ISLANDS CLOSED DURING TOURISM DOWNTURN

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has announced that they plan on closing five popular tourism islands in the Rayong province in the east of Thailand.

The islands – Kham Island, Kruay Island, Ku Dee Island, Pla Teen Island, and Talu Island – are set to be closed for four months.   The islands are popular among domestic and international tourists, with Kham, Pla Teen and Talu all being ranked as top scuba diving sites in Thailand.

Kham is known for its incredibly powdery white sands, with a sandbar stretching to neighbouring Kruay, a limestone island. Popular island hopping trips from Pattaya or Koh Samet frequent these islands.

The announcement stated that the islands would be closed to all tourists beginning June 1, and continue until the end of September. The closure, undertaken while tourism is drastically down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will allow natural self-restoration, according to the Department of National Parks.

Tourist safety was also a concern, so improvements may be made to the island to make a safer more eco-conscious experience when tourism returns to Thailand, which is hoped to begin later this year.

The move follows similar steps taken at Maya Bay in Krabi, which was overwhelmed by tourists after the 1999 Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach introduced the area’s natural beauty to the world.  Maya Bay’s marine life ecosystems were nearly destroyed by the flood of tourists until the region was closed in 2018 in order to let nature heal.

Environmentalists had proposed yearly closures for many of Thailand’s more than 100 national parks that are most popular. An annual closure would give nature a change to rehabilitate itself without human invasion, and also give caretakers the opportunity to improve the parks to be safer and allow more eco-friendly tourism.