Overcrowded Similan island closed until further notice

Overcrowded Similan island closed until further notice

The northernmost island in Thailand’s Similan National Park in the Andaman Sea is to be closed to visitors indefinitely. The move comes amid concerns that Koh Tachai’s once highly rated coral reefs and beaches are being damaged by tourist overcrowding, says the Bangkok Post.

The marine park would normally be closed as of mid-May until the end of the monsoon period in any case, but this year the conservation area around Koh Tachai will remain closed after 15 October in a bid to allow the reefs to recover.

“Thanks to its beauty, Koh Tachai has become a popular tourist site for both Thai and foreign tourists,” said Tunya Netithammakul, Director General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife & Plants Conservation. “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.” He described the move as “part of the masterplan for marine resource management in the Andaman Sea”.

Many visitors to the island are said to have complained about the situation, particularly at shallow snorkelling sites where much of the damage has occurred.

Koh Tachai along with Koh Bon are the most recent additions to the Similan National Park, a chain of 11 islands. Liveaboards heading north to Richelieu Rock often visit sites off Koh Tachai and diving will still be allowed at certain sites less accessible from the island itself, though not to land on the island.

Manta rays, leopard sharks, barracuda and tuna are said to be regular sights in the area, along with whale sharks in season.

18-May-16

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