quite impressed by the quality of the mangrove boardwalk, and in particular the multi-storied birdwatching tower that afforded great views above the small mangrove forest, and onto the mudflat – though without a scope, you can’t hope to see much on the mud other that ‘white egrets’ from the tower.
The small network of wooden boardwalks takes you out over a section of the mudflats, where closer views of foraging birds can be had, and as the path leads back around towards the visitors centre, it is easy to take a detour which will take you through some adjacent fishponds, and then along a road bordered by a few small scrubby fields and reed beds. And while the habitat isn’t pristine, taking this detour will undoubtedly add a few species to a morning or afternoon, with birds such as bee-eaters, drongos and prinias easily seen in this small sliver of habitat sandwiched between a busy street and the mangroves themselves.