Just two weeks after closing the famous Koh Tachai island to visitors, Thailand’s government announced it has closed three more of its beautiful islands in an effort to preserve natural resources and save endangered coral reefs.
On Wednesday, marine officials said Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nai — all located off the coast of Phuket — would be closed to all visitors. According to local media outlets, the closures are due to a massive increase in tourism, causing irreversible damage to the endangered coral reef.
“Tour groups spend at least three hours swimming, feeding fish and snorkelling, which severely damages the marine ecosystem, especially on coral reefs,” Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) regional chief Watcharin Na Thalang told Phuket News.
“The reasons for coral damage in the Koh Khai area is from the coral-bleaching process, which occurs naturally and from human activity. This includes the increasing number of tourists, boats that anchor on the corals, people walking on corals while playing in the water, feeding marine animals and catching them to take photos of with them.”
According to the report, over 60 speedboats full of tourists visit the three islands every day.
Photos on Instagram show just how crowded Koh Khai Nok has become, with dozens of sun chairs and umbrellas crowding the beach. According to reviews on Trip Advisor, many tourists complained of being gouged by locals to rent the chairs.
A post on the DMCR Facebook page said vendors and tourist booths on the islands must be gone within two days.
Earlier this month, officials were forced to close Koh Tachai island, known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand. According to reports, the beaches on the island were holding up to 1,000 tourists at a time, when no more than 70 could be “comfortably accommodated,” and had become overrun with food stands and tour boats.
Koh Tachai island was rated Thailand’s most beautiful island by BeachMeter.com in 2015 and is one of the highest-rated attractions in Thailand’s Similan Islands on TripAdvisor.com.