The shoreline, beaches and coral reefs around Koh Tachai island in the Similan National Park off Phangnga province will be off-limits to all visitors for an indefinite period, starting Oct 15, according to authorities.
The closure aims to ease negative effects on natural resources and the environment as a result of heavy tourism activities in the Similan National Park, a natural conservation area, said Tunya Netithammakul, director genberal of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation.
The measure is part of the masterplan for marine resource management in the Andaman Sea, he added.
All marine national parks are closed from Monday to Oct 15 during the monsoon. But after Oct 15, Koh Tachai of the Similan Islands National Park will remain closed indefinitely, he said.
However, two deep dive sites in the Similan Islands remain open to divers and tourists.
"Thanks to its beauty, Koh Tachai has become a popular tourist site for both Thai and foreign tourists. This has resulted in overcrowding and the degradation of natural resources and the environment.
"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," said Mr Tunya.
He said since the closure of Koh Tachai was declared more than three months in advance, tourists should watch out for some tour companies which might try to sell trips to the island after Oct 15.
Asst Prof Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries of Kasetsart University, said when he was a guest speaker at a tourism fair organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand on Sunday he found that 14 tour companies were still selling their tour packages to Koh Tachai.
"In fact, Koh Tachai is preserved as a primitive zone, not a tourist site. A beach on the island can hold up to 70 people. But sometimes the number of tourists was well over 1,000 on the beach, which was already crowded with food stalls and tour boats. This caused the island to quickly deteriorate. If it's not closed now, we'll lose Koh Tachai permanently," he said.
Panapol Cheevaserichol, chief of the Tatutao Islands National Park off Satun province, said like other marine national parks, Tarutao would be closed from May 16 to Oct 15.
As a result, all popular tourist spots including Koh Adang, Koh Rawi and Koh Hinngam, as well as diving spots have been closed.
However, Koh Lipe remains open as usual, Mr Panapol said.