The news comes while all access to nearby Maya Bay – by boat or even onto the beach – remains strictly “no visitors allowed” until at least Oct 1 to allow the coral reefs and marine ecosystem there to recover from damage brought on by years of heavy tourism to the world-renowned site. The bay was closed on June 1.
At last report, Hat Nopparat-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park Chief Worapoj Lomlim confirmed that a floating pier was to be built at Loh Samah Bay so that boats could drop off tourists without dropping anchor and risking damage to reefs in Loh Samah Bay. (See story here.)
However, tour speedboats are now returning en masse to Loh Samah Bay, which is just a short walk walk along a jungle path to view Maya Bay.
With Park Chief Worapoj unavailable away today, Deputy Park Chief Pinij Aung-Chuan today told The Phuket News, “Tourists can visit there as normal. There is currently no limit on the number of boats, or tourists, allowed to visit Loh Samah Bay.”
Deputy Park Chief Pinij assured The Phuket News that no tourists were being allowed to access Maya Bay.
“Tourists cannot sneak into Maya Bay [from Loh Samah Bay] because park officers have been posted to keep an eye on tourists there [on the main path across the island], and the other path is too steep and bordered by rocky cliffs,” he said.
Speaking of the coral-restoration project currently underway in Maya Bay, Mr Pinij said, “The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) is working with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) and the Department of Marine Science at the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University to carry the project.
“We are co-ordinating our studies and we are bringing coral branches from mature corals at Yoong Island and planting them in Maya Bay,” he said.
Whether the project was showing signs of success, Mr Pinij explained, “It is too early to tell. We are still compiling data and the project is not concluded yet.”
Mr Pinij also confirmed that his officers have so far not had any issues with tourist attempting to sneak into Maya Bay while it is closed.
Currently a string off floating buoys have been installed to rope off the entrance to Maya Bay by boat.
Nonthasak Marine, one of Phuket’s busiest speedboat day tour providers to the area, reported earlier this month that the bay closure had not affected tour sales.
“It has not affected us,” said Sittichai Buaban, Nonthasak Marine’s Sales & Marketing Manager.
“We are still selling the same number of tours, but instead of taking tourists to Maya Bay, we take them to Phi Phi Don and other popular sites,” he said.
“We actually still take them to the front of Maya Bay where floating buoys have been installed to prevent boats from entering the bay and our tour guides explain to them – and show them – this is as close as you can get for now,” he added. (See story here.)