Thailand: The Phi Phi Islands, devastated by mass tourism, promise to reinvent themselves

The archipelago is therapeutic its wounds from the pandemic, and the authorities promise to provide you with one other mannequin of improvement there. Time is working out: the well-known Maya Bay, immortalized by Leonardo DiCaprio within the film “The Seaside” and compelled to shut in 2018 to keep away from an environmental catastrophe, should reopen on January 1.

5 bamboo sharks, two male and three feminine are launched from the long-lasting seashore. Captive-born small sharks with ribbed our bodies and lengthy tails reluctantly sneak previous clownfish, barracudas, and sea turtles.

“They want time to adapt. We waited for them to achieve 30 centimeters to optimize their possibilities of survival, ”explains AFP biologist Kullawit Limchularat, generally known as Aum, who’s finishing up the operation in collaboration with the Phuket Marine Biology Heart (South).

The feminine lays eggs as soon as a month. “The objective is for him to reside and reproduce right here and take part within the restocking of the species”, “close to endangered” based on the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature. Phi Phi Marine Nationwide Park, its white sand seashores and coral reefs attracted over two million guests annually earlier than the pandemic.

ecological catastrophe

Human influence, the surplus of motorboats, the dearth of regulation on these islands, which nonetheless belong to “nationwide parks”, mixed with international warming have led to an ecological catastrophe.

Maya Bay noticed as much as 6,000 individuals a day spilling onto a slender 250-meter-long seashore. “The coral cowl there has decreased by greater than 60% in simply over 10 years,” notes Thon Thamrongnawasawat of Kasetsart College in Bangkok. In 2018, a scientist rang the alarm bell and compelled authorities to shut a part of the bay, additionally degraded by erosion.

The pandemic plunges your entire archipelago into compelled convalescence. Since then, dozens of blacktip sharks, inexperienced turtles and tortoiseshells have been swimming in shallow waters. Whale sharks, the most important fish on the earth and in peril of extinction, have been noticed off the coast.

“There are indications that replica is larger, particularly amongst sharks who admire calm waters,” notes Thon Thamrongnavasawat. As for the corals, “greater than 40% of the fragments re-planted in Maya Bay survive, a really passable determine as a result of absence of holiday makers.”

However restoration will likely be sluggish. It’ll take a minimum of 20 years to revive a coral reef, the biologist warns.


Phi Phi is timidly reviving tourism that’s nonetheless primarily native in nature – though the drastic journey restrictions for international vacationers who want to go to Thailand have lately been eased. And Maya Bay is slated to reopen from January 1, after greater than three years of closure. No one desires to repeat the errors of the previous, says Pramote Kaewnam, director of the nationwide park.

Boats is not going to be allowed to moor close to the seashore and vacationers will likely be dropped off on the pier away from the bay. Visits will likely be restricted to 1 hour with a most of 300 individuals per tour. “Maja Bay introduced us as much as 60,000. {dollars} a day. However this monumental earnings can’t be in comparison with the pure sources now we have misplaced, ”the director notes.

The variety of guests may even be regulated in different key areas of the archipelago. And be careful for boats trying to anchor on coral reefs or vacationers having enjoyable feeding the fish, they are going to be fined $ 150.

– “Unique Vacationers” –

Phi Phi should encourage your entire kingdom. The federal government now desires to give attention to high quality, “attracting high-class vacationers, not massive numbers of holiday makers.”

Native companies to adapt. “We’d like tourism earnings, however we additionally want to teach. All of us understood that in the course of the pandemic,” stated Sirithon Thamrongnawasawat, vp of sustainable improvement at Singha Property.

The group, proprietor of a 200-room lodge on the island of Thailand, has constructed a marine facility there devoted to the archipelago ecosystem and is funding a number of initiatives together with coral replanting, breeding bamboo sharks after which releasing them out to sea.

The primary company from overseas to return to the area appear delighted with the brand new strategy. “We did not simply come to dive within the turquoise waters. We additionally need to assist, ”says Franck, earlier than serving to to clear the close by mangrove forest. “It might be nice if the island remained so abandoned.” However the archipelago’s 2,500 inhabitants have skilled a drop in earnings because of the pandemic, they usually hope clients will return quickly.

Pailin Naowabutr has been combing the waters of Phi Phi for seven years, transporting vacationers on board his long-tail boat. “Earlier than Covid, I used to be making $ 30 a day. I needed to cease and do odd jobs for lower than $ 10.” The sailor has lately returned to sea. Repairs the horizon with nostalgia, the path of Phuket, the large sister in an hour by speedboat, which welcomed hundreds of thousands of vacationers earlier than the disaster.

“They’re going to be again quickly, everybody desires to go to Phi Phi,” he says. However the Omicron variant, which has already compelled a number of nations to barricade themselves once more, may spoil their hopes… and nonetheless give some respite to marine life.

Additionally learn:

Mass tourism, the curse of Southeast Asia’s dream seashore

Responsible travel: at the decline of mass tourism?

Accountable journey: on the decline of mass tourism?

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