11 July 2024

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation will not bow to pressure from tour operators in the southern province of Phang-nga for it to ease  restrictions on the number of visitors to the scenic Similan island in the Andaman sea.

 

Songtham Suksawang, director of the National Parks Division of the department, insisted on Tuesday that the decision to limit the number of daily visitors to the island at 3,325 plus another 525 visitors for scuba diving was intended to preserve the environment and ecology of the island. 

Overnight stay on Similan island is also banned under the new order.

He said the department didn’t want a repeat of the situation of the past years when the number of daily visitors had spiralled to 6,000-7,000 which was beyond the capability of the island to cope with.

He also said that the department didn’t want to see Similan to end up like Maya Bay in nearby Krabi province which was recently closed indefinitely due to extensive damage caused to coral reefs and the beach from unlimited visitors.

The parks division chief said he was not worried by the protest of tour operators who claimed that their business would be affected by the restriction because they had already accepted advance bookings from tourists to visit Similan island and that they were given only short notice about the restrictions.

He dismissed the operators’ claim, saying that park officials had been discussing with the representatives of the operators throughout the past year about the overcrowding problem on the island and about measures to put a curb on the number of visitors to preserve the island’s environment for long-term benefits for all parties concerned.

Only a small number of tourists visited Similand island on Tuesday – the second day of the two-day boycott imposed by tour operators to protest against the restrictions.
Tour operators have instead switched to Surin island off Krabi province.