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Fun on the Similan islands, one of the Phuket region's prime delights

Similans Seem Set for World Heritage Listing

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
REPRESENTATIVES from 19 countries have been giving Thailand's Similan islands a thorough once-over as the popular diving site approaches World Heritage listing.

The listing would recognise the environmental importance of the islands, which are a prime attraction for tourists to Phuket and the neighboring province of Phang Nga.

Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Suwit Khunkitti, is travelling with the expert working group on their three-day mission.

Over-fishing is recognised as a problem around the Similans, with poachers said to invade the natural marine park regularly in quest of larger catches.

Park rangers are said to lack the numbers and equipment to enforce protection laws.

While the Similans are supposed to close for the low season to enable the islands and their coral reefs to recover, dive boats are reported to venture to the region out of season. A small number of bungalows and a tent camp cater for overnight stayers on one island.

In March 2009, a ''live-aboard'' dive boat returning to Phuket from a regular voyage to the Similans overturned in a storm, with six dive tourists and the Thai cook drowning off the west coast of Phuket. There were 23 survivors.

A couple of months earlier, Australian and Swedish tourists took photographs of Thai navy personnel holding large numbers of Rohingya boatpeople prone at the far end of one of the well-known Similans beaches, while tourists frolicked close by.

The navy also oversees a protected turtle area on several islands on the Similans, which has been credited with helping to increase numbers of the creatures along the Andaman coast.

A future as a World Heritage site would probably end the navy's request to place a helicopter landing zone on an island to facilitate safety at sea and make rescues faster and more efficient.

A decision is expected before the end of 2010. Thai officials are extremely hopeful the Similans will win World Heritage listing.

Declaration of the Similans and Surin national park in 1982 accelerated tourism in the township of Khao Lak, the Phang Nga tourist dive destination that has now fully recovered from the 2004 tsunami.

The World Heritage working group is staying at the Movenpick Resort in Karon on Phuket and will be entertained tonight by Australia and Japan.
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Comments

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"While the Similans are supposed to close for the low season to enable the islands and their coral reefs to recover, dive boats are reported to venture to the region out of season."

Possibly 1 or 2. They however do not trash reefs or poach fish. Biggest problem is fishing boats that are always around the islands in low season. I was out on a dive boat in August 2001, remember watching fishing boats hauling up nets right next to Koh Similan, the largest of the islands.

Will World Heritage Site status keep out fishing boats?

Posted by Jamie on April 28, 2010 11:03

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"Park rangers are said to lack the numbers and equipment to enforce protection laws"

A huge frustration as all foreign tourists must pay a 400 baht entry fee plus a 200 baht per day diving fee. When this was first imposed a few years back there was a major outcry from the diving community.

One leading dive operator pointed out to government leaders during a forum on the subject that the dive community will accept the steep fees provided the money goes into the protection and enhancement of the park, and not for "a new Mercedes".

Hope that World Heritage officials will be able to monitor and counter the TIT factor when overseeing our new World Heritage site.

Posted by Treelover on April 28, 2010 13:57

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What happened to the much-hyped proposal to have Phang Nga Bay (or whatever it was) accepted as part of the "new" Seven Wonders of the World? The Phuket P*st was very much behind it, but I can find out nothing.

Editor: Best ask the Phuket Post people.

Posted by Owen Meaney on April 28, 2010 17:19


Tuesday September 24, 2019
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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