Thailand’s national parks represent some of the country’s most pristine and popular destinations.
Unfortunately for travelers, however, the government shuttered about 40 percent of its parks this month for the rainy season that lasts through mid-October.
The move, which the government has undertaken for four consecutive years, is designed to mitigate the effects of tourism and give ecosystems and wildlife populations a break during the rainy season.
According to news reports, the temporary closures effect 61 of the nation’s 154 national parks.
Travelers will recognize many of the parks on the list because numerous locations popular among divers will be closed. This closure also applies to some very well-known beach sites around Phuket such as the Koh Phi Phi islands, the Koh Ha islets to the west of Koh Lanta, and the remote Similan Islands typically accessed from Khao Lak.
Curiously, AsiaOne reported that Maya Bay, made famous by the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach, will stay open—despite damage to the reefs from crowds that visit during Thailand’s summer.
Just how big is this tourist crush? A recent article in the Jakarta Post indicated that 9 million people visit Thailand’s national parks between October and May. To put that into perspective, consider that roughly 3 million people visited California’s Yosemite National Park in 2016.
The Thai government certainly is being proactive about protecting these parks. Last year, officials announced they were closing the tiny island of Koh Tachai indefinitely. This island, located about 40 miles off the coast of Thailand’s Phang Nga province, had been known for its white sand and rare blue coral reefs. In a story on Weather.com, a Thai official called the island’s closure “a turning point” in conservation efforts across the country.
Thailand is taking an enviable step in its conservation efforts. Especially in the wake of recent headlines over global climate change, it’s hard to quibble with a move to preserve natural resources. Besides, during monsoon season, it can rain for days—not a great time to be in the parks.
If you’re visiting Thailand at any point in the next few months, enjoy Bangkok or some of the other national parks. Most of the closed parks will reopen October 15.