Monday, February 11, 2008

Rafflesia in Khao Sok

Sign at Entrance to Visitor CenterThe Khao Sok national park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาสก) is not really a place I can call "unseen", as it is the most popular national park in southern Thailand. Given it's location not far from the touristic centers on Phuket or at Khao Lak, it is an easy target for day tours from these places for tourists tired of spending all day at the beach. But even though foreigners are nothing uncommon there, it is not overcrowded with them and still worth the visit.

Cliffs in Chiao Lan lakeThe park is accessible in two parts. The first one is the Ratchaprapha dam, which created the Chiao Lan lake. Especially this dam is popular for Thai tourist, so I already went there twice, the first time doing a picnic there and then later do a boat trip over the lake to the fascinating cliffs partially submerged in the artificial lake. The second time we just did the boating, as the dam itself was already overcrowded with Thai people celebrating Songkhran (Thai New Year) there.

Sok river in the morning mistThe second part around the visitor center of the park has several jungle trails, however I did not do any of those yet. This is because I most wanted to see the most peculiar flower of Thailand, the Rafflesia. It is a parasitic plant living within the roots of a tree, with only their buds and flowers being visible. While this is interesting already, the mere size of the flowers - reaching one meter in diameter - makes them really extraordinary. I wanted to see this flower in real ever since I first read about it, but either we had no time while we were in Surat Thani, or it had no flower in blooming then. So when we went to the visitor center and learned that there is a Rafflesia blooming, we quite quickly decided to go to that place instead of taking the trails.

View over the forested hills of Khao SokThe blooming was actually not within the park itself, but on private land slightly outside the park boundaries. The hiking began at the house of the rubber farmer who owns the land, and after a short walking through the rubber trees we entered the jungle already. I have no idea how far it really was, but it was quite tiring to walk uphill in the hot weather with just on bottle of water. But it was well worth it, as it was not just a single flower in full blooming, but it also had two older ones in various parts of decomposing, and also new buds which were about to bloom soon. So I could not only take close-up photos of this fascinating flower, but could get the whole development from bud to decomposing flower in one time. The only thing which lacked was the smell - normally Rafflesia has a smell of rotten meat to attract the flies to do the pollinating. But that one had almost no smell at all, but even without smell there were a few flies inside it. The full set of these photos I have uploaded to flickr.

Rafflesia kerrii bloomingSeeing the flower in real did only create more interest into these flowers, so I got myself the book "Rafflesia of the world" by Jamili Nais - the only online shop which has it for reasonable price was borneobooks. I learned a lot more about these plants from that book, so I am looking forward to see the new book mentioned in the Rafflesia blog.


Carnation said...

hi there! we got rafflesia also in my province in the philippines. it is featured in! nice to read your blog re: thailand bits.

Andy said...

I know it have Rafflesia in Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, most of those other species smaller and with different coloring. I hope I will get the chance to see more species one day. Too bad in Thailand it only has R. kerrii.