Authorities in Thailand have announced that tourists will no longer be allowed to stay overnight on the Similan Islands. There will also be a limit on the number of day-trippers who are allowed to visit. The new regulations come into effect from October 2018 with the decision aimed at repairing some of the damaging consequences of over-tourism.
Annual closure of the Similan Islands
Every year, there are partial closures at a number of national parks in Thailand. This includes the Similan Islands which are off limits to the public during the rainy season months (May-October). Ko Tachai, one of the islands in the Mu Ko Similan National Park has actually been closed to tourists since 2016 to allow the eco-system to recover. It was recently announced that Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh would, for the first time, be included on the annual list of closures. And with this latest decision to ban overnight stays on the Similan Islands, the Thai authorities are being commended by environmentalists for taking proactive measures to protect the islands and the marine environment.
Mu Ko Similan National Marine Park
Located in the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand, the Mu Ko Similan National Marine Park includes some of the best diving and snorkelling sites in Thailand. Although there are no hotels or guest houses on the islands, up until now there has been the option to stay overnight in National Park accommodation on some of the islands. On Ko Similan itself, this has been in the form of basic wooden bungalows and tents. National Park officials say the overnight tourists were adding to the strain on the local environment because of the problems involved in processing garbage and waste water on a small remote island.
From October 2018 onwards there will be limits to the number of boats and visitors permitted to visit the Similan Islands each day. Environmental experts from Thailand’s Department of National Parks (DNP) are continuing their research in the area and it isn’t yet known what the daily limit for visitor numbers will be. Another announcement to update the situation is expected from the DNP in early October.