Authorities assert tourism negatively impacting environment
Situated in the Andaman Sea just north of Phuket, Koh Tachai island is part of the Similan National Park and popular with tourists and divers. While the majority of Thai marine national parks close from mid-May to mid-October during the monsoon season, KohTachai will not reopen.
"Thanks to its beauty, 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," Tunya Netithammakul, director of Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plants Conservation. "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."
Local authorities estimate a typical beach on the island could comfortably accommodate 70 people. However, daily numbers typically reach up to 1,000 at a time, including food vendors and boat crews. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, professor of environmental studies at Thailand's Kasetsart University, praised the drastic measure, saying, "If it's not closed now, we'll lose Koh Tachai permanently."
Koh Tachai will be closed for business (except for two remote dive sites accessible via the island) as of October 15. Fortunately for divers, several dive sites in the area will still be accessible. Thailand attracts tens of millions of tourists annually, many of them to its beaches and islands.