Birding Sites in Ranong
Laem Son National Park
Lam Nam Kraburi National Park
Mu Koh Payam National Park
Ranong Biosphere Reserve – Mangrove Research Station *
Note: Text reviews are not complete for sites marked with an asterisk.
Birding in Ranong
Ranong is a province shrouded in mystery to many birders. It is located in an awkward corner of Thailand which receives few visitors, let alone birdwatchers. It has a monsoon season which lasts eight out of the twelve months of the year. Since it depends mostly on agriculture and fishing to sustain the local economy, there is little infrastructure in place to facilitate tourism in the province. And although the land is still well-forested, there are only four designated national parks in the province.
For the above reasons and more, many birders prefer to pass up this province and head for proven sites further south in neighboring Phang Nga or along the east coast. However, local birders who have opted to spend a good chunk of time in the area have attested to the abundance of quality birdlife in the province and state that it can be just as good if not better than some of the top sites along the west coast.
The richness of the forests of Ranong can be confirmed by the thriving population of hornbills in the province. White crowned, Bushy crested, Great and Wreathed Hornbills are regularly encountered in national parks, plantations, villages and even public areas such as Ranong municipality. These birds can often be seen flying in large groups numbering close to a hundred or more individuals, heading towards the Burmese border. The local people, having grown accustomed to seeing this spectacle since they were young, take it for granted and are quite uninterested.
Many of the waterways and forested streams are home to some of the most sought-after bird species in Asia: the kingfisher. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue eared Kingfisher and Blue Banded Kingfisher are fairly common and along the damp gulleys one can find Banded Kingfisher and Rufous Collared Kingfisher, two dynamic birds which are a feast for the eyes of any birder who encounters them.
There are heaps of other good birds in the forests of Ranong, such as pitta, broadbills, raptors and malkohas; all it needs is more coverage from birders, both local and international alike.
The inland forests are not the only attraction of the province; Ranong is also host to a huge tract of virgin mangrove forests, much like that of its sister province, Phang Nga. Unlike Phang Nga however, the mangroves of Ranong are believed to be healthier and in better condition, with a higher concentration of wildlife inhabiting its ecosystem. Apart from the threat of deforestation, the mangroves of Ranong are less disturbed and have the potential to host a number of species which are difficult to find in other mangrove habitats along the west coast.
-If Ranong were to receive more birding coverage, I believe this province will become a popular birding destination and will provide many fond memories of wonderful birds for years to come.
Map of Ranong
Ranong is located on the west coast and is bordered by Burma in the west, Chumporn in the east, Surat Thani in the southeast and Phang Nga in the south.
Ranong is a province of immense natural beauty. Like Phang Nga, it is blessed to have retained much of its wildlife and nature. However, there are few tourists who make a point to visit the national parks and waterfalls of this province. Evidence of large mammals can still be seen in some of its parks and there are huge sections of vintage forest left in the hills, much of which is still untamed wilderness.
Despite having only three national parks (with an additional area being gazetted for national park status) much of Ranong is still blanketed in thick forest, although it is often encroached upon and interspersed with small settlements throughout. Locals enter the jungles to collect rattan, fruits and other products from the forest and hunting still occurs. Despite this, the human impact on the forest is relatively low and most of the larger trees still stand, giving hope that perhaps for once, man and nature will be able to co-exist in a peaceful manner without the government having to gazette more national parks (which does not always guarantee added protection, as is the case with other parks throughout Thailand.)
The biggest threat to the forests today are the establishment of rubber and oil palm plantations. The industry is responsible for the clearing of much of the natural vegetation in the past and continues to decimate hundreds of acres of prime evergreen forest every year. Rubber plantations pose the biggest threat to hill forests as they are not restricted to level terrain like oil palm and can be grown on hill slopes as high as 400 meters above sea level. Unless it can be controlled, this rampant deforestation may spell the end of much of the unprotected forest in the region.
The people of Ranong lead simple lives for the most part, although in the past Ranong was a city of great importance to the Siamese kingdom. Acting as Siams’ door to the Andaman Sea, Ranong was a major trading city, as evidenced today by its bustling port, which now devotes its attention to the fishing industry. Frequent wars with the Mon Empire of Burma meant it traded hands regularly, but it wasn’t until the British colonization of Burma that Ranong saw extended periods of peace and prosperity. When Siam traded Tenasserim to the British, Ranong became Thailand’s new southwest border to the Andaman region, prompting Bangkok to pay more attention to the invaluable trading hub, which not only saw increased imports of raw materials and laborers from the west and south, but also facilitated the exports of tin, a commodity highly prized by the colonial powers back then.