Sirinat National Park

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Sirinat National Park was established about 50 years ago. It is Phuket’s first and only National Park. The park is dedicated to the conservation of sea turtles which visit the beach annually to nest and also protects the coral and sea life which lies directly off the coast of Nai Yang beach. The park encompasses both Nai Thon beach and Nai Yang beach, stretching as far north as Sarasin bridge. The beach on the southern end of the park is composed of coral and other sea life and attracts tourists, both foreign and local, to its shores on a daily basis.

The main headquarters are located  in Nai Yang beach at the southern end of the park. Most of the park facilities such as bungalows, cafeteria and visitor center, are located here.

The beach on the northern end is volatile and dangerous for swimmers due to the changing currents and strong riptide, but is blessed with a large, healthy tract of mangrove forest. A park substation, located near Sarasin bridge, oversees the mangrove nature walkway.


Birding

Main Attractions: -none-
Other Attractions: Blue winged Pitta, Greater Flameback, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Racquet-tailed Treepie
Extirpated: Great Billed Heron, Nicobar Pigeon

The park can be divided into two sectors: the southern end, located near the airport on Nai Yang beach, and a substation, located near Sarasin bridge. We will cover both of these areas in this review.

Sirinat Head Office (Nai Yang)

Since the park was designated primarily to protect coastal resources, only a small portion of the beach falls under the jurisdiction of the national parks control. This has led to the destruction of much of the prime beach forest which once flourished in the area. Before the Tsunami of 2004, the Head Office was left overgrown and proved to be environmentally friendly for birds. In the evenings one could encounter flocks of Green Imperial Pigeon and other birds roosting in the tops of the Casuarinas near the bungalows. Since the tsunami and the relocation of the park offices further inland, much of the undisturbed beach scrub and forest was torn down to make room for bungalows and administrative buildings, leaving the birds with little choice but to move on.

To add to the trouble, a horde of vendors moved in and now make a living tending to the hundreds of locals and tourists who regularly visit the beach to relax, eat lunch or go swimming. The added disturbance means that the birds which used to thrive within the park boundaries are now impossible to find.

Further inland there were some fields and marshes which once offered easy birding without having to trek over long distances. The airport marshes as they have been coined, have come under attack by companies which are filling in the marshes to make room for new construction projects. In the past Great Billed Heron has been seen rising out of these marshes and other birds such as Black Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Lesser Coucal, Purple Swamphen and Common Moorhen were fairly common residents at these sites. Today, most of the marshes have been replaced by hotels and shophouses.

Sirinat Substation (Sarasin)

The northern office near Sarasin Bridge, though in decline, is better for birding and has fewer disturbances than its southern sister. In the trees near the offices one can often find a wide variety of birds filtering through the trees in search of food. Black naped Oriole, Racket-tailed Treepie, Red Wattled Lapwing, Black and Ashy Drongo, Common Flameback and Collared Kingfisher can be found here and it’s worth it to keep an eye on the open skies in the late afternoons as frigatebirds and green pigeons sometimes fly overhead.

There is a narrow road that winds through the park heading north from the offices. Driving through the zone will take you past grasslands, beach forest and shrubbery, good places to find Chestnut capped Bee Eaters, Black shouldered Kite, Barred Buttonquail, Blue Winged Pitta, Indian Roller, a variety of bulbuls and occasionally Red Junglefowl. (Although the birds are of the race G.g. gallus, they are most certainly a feral population.) Purple backed Starling and Black Collared Myna have both been seen here, the latter being a rather rare sighting. In the winter and monsoon season Blue winged Pitta can be easily seen along the roadside and Hooded Pitta has been heard calling  as well.

Sandering and Little Egret have been seen in the late evenings foraging up and down the beach and Brahminy Kites are ever-present in the skies above. Pacific Reef Egret sometimes can be found near the far northern crest, where a group of fallen trees lie rotting on the beach.

There is a mangrove nature trail, located on the right side of the road, directly opposite the park substation office. While educational and enjoyable to walk through, it is rather quiet for the most part and does not offer quality sightings of many species since the mangroves are quite dense and one cannot venture off the boardwalk in order to follow a calling bird. Most commonly seen are Brown throated Sunbird, Common Tailorbird, Black capped Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher and Little Heron. However, on occasion one will come across a flock of Pied Imperial or Green Imperial Pigeon roosting in the treetops. Mangrove Pitta and Mangrove Whistler has been heard calling at times but seeing either will take a lot of patience and luck.

Although 98% of the time this site is very predictable and quiet for birders, there is the remaining 2% chance that on any given day something spectacular will show up. A single Christmas Island Frigatebird was spotted in flight over the beach one afternoon in September of 2001; a Lesser Adjutant was seen in flight (over what is now the tsunami memorial) one morning in June 2003, and in December of 2010 a Great Hornbill was seen along the mangrove walkway. In 2014 a Nicobar Pigeon was photographed there by a member of the Phuket Bird Photography Club.


Accommodations and Fees

Sirinat National Park offers a number of decent bungalows for rent, located in a quiet area away from the crowds on the beach. These bungalows were rebuilt after the Tsunami of 2004 and are clean, comfortable and reasonably priced. However, with so many better options (literally) down the road, I would not be surprised if most birders opt to choose a hotel which offers better facilities at a lower rate.

[To reserve a DNP bungalow at Sirinat National Park, click here]

The park may or may not charge an entry fee. In case they do, (usually only on weekends) you can park the car near the restaurants and walk down to the beach without paying the fee.


Directions to Sirinat National Park

Northern Sector: Go north on Highway 402 past the airport towards the Sarasin bridge and Phang Nga province. After passing the Ta Chat Chai checkpoint, the road will split into a one-way road. The park office and beach forest is located about a kilometer from the checkpoint on your left and the mangrove walkway will be on the right hand side. This looping road connects to Haad Pak Pra road and has now been reduced to a mere jogging track.

Southern Sector (near Phuket airport): Take the Thepkasattri Highway (H402) north and follow the directions to the airport. After the left turnoff from the main highway (H4026), follow the road until you meet a T-junction (H4031). Instead of taking the right (which would take you to the airport) take a left and turn right at the first turnoff (about 10 meters after the junction).

Follow the road down and take a right at the next T-junction.


Personal Opinion

Pros: Facilities upgraded since the Tsunami of 2004; beach generally clean and good for swimming and snorkeling; open beach forest habitat suitable for spotting birds roosting in the treetops.

Cons: Too many visitors, especially on weekends; littering and pollution rampant; no suitable habitat for birds; encroachment and hunting a major issue.

Sirinat National Park is not a place that you should go out of your way to visit unless you are stuck waiting for your flight and have nothing better to do with your time. Since the reconstruction of the offices and bungalows after the tsunami of 2004, the park has done little to accommodate the needs of the local avian community, much less protect it. -Don’t be disappointed if you can’t find much, and if you do find something interesting, you can count yourself as one of the lucky few.

This page was last updated in June, 2018.

Useful Links

Department of National Parks: Sirinat information and datasheet