Sam Roi Yot in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province is now once again a regional destination with scenic nature trails and lotus fields in wetlands with a backdrop of beautiful mountains.
This is thanks to a revival of the wetlands which had badly deteriorated with changing environment conditions causing the lotus blooms to disappear until recent years, but now returning to life to bring colour and beauty to Prachuap Khiri Khan province at this time of the year.
Sam Roi Yot National Park was the first marine national park in Thailand. It was announced as the 4th national park of Thailand in 1966. The area covers the sea, forests, and flooded fields or large ponds; a wetland environment of more than 69 square kilometres.
Thung Sam Roi Yot or Bueng Bua is located west of the Sam Roi Yot coastline where water flows down from the Tanaosri Mountain Range east until it accumulates in the wetlands.
It is a habitat for many fish and a breeding ground for many kinds of birds such as cormorants, egrets and grebe. Migratory birds arrive in large numbers including hawks, eagles and ducks. The vegetation of aquatic plants includes many reeds, sedges, cattails, and a huge variety of lotus.
This is a site of international significance on the International Register of Wetlands of Importance. As well as a tourist attraction it is a learning centre to study freshwater plant and animal ecosystems.
In the late 1980’s areas around Sam Roi Yot became fresh water prawn farms without any initial noticeable impact. Then there were both shrimp fields and the beautiful lotus fields.
But over time there was a change in the environmental water conditions. Aquatic plants and animals in the wetlands saw the habitat and food source of many birds gradually disappearing, leaving only algae.
Although remains no scientific confirmation that the changes were caused by the large shrimp farming in the neighborhood, local people pointed out the deterioration commenced over the years following the commencement of farming activities as many birds disappeared and the wetlands became plain, colorless, and unattractive.
Suthon Wiang Dao, head of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park recounts the history when a deterioration of the environment became a crisis due to a shortage of water flowing into the wetlands with water quality deteriorating. He says it must be realised that the surrounding environment affects the entire ecosystem.
After the end of the shrimp farming era with farming around Sam Roi Yot gradually declining; after 5-6 years, nature began to revive. Lotus plant that had been casualties had roots buried in the soil and when the natural water returned, they began to grow, sprouting, forming leaves and blooming to reveal their beautiful colors again.
Conditions at Sam Roi Yot have yet to completely recover, however every year they improve and now this is again one of the region’s most beautiful attractions, a stark reminder of the need to care for the environment and an important case study on the effects of human disregard for nature; this time with a beautiful ending.