Thailand has taken drastic measures to protect an island that’s just too idyllic and popular for its own good. It is closing the island indefinitely.
Koh Tachai, an isle off the coast of Phang Nga province, is so beautiful it will be off-limits to all visitors from 15 October 2013, authorities confirmed.
The Bangkok Post said visitors would be banned from the shoreline, beaches and coral reefs around Koh Tachai.
The paper quoted Tunya Netithammakul, director general of Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation, saying the closure aimed to ease the negative effects of heavy tourism on the natural resources and environment of Similan National Park.
“Thanks to its beauty, Koh Tachai has become a popular tourist site for both Thai and foreign tourists. This has resulted in overcrowding and the degradation of natural resources and the environment. We have to close it to allow the rehabilitation of the environment both on the island and in the sea without being disturbed by tourism activities before the damage is beyond repair.”
The measure is part of a masterplan for marine resource management in the Andaman Sea, he added. While all marine national parks are closed from until 15 October 2016 during the monsoon, Koh Tachai will remain closed indefinitely after that.
The problem, simply, is swarms of tourists. Authorities estimate that while the average beach on Koh Tachai can accommodate about 70 people at a time in a comfortable, civilised manner, it typically hosts about 1000. Tour boats and food vendors add to the onslaught.
Thailand concluded that the only solution is a travel ban.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a professor of environmental studies at Thailand’s Kasetsart University, said the measure was necessary.
“If it’s not closed now, we’ll lose Koh Tachai permanently,” he told Condé Nast Traveler, adding that tourists and divers could still visit two deep dive sites in the Similan Islands.
The impact of thousands of tourists is affecting places far beyond Thailand. The Greek island of Santorini announced in March it would cap cruise ship visitors to 8000 per day to reduce crowding, Inquistr has reported. If all tourists can see is hordes of other tourists, there seems little point in visiting.
Similarly, the five villages comprising Italy’s Cinque Terre will begin selling a limited number of tickets to visit the site as of the 2017 tourism season.
Written by Peter Needham