The decision was made last year to close the bay to all tour boats for four months, from June 1 through Sept 30 this year, so that the local marine ecosystem can recover from the heavy tourism traffic that caused much damage to the iconic coral reefs in the bay.
After the bay is re-opened to visitors come Oct 1, there will be a limit of 2,000 visitors to the bay per day. Previously, the number of visitors to the bay was 4,000 to 5,000 per day. (See story here.)
However, the previously announced plan for tourists to be allowed to disembark their tour boats at Loh Samah Bay, on the opposite of of the island, in order to be able to walk along a jungle path to view Maya Bay from a distance of some 400 metres during the four-month closure remains confused.
Hat Nopparat-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park Chief Worapoj Lomlim earlier this year made it clear that visitors would still be able to see Maya Bay by coming ashore at Loh Samah Bay, a report corroborated by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) only two weeks ago. (See TAT report here.)
However, in order to protect corals in Loh Samah Bay, no boats are allowed to drop anchor there anymore and the much-touted “floating dock” at Loh Samah Bay has yet to be built, making it very difficult for the tourists on board to be able to get ashore.
Park Chief Worapoj was oblique in his explanations to The Phuket News today.
“Right now this floating dock in Loh Samah Bay is in the process of design and construction by a private company,” he said, while declining to name the company hired to complete the job.
“I can’t give specific details of the dock to the public right now, but I can confirm that the floating dock will be built from strong and environmental materials. It will be strong enough to be stable during storms and strong waves and it will definitely not cause any harm to reefs,” Mr Worapoj said.
“It will take time to build this in the (southwest) monsoon season. It will be finished as quickly as possible,” he added.
Even the limit of 2,000 visitors per day come Oct 1 is still up in the air.
“I can’t confirm officially that the limit will be 2,000 visitors a day after the bay re-opens. We still have to wait for Kasetsart University to finish the research on the environmental damage already done to the reefs,” Mr Worapoj said.
Also, the “e-ticketing” system announced to be introduced to limit the number of visitors arriving in the bay by boat after the bay re-opens has a long way to go to become a reality.
“Right now there is no e-ticket system for anyone to use. Anyone who wants to visit the area can just do it the old way and buy a ticket with a tour company,” Mr Worapoj said today.
“We don’t have an online system for registered tour operators and boat owners. We haven’t got that far yet. Also, I can’t confirm ticket prices or where or how tickets will be available. We need to hold more meetings so we can come to some conclusion about it later,” he added.
“Please understand that I very much want to save the environment at Maya Bay and enforce a limit of 2,000 visitors a day there, but making this work is not easy to deal with. We want private businesses and tour companies to help us push this project together,” Mr Worapoj said.