You could be forgiven for thinking that Pranburi Forest Park is the only such park and nature reserve within easy reach of Hua Hin.
But the truth is there is a lot of really good work being done locally with regards to the restoration and conservation of the region’s mangroves – all of which can be easily accessed from Hua Hin and Cha Am.
Last month, Hua Hin Today highlighted The Sirindhorn International Environmental Park in Cha Am.
The park is part conservation project and part learning centre and is a great place to visit for anyone with an interest in nature and the environment.
But south of Hua Hin in Pak Nam is the Sirinart Rajini Mangrove Ecosystem Learning Center – Thailand’s first specialty learning center for mangrove forest restoration.
The centre is part of the Khlong Kao and Khlong Khoi National Forest Reserve and was opened to help restore large areas of land that had been destroyed due to more than a decade of shrimp farming, which had a devastating effect on the local ecosystem.
The plight of the mangrove forest was first highlighted by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother during a visit to the area in 1996.
Acting on the King’s wishes, the Royal Forest Department then implemented a ban on the farming of shrimp along Pranburi River estuary, with the area being declared a centre for conservation as part of the Pak Nam Pranburi Forest Development Project.
Today, the award winning centre is one of the region’s conservation success stories and is a fantastic place for people of all ages to visit.
Visitors can explore the 850 metre walkway through the mangrove forest. The walkway has been excellently maintained, is wheelchair and pushchair accessible, and features signs in both Thai and English which offer a plethora of information about the forest and learning centre.
The centre spans a total of 786 rai, with approximately 600 mangrove trees per rai and is thriving with wildlife and is home to 102 different species of birds, 46 species of fish, 89 butterfly species, 28 crab species and 32 shellfish species.
It also includes a communal area where locals go to catch shellfish, crabs and fish. However, they must follow the centre’s strict rules which aim to preserve fish stocks and limit damage to the local ecosystem.
The centre, which is support by PTT Public Company Limited, also acts as a learning zone for locals who benefit from being taught about the importance of the mangrove forest and how some of the plants that grow there can be used to create products which can then be sold, which in turn helps to create a sustainable income for people from the local community.
Some of the items are then sold at the centre’s Manggi Market, which has been set up with the aim of developing an environmentally friendly market model. Plastic packaging, for example, is not available at the market, while the income generated is distributed to the local community and the ongoing conservation project. The next Manggi Market will take place on August 13-14, 2022.
From November to February, once the tide rises following the wet season, visitors to the centre are able to kayak around the mangroves.
According to Mr Komsan Hongpadharakiree, Manager of the Sirinart Rajini Mangrove Ecosystem Learning Cente, a number of events and activities are due to be held in the coming months.
Mr Komsan said that bird and firefly watching trips are set to be organised, while a night time nature walk is also in the pipeline.
The centre will also apply for the Sustainable Tourism Management Standard (STMS) next year.
In 2010 and 2021, the centre was awarded the Thailand Tourism Award, while in 2016 it won Friendly Design of the Year from Friendly Design for All Foundation.
It was also granted Certified Ecological Tourism status TISTR by the Office of Certification Body, [OCB] for the period 2021-2023.
The Sirinart Rajini Mangrove Ecosystem Learning Center is open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 16.30 p.m.
Visitors are asked to not bring food or water from outside to the centre. Visitors are also required to show a history of COVID vaccination before entering.