Many people may have no idea about “swamp forest” but they may hear the term, “Phru To Daeng”, that is the most plentiful primary forest in Thailand and the largest remaining swamp forest with the area over than 125,625 rai located in Narathiwat Province. To originate a swamp forest, there must be suitable landscape and climate with a long period of time that may be over than one hundred years. Therefore, we can see that ecosystem of plentiful swamp forest consists of various kinds of large perennial plants followed by palm plant community including betal palm, sago, Eleiodoxa conferta, and ratten, biennial plant community, and shrubbery, for example, aquatic plant, sedge, and various kinds of climber.
Under water level, Peaty Muk has structure that is organic soil heaped on clay of primitive sea caused by degeneration of leaf litter and dried branches. In some areas, thickness of this kind of soil can reach 5 meters. Although swamp forest is not useful for agriculture, it is considered as the very important area for ecosystem of this world as the large wetland for retaining water and carbon. It retains carbon in soil in the manner of organic matter functioning as a good air filter for humans.
In 1990, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chkri Sirindhorn firstly visited Pa Phru To Daeng. Subsequently, Her Royal Highness always visited Pa Phru To Daeng to conduct a research. Consequently, Phru To Daeng has another name as Sirindhorn Swamp Forest. In 1991, Her Royal Highness kindly gave the name of the research center as Sirindhorn Peat Swamp Forest Nature Research and Study Center in Puyo Sub-District, Su-ngai Kolok District, Narathiwat Province, functioning as the source of all researches related to swamp forest for publishing to juveniles and general people to study as well as the place for relaxation of people in Narathiwat Province.
From interest of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chkri Sirindhorn on researching and studying on swamp forest, several agencies turn to pay more attention on recovery of Pa Phru To Daeng and swamp forests in other areas in Narathiwat increasingly. In 1991, Royal Forest Department announced on Wildlife Sanctuary in Honor of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in forest areas of 9 sub-districts of 4 districts in Narathiwat Province with the total areas of 201 square kilometers with condition of swamp forests and the living areas of various types of wildlife in order to conserve wildlife species and secure wildlife living areas. Moreover, it also helps to conserve the last swamp forest of Thailand permanently.
Currently, Pa Phru To Daeng is considered as one of important natural attractions of Narathiwat Province making it won the 11th Thailand Tourism Award (Natural Attractions) of 2017 from Thailand Tourism Authority. This place has been opened to general people for studying on nature and the beginning of natural trail of Pa Phru To Daeng is a small pond with available information boards and attractive landscape. This is considered as the highlight spot preferred by everyone consisted of terrace, relaxation areas for enjoying with scenery, and a tag specifying uniqueness of Pa Phru To Daeng, i.e., “Phru To Daeng, the Only Forest and Upstream of the Land.”
Natural trail of Pa Phru To Daeng consists of learning bases along the trail of 1.2 kilometers providing information on plants and types of animals in swamp forest, for example, information on characteristics of peat soil and structure of peat soil in each level. Moreover, this information also provides knowledge that there is the root system in swamp forest that is called respiratory root, i.e., root grown from branch to be over water for breathing. In addition, there are also many large trees, for example, Pupon trees that can be grown on loose peat soil if it has prop roots to hold its trunk. This swamp forest consists of over 500 types with hereditary importance and relationship with natural food chain.
Previously, Pa Phru To Daeng and surrounding areas were damaged by many causes, especially the most severe fire in 1998. Such occurrence made many agencies to take a lesson and find the way to prevent and solve such problem in order to prevent repetition of this problem by integrating cooperation between government agencies and local people who will look after this forest for government sector. Moreover, Sirindhorn Peat Swamp Forest Nature Research and Study Center also has some important activities, i.e., building knowledge, understanding, and consciousness on conservation of swamp forest of local children and youth.
Local children and juveniles also assemble to do some activities for learning on nature during their weekends with discussion after visiting swamp forest making them have many questions on their unknown things. Although they are unable to gain knowledge completely, they are glad that there is the plentiful Pa Phru To Daeng and the last swamp forest located in their hometown. This is considered as the amazing natural learning source with identity that is deserved to be conserved by everyone as long as possible.