Suncheon Bay Wetlands Reserve (aka Sucheonman Bay Ecological Park)
Suncheon Bay in SW Korea is billed as one of the most beautiful coastal wetlands in Korea where visitors can enjoy the natural coastline and the diversity of ecosystem and wildlife habitats. The pamphlet tells us that it is one of the five largest coastal wetlands in the world.
The reserve is gaining international recognition as a natural eco-system and protected wetland area on the Korean peninsula. In 2003 the Korean Marine Fisheries Department declared the Bay a wetland preservation area, and in 2013 it was selected as an eco-tourist site of Korea.
So what exactly is this Bay Wetlands Reserve?
The JRS Conference at Sunchon National University organized a day trip for the attendees, and this was our first stop, as it’s not far out of Suncheon City. It’s a lovely place at the top end of the Bay and the local people are justifiably proud of it and of what they have achieved.
The main activity was a long, but easy, walk along a boardwalk over some of the wetlands and reeds, which gave us a good overview. I’d say you need a minimum of 45 minutes, longer if you want to stop and read the boards, relax on a bench to enjoy the scenery, take photos etc. It gets quite crowded on the boardwalks, but it’s okay, as people keep moving along. There are pretty good information boards—many in English and Korean so we can have an idea of what’s what.
Suncheon Bay is an intact coastal wetland that has a wide range of geographical features, such as a river mouth, reed fields, salt marshes, mud flats and islands. The bay is also adjacent to rice paddies, salt farms, seaside villages, fish farms (sites of old salt farms), rolling hills and mountains. So, it really is very diverse and very pretty.
The brackish water zones, marshes, fields of reeds and mud flats attract many different kinds of birds, a special feature here. We all took note of the pictures of the hooded cranes that apparently over-winter here. However, at that time of year (August) we didn’t see many birds at all.
The mudflats attract mudskippers, many types of crabs, and even small octopuses where the tide rolls in twice a day. The shallow tideland at the river mouth has reasonable salt content, many organisms, and a healthy water quality, which make it a spawning ground for fish, crab, shellfish. We did see many crabs and little jumping fish.
Salt plants are a feature, notably reeds (which are known for water purification). The boardwalk allows people to look out over the 5.4 km-wide (3.3 miles) reed fields (apparently 570 acres). At different times of the year the changing colors are spectacular, we’re told. Even when we were there it was lovely to see all those reeds swaying in the wind, making whispering sounds.
Besides the boardwalk, there are possible boat rides on the tidal channels and a monorail to the flower gardens (we didn’t bother to do this as it wasn’t the flower season). Might be nice to do that in cooler weather. There’s also an Exhibit Hall, a Planetarium, and an Observatory, which we didn’t have time to visit, so it appears they are making a big effort to impart information.
Good facilities—toilets, cafes, and a handicraft hall (where we bought 2 small cloths, dyed naturally, and supposedly with antibiotic and anti-allergy properties).
The downside: It was very hot, and not the season for migrating birds. So carry plenty of water and definitely bring a hat.
It’s open daily 8am-sunset. Regular adult ticket costs 7,000 won (about US$ 5.75)
Later we drove to the other end of the Bay near the sea for an overview of the bay—pretty impressive.