A Thai island has become so popular with tourists albeit rather overboard that it will soon be off-limits.

Koh Tachai, part of Thailand’s Similan National Park, is teeming with snorkelers, divers and people numbering close to 1,000 at a time – even if its typical beach could only accommodate about 70 at any given time. Now due to concerns of severe damage and deterioration, it will close indefinitely this fall to ward off the thick crowds.

The beaches, shoreline and famed coral reefs surrounding the island off Phangnga province will be closed to visitors starting Oct. 15, aiming to ease the negative effects of heavy tourism in the area.

The newly announced measure belongs to the main marine resource management plan for the Andaman Sea, according to Tunya Netithammakul, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plants Conservation’s director general.

"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," the director told Bangkok Post, urging visitors to beware of post-Oct. 15 tours to the island that are still being offered.

While many Thai marine sites actually close from May to October for the monsoon season, Koh Tachai will remain closed indefinitely, a move announced over three months in advance.

Assistant professor Thon Thamrongnawasawat clarified that Koh Tachai is preserved as a primitive zone and not a tourist destination, and mourned that it was already filled with tour boats and food stalls catering to guests.

“If it’s not closed now, we’ll lose Koh Tachai permanently,” he warned.

The Thai island is only one among tourist destinations worldwide to be recently restricted or given a chance to recover via a travel ban.

The Greek island Santorini, for instance, announced back in March that it would limit cruise ship visitors to 8,000 a day to reduce congestion. In Italy, the five villages comprising Cinque Terre, too, will start selling limited amounts of tickets to sites for next year’s tourism season.

Jonathan Tourtellot, writing about how tourism in the Galapagos is backfiring, dubbed tourism a “two-edged sword” in his piece for the National Geographic last year.

“Tourism also brings huge risks, fosters greed, and generates unexpected consequences,” he said, calling for permanent stewardship in sensitive destinations, as guided by solid research.

Photo: Curtis Foreman | Flickr

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