The paradise island of Koh Tachai is now closed indefinitely to visitors after stark warnings from environmentalists.
The beaches, coral reefs and shorelines will be off-limits to visitors from 15 October this year, the start of Thailand’s busiest tourist season. The island is part of Similan Islands Marine National Park, an area which has grown increasingly popular with both Thai and international tourists. The island is famous for diving, where divers can seek out manta rays and whale sharks along the coastline, while its beautiful sandy beaches have earned it a nickname as the Maldives of Thailand.
The decision was made in an effort to protect the island after stark warnings from experts that they would be at risk of losing the island permanently. The island is currently closed for the monsoon season – along with all the other marine national parks – but will not reopen to tourists for the high season. The small beach should only hold 70 people, but reports from this year said that more than 1,000 sun worshippers had gathered there at one time. In recent years, the negative reports have grown, with Lonely Planet reporting huge queues to get to the best viewpoints and many tourists feeding the fish.
The Director General Tunya Netithammakul told the Bangkok Post, “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.” Given that there has been three months advance warning of the closure, travellers have also been warned about tour operators trying to sell day trip packages to the island. However, two deep diving sites around the Similan Islands will remain open.