Rayong’s best-kept secret: A mysterious marshland and ancient-looking trees
The island’s beaches might get all the attention, but when it comes to tranquility and serenity (and escaping the crowds), the marshland of Rayong Botanical Garden is the biggest star. About 40 minutes Northeast of popular Samet Island, Rayong’s largest biosphere is home to the ancient-looking Samet (paperback) trees, which were once found in abundance on the Island and along the Rayong shoreline.
While tourists know nothing about the Rayong marshland, local fishermen and hunters have been walking through the swamp for generations to catch fish and wild birds and gather edible plants.
The marshland offers a great escape to seekers of solitude. Jump into a small sampan, and you leave anxiety behind and revel in the natural beauty ahead.
Rayong’s best-kept secret
Covering more than 1,520 acres of swamp, the Rayong Botanical Garden is home to more than 400 species of plants, animals and other life forms. It is a foreboding world largely ignored by the weekenders who flock to this Eastern province for its sandy beaches and azure sea.
You get your first hint of what the marshland has to offer as soon as the boat starts making its way through the reeds and marshy trails. A kingfisher dashes out from the reeds looking for dinner. The cormorants and herons stand sentinel in the trees, ready to strike. A blissful water breeze carries the scents of nature, a mix of the earthy and marshy landscape. From time to time, you can’t help thinking that a caiman lies in wait among the lily pads.
There are no alligators here, according to local rangers. What you will see are birds like egrets, kingfishers and darters and lots of fish, which provide fodder for the birds.
Life in the marshland follows the ebb and flow of an ecosystem that pulses with the seasons like a beating heart.
Each year, torrential rains fill the Rayong wetland, creating a vast flooded landscape. When the downpours subside and summer arrives, water slowly drains into the earth, leaving behind fish- and snail-filled pools that attract huge flocks of egrets, herons, and cormorants.
If you arrive on a summer’s day, you will see the marshland turn pink as the water lilies come into bloom.
The local wildlife isn’t limited to fauna. The marshland of Rayong Botanical Garden is also home to the sought-after Samet tree – also known as the paperbark tree.
Two ways to paddle
The marshland is ideal for kayaking, paddle boarding and traveling in a slow boat. Imagine paddling along the picturesque waterways early in the morning, trying to communicate with the ancient-looking trees. With a plethora of marshland and labyrinths of water paths to explore, you will never want to leave.
Across the endless reedy islands and swampy trails, the paperbark trees cast their shadow over the murky water and marshy landscape. With their strange branches and flaky white bark that seems to be permanently shedding, they provide a perfect backdrop for dark, despicable deeds in a homicide movie.
You can get off the boat, and start exploring the paperbark forest on foot. A casual stroll takes you through three small islands that are bridged by the nature trails. Here walkers are promised solitude and a wealth of native coastal plants. The highlight is the “ancient forest” of the paperbark. The plant looks odd in many ways – including in its form and content.
You can even give the tree a punch and you won’t hurt your fist. The paperbark tree has a thick, soft bark that’s wrapped together in paper-thin layers.
When it comes to cycling, Rayong Botanic Park is quickly becoming a popular biking destination. Bring your own mountain bike or rent one on the spot, and hit the cycling trails through the park. Its stunning marshland, mystic forest, and small islands dotted here and there mean that there’s so much more to explore.
The marshland at Rayong Botanical Park is great to visit at any time of the day. In the morning, you will see the wetland springing to life, as aquatic birds looking for breakfast in the islands of reeds.
If you go to the park late in the afternoon, you’ll almost certainly view a sunset over the wetlands. The reeds come alive in the rich amber rays, giving the marsh a mystical beauty that is both beautiful and intriguing. You could nearly have the wetlands to yourself if you arrive early in the morning. In fact, you could set up camp here to reconnect with nature and truly get away from the daily grind.
Rayong Botanical Garden is located in Klaeng district, Rayong province. The park is a short drive from Hinsuay Namsai Resort (Bay of Ao Chareon) on HW 3145. It’s open daily from 08.30am to 04.30pm. Boat (Bt600/six persons), kayak (Bt100/hour), bicycle (Bt50) and camping ground (Bt50/person) are available at the park. Call (038) 638 981-3 or visit www.facebook.com/rayongbotanic.