Haat Nopparat Thara National Park

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Located on the north end of Krabi’s most frequented tourist beach, Haat Nopparat Thara is a far cry from what one would expect of a National Park. The modern office buildings and rows of souvenir stores and restaurants give off the impression that this site is nothing more than a tourist market or attraction. -Isn’t a national park supposed to be promoting “natural” habitats and if so, where did it all go?

Not too long ago at the dawn of the new millenium, Haat Nopparat Thara was a quiet beach which played home to a local fishing community. The deserted beaches were attractive to tourists and locals who wanted to get away from the noise and bustle of neighbouring Ao Nang, a beach closely connected to the tourism industry in Krabi.

After the Asian Tsunami of 2004 things changed for the worse. Interestingly, it was not the disaster that made the biggest impact; it was the millions of dollars the department of national parks spent on “upgrading” the facilities to better accommodate the thousands of tourists who use this area as a springboard to the numerous islands and remote beaches in the region. The mangroves were cropped back and the estuary was dredged to allow larger ferries to access the renovated pier near the Head Office. Most of the beach forest was cleared to make way for parking lots, shops, restaurants and bungalows.

Today the area is still stunningly picturesque and is frequented by thousands of Thai and foreign tourists every year.

Haad Nopparat-Tara beach is under the jurisdiction of the Haad Nopparat-Tara Koh Phi Phi National Park. The park also includes Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Ley, Koh Bidah, Chicken Island and Raya Beach.


Birding

Main Attractions: Pale capped Pigeon, “White faced” Plover
Other Attractions: Pied Imperial Pigeon
Extirpated: Pied Triller

The beach has undergone a series of drastic renovations which has transformed the landscape. This has had a very negative impact on the avian population in the area, making it one of the worst national parks for finding birds .

The most sought-after bird at this park is the Pale capped Pigeon, a rare but annual visitor which shows up in the wintering months. This was once the most reliable site in the south to find this bird, but in recent years they have become increasing hard to find. In past times birders reported seeing up to 12 individuals on any given day, whereas nowadays one would be lucky to find two or three. The birds usually frequent the Casuarina around HQ in the late afternoons or are seen in flight en route to the islands just off the coast. Today, most birders prefer to look for it in Chumphon or Ranong, where there are a few sites which still host these birds.

Pied and Green Imperial Pigeons are also present in the area and are usually found on the small islands where they can be seen roosting in the trees in the evenings.

Another bird which shows frequently on the beach is the “White faced” Plover”, and since its rediscovery, this bird has been a faithful visitor to this site every winter. The numbers fluctuate but there is usually always at least one bird present annually.

This site was once a good place to twitch the Pied Triller but the bird has not been seen for over a decade and it is assumed to be extirpated from this site.

Other birds found here include Collared and Black capped Kingfishers, Ashy Minivet, Common Cuckoo-Shrike, Pacific Reef-Egret, Little and Great Egret, Little Heron, Greater and Lesser Sandplover, White vented Myna, Blue Whistling Thrush and Brahminy Kite.

There are a few plots of beach forest inland which run alongside the main road. These patches of forest are interspersed with  dry fields and orchards and are still stocked with birds, many of them simply overlooked since the terrain looks boring and uninviting.

The islands offshore do support some bird life but few birders actually visit these islands. The majority of tourists who visit go snorkeling or enjoy the sunny beaches.

In January of 2014 I was surprised to find a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbill nesting in a rocky cliff overhanging the ocean at Talay Waek. This is quite odd behavior for hornbills as they are usually always tree nesters and quite picky when choosing the perfect tree to nest in. It was good to see that the birds were adapting to the environment and that even in such a crowded and disturbed location bird life was thriving.


Accommodations and Fees

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The national park office, located on the north end of the beach, has bungalows for rent as well, and if one wants to donate towards the upkeep of the national park, this is a good place to start. The rooms are generally clean, well-ventilated and come with fresh bedding and a slew of interesting bugs and critters which any tourist will enjoy. (No sarcasm here; the insects which can be found around national park bungalows are an attraction themselves!)

Most people are not going to rent a room at a national park when there are hundreds of better options just a few kilometers down the road. Ao Nang is teeming with guest houses and hotels with prices ranging from budget bungalows to luxurious five-star accommodations.

[To book a DNP bungalow at Haad Nopparat Tara National Park, click here]

The DNP does not charge any fee to visit Haat Nopparat Thara beach but will charge a hefty 500 baht fee for foreigners visiting Koh Phi Phi Island.


Directions to Haad Nopparat Thara National Park

To get a better idea of the surrounding area, please zoom out by pressing Ctrl on your keyboard and scrolling with your mouse.

Coming from Bangkok (or Phuket) take Highway 4 until you get within Krabi Municipality (ignore the left turn at the T-junction which takes you on the outskirts of the town; continue straight on Highway 4034). At the next major intersection there will be signs pointing to the left towards Ao Nang – Haat Nopparat Thara.

Follow the road until you get to a junction with signs to Haat Nopparat Thara and Highway 4203. The road will be rather narrow. Keep following the signs posted along the way and you easily find the beach.


Personal Opinion

Pros: Pale capped Pigeon and other imperial pigeons still present at the site; very picturesque and scenic, especially in the afternoon and evenings around sunset; beaches are fairly clean and free of pollution.

Cons: Little wildlife left to speak of; forest habitat almost completely cleared; very quiet with little or no bird species left in the park; overcrowded and busy on most days.

I first visited the park back in 2000 before the tsunami and the big commercial boom in Ao Nang. Too much has changed since then and commercialism has squeezed the last breath of life from this once vibrant habitat. The pigeons are very difficult to find, most of waders are gone and the remaining species of birds are urban warriors who have long adapted to putting up with man’s insatiable appetite for “improvement”.

Those seriously after the Pale capped Pigeon should consider Ranong or Chumporn, both of which are known wintering sites for this species. As for the Pied Triller, Satun or Pak Phanang in Nakhon Sri Thammarat on the east coast seems to be the last places in the south where they can be seen.

Serious birders intent on finding anything of value will choose to steer clear of this temple of commercialism.

This page was last updated in February, 2018.

Links

– Department of National Parks: Haat Nopparat – Mu Koh Phi Phi Information and Datasheet
– Nick Upton’s review of Haad Nopparat – Tara National Park
Birdlife International: Assessment of Haad Nopparat Tara – Mu Koh Phi Phi