Mangrove conservation on Koh Phra Thong and Koh Ra
Everything seems quiet and empty at first, it is low tide and only a gentle breeze whistles through evergreen leaves. But then a closer look at the muddy ground reveals a hectic bustle of hundreds of small crabs scavenging for food and digging holes in breathtaking speed. Mudskippers hop around in the shallow water and large sea birds circle over the tree tops. The mangrove swamps along Thailand’s Andaman coast are an amazing micro cosmos of coastal life, in rhythm with the ever-changing tide and perfectly adapted to high water salinity.
The mangroves are not just home to an abundance of wildlife including various species of birds, fish, algae, insects and mammals. They also play a vital for coastal protection, as they prevent erosion and help coral reefs and seagrass beds to thrive. Like in other regions in Thailand, the mangroves on Koh Phra Thong and Koh Ra have been severely damaged by the 2004 tsunami and suffer from increasing water pollution. In order to stabilize these unique ecosystems, local villagers teamed up with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources for long-term mangrove conservation projects.
Last week, Noon, Lindsey and I joined a day of mangrove planting on four different spots on both islands. Hundreds of young mangrove plants were put in the mud by many helping hands. The volunteers from the local villages also went out by boat to more remote sites. Luckily, the weather played along well that day! Not a single drop of rain, but sun and light wind instead. We had the chance to go with the boat that also transported several government officials and got to stop at various plating sites. In addition to muddy feet and lots of fun wading through the warm water, we were rewarded with amazing views on the lush green slopes of Koh Ra.
Did you know that three quarters of tropical coastlines are covered by mangroves?
There are 110 different mangrove species and they are very well adapted to a harsh environment. Besides high water salinity, the constant up and down of the tide causes large temperature changes, temporary flooding and very low levels of oxygen. Koh Phra Thong has an area of 88 km2 (changing with tide). High tide divides it into two parts with a total of 36 km2 mangrove forests. When staying on the island, tourists can go on Kayak tours through the swamps with a local guide and spot many different sea birds and, with some luck, even Macaques. Besides it’s mangrove forests, Koh Phrathong is also home to a beautiful inland savanna and lovely quaint fishing villages.
Are you interested in visiting Koh Phra Thong and experiencing the local way of life? Andaman Discoveries offers homestays and ecotours on the island, find out more here : Island Village