Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sites : Lake Thale Noi Waterfowl Reserve Thailand

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Lake Thale Noi Waterfowl Reserve Thailand

Thale Noi, Phatthalung, South Thailand - April 2016
The Thale Noi Water Fowl Reserve is a bird sanctuary like no other. The place is so full of life - birds wading looking for fish, some flying low hovering over the water while others were soaring high above; pink water lilies and lotus shoots out from the water. Bright green water reeds shoot out even further up, and water buffaloes swimming in the shallower parts of the lake. The lake is so colourful with all these elements complementing each other, making this place one that should not be missed when visiting South Thailand. And it is a true reserve as no fishing and hunting is allowed within it.

In the early morning, we made our way to the reserve's office located at one end of Thale Noi town, just off Route 4048. We had booked our boat tour the previous day, and the boatman was already waiting for us with his blue sampan made conspicuous with bright red stripes at the sides. The lake water is very calm and his reflection can be seen clearly as he rowed over to pick us up.
(Note: rental for a boat is at 400-450 Bahts, each seating 6-8 person, it comes with a boatman and the ride is for approximately two hours. GPS for the rental office is 7.77729, 100.12253)

With the slow poot...poot...poot of the boat's engine we headed out. The sun was just about to rise, tingeing the blue sky with a bit of red. Suddenly a bird flew past us, and the calm waters mirrored it and the cloud clearly. It's just so quiet and calm here, quite soothing actually to be a part of all this.

Ahead, a flock of egrets were flying low in circles over a patch of water lilies, hovering low and ready to swoop down for their catch.

As we got nearer, they just zoomed pass us nonchalantly; their eyes trained for fishes below. I guess they are now used to having human presence around and their instincts telling them that they would not be harmed in this sanctuary.

Around us, bright pinkish red water lily blooms were emerging. Like us, they were hoping to catch the sunrise.

The blooms are so beautiful, tempting us with their brilliant colours, we could just reach out and pluck them; but we refrain ourselves remembering a responsible tourist's adage "take nothing but photos",  and left the flowers to dazzle others later on.

Near us, another boat with curious visitors sailed by. Similarly birds were flying all over them. Suddenly both our boatmen cut the boats' engine and we glided onwards quietly. As we slowed down, the boatmen took out their oars and pedalled us forward.

Suddenly we see a single egret wading in the sea of pink flowers...

... and then there were whole flocks of them wading in the water, some flying around; their fluttering wings breaking the silence of the morning.
Thale Noi Lake has many shallow spots for these birds, and our boatmen know these waters well.

The sun had risen, it's a red sun casting a shimmering red reflection onto the lake. The day now is brighter and we could see better.

It's a beautiful scene, the sky tinged red by the rising sun heralds a new day, and more birds came swooping low all around us. It's a flurry of activity!

Every now and then larger birds of prey, soaring high above, dive down to prey on those birds feeding on the fishes. It's a vicious cycle of evolution!

We reach another shallow patch where thin reed grass covered a big section of the lake, which now looks more like a flooded football field.

In between these reed grass are narrow channels on which the boat navigate to head further out. Surprisingly, there were no mosquitoes at the lake, probably any larvae would have been eaten by the fishes.

Out here the water plants have grown taller; leafy reeds stick out a high as five feet above the water and lotus plants can be seen more often.

We were now on a wider canal, the Ban Klang Canal which leads towards the elevated Thanon Chaloem Phra Kiat 80 Phansa highway. This highway run on stilt-looking piers for a distance of 6.5 kilometres above this marshy wetlands. We were heading towards the centre taller span which bridges over the Ban Klang Canal. Beyond the bridge is Lake Thale Luang; both Thale NoiThale Luang are part of the Greater Songkhla Lake.

Just after the bridge, fishermen nets could be seen casting their Chinese fishing nets into the water, hoping to haul in a good harvest. The bridge forms the extreme point of the Thale Noi Water Fowl Reserve, before it no fishing or hunting of birds are allowed; beyond it, it's a free for all.
This point is also the furthest point of our boat tour, it was time to turn back (see map below for this point).

We, tourists, were not the only ones on boats in the water. Locals too use the waterways as a means of transport between the towns and villages.

As we headed back, a family of water buffaloes calmly swam pass us, there's even an albino one that looked a bright dark pink in the rising sunlight.

In the calm lake waters they frolicked, their playful action swirling the waters and their crescent horns pointed defiantly up at the sky.

These are mighty beasts, their swimming action pushed and rush the water around them, suddenly the lake is not so calm.

The pink albino buffalo is a favourite among tourists, and it seems to know that, pausing ever so often to pose for us. Do I see it giving a cheeky smirk?

As we neared the pier, one bird swooped in a low pass, tilting it's wings to one side, seemingly giving us a "Welcome back" greeting.

In the brighter morning, the water lilies are now seen more clearly, painting our approach a sea of pink...

... and a cormorant squawked shrilly to herald our return.

For those lacking time for the boat ride, or looking for a stable platform to take good zoomed photos, there is a viewing tower towards on the northern side of the town, just sitting onto the lake's edge.

Spare some time after the boat ride and go over to the bridge spanning the Pak Pra River (GPS: 7.72755, 100.14486), it is about 9 km. from Thale Noi town. Here there are some surrealistic day time views of Chinese Fishing Nets at the mouth of the river.

A close up view of the Chinese Fishing Nets; this scene looked like it had jumped out of a Chinese painting, I was lucky to catch this photo with the right lighting where the sky and sea seemed to have merged in the horizon.
(For more photos of the reserve, click here)

Off Route 4048, Thale Noi, Khuan Khanun District, Phatthalung, Thailand.
Tel: +66-7468-5230
Operating Hours: 8:00am to 5:00pm
Admission: 400-450 Bahts per boat, each seating 6-8 person.
Tip: Go out early in the morning (around 6:00 am) and catch the sunrise while the birds are feeding.
Web Link :

GPS: 7.77729, 100.12253
(Click here for Google Street View)

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