Koh Tachai, a small island tucked away in the pristine waters of the Andaman Sea west of Thailand’s southern city of Phuket. Its pristine white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and coral reefs bustling with fauna earned it rave reviews from tourists—divers in particular.
But if you wanted to go, you missed your chance. And perhaps it’s better that way.
Thai authorities have prohibited visitors staying overnight and the island is totally off limits between mid-May and mid-October, the monsoon season.
Reaching the island is not easy. It involves a 2-hour bus ride from Phuket and another hour and a half on a speedboat—only to stay a few hours and leave again.
The island is less than a mile across from east to west and about mile and a half from north to south.
Still, the island has been frequently overcrowded with tourists.
“[S]o crowded you can barely find a place to put your towel on the beach,” reads a TripAdvisor review of March 2013.
“Too many divers are attracted to this site. Generally there are 8-10 boats here on most sites with circa 20 divers a boat. Famous as a Manta cleaning station the Mantas are being driven away by the hoards of divers now,” wrote another reviewer in February. “Wake up national park admin.. you are losing the attraction by allowing too many divers.”
The beach could hold up to 70 people, but sometimes there were over 1,000, according to Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries of Kasetsart University, Bangkok Post reported.
And the park administration has stepped up to protect the island.
When other marine national parks open again on October 15, Koh Tachai will remain closed indefinitely.
The announcement came from Tunya Netithammakul, director general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation, Bangkok Post reported.
“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,” Tunya said.
He also asked tourists to watch out for companies that might try to sell them trips to the island.
“In fact, Koh Tachai is preserved as a primitive zone, not a tourist site,” Prof. Thon said, referring to zones with the second highest degree of protection in Thailand’s national parks. Other parks have tourist areas marked as “Outdoor Recreational Zone.”
“If it’s not closed now, we’ll lose Koh Tachai permanently,” Thon said.