Turtle release at Maya Bay to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Tsunami
by Robb, Five Star Thailand Tours
Koh Phi Phi Leh’s most famous tourist attraction, Maya Bay has been a controversial topic in recent years. The bay remains closed. However, tourists are still able to visit the National Park to swim and snorkel along the outskirts of the bay. A rope strung across the bay prevents visitors from going inside the bay and getting close to the beach.
The information published about Maya Bay and Koh Phi Phi in the media in recent years has been somewhat negative. And while I don’t feel that Maya Bay should be opened anytime soon, it would be great for people to know that positive changes are showing and the bay is beginning to recover. There is a lot of hard work being put into the projects by local people, and I believe these positive stories should be known.
The operations were planned out and executed by a local boat owner (the Phi Phi Pirate Boat), and the date was set to commemorate the anniversary of the 2004 Tsunami, December 26.
Nine Hawksbill Sea Turtles were transported from an aquarium in Phuket on Christmas Day – the sea Turtles are of an endangered species and had been raised in captivity.
The turtles spent the night in a tank on the main island of Koh Phi Phi Don. And on the morning of the 26th, the turtles were ready to be released back into the wild, transported onto the Phi Phi Pirate Boat (which took a day out of service as a tour boat for the day’s events) and left from Tonsai Pier on Koh Phi Phi Don. There were around 20 passengers on the tour boat, including a local scuba team.
A plaque to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Tsunami was carried on the boat, and the local scuba team planted it on the sea-bed just off the coast of Tonsai Bay, before heading to Maya Bay.
The operations were coordinated in advance with the Department of National Parks who show a fantastic passion for the preservation of the beaches and natural areas of the region. The boat was escorted into Maya Bay by the DNP’s patrol boat, and the bucket containing the turtles was floated into the sea. We were instructed to use kayaks to get closer to the beach area of the closed Bay.
Our visit to Maya Bay (and having visited many times before while the beach was open) shows immediate and positive changes on the beach. It now looks like a completely different bay to how I remembered from previous visits and mother nature is slowly reclaiming the ecology. There is so much greenery growing which was never given a chance to show before; it’s honestly amazing to see the amount of effort that has gone into the rehabilitation and to see all the hard work paying off.
While improvements are showing in the bay, it’s nowhere near ready to be opened to tourism. And personally, I don’t think it should be. I would like to see the bay returned to a natural state but seemingly three years is not enough time for that to happen.
Due to the high tides on the day, the decision was made that it would be more suitable to release the turtles on a smaller beach to the side of the main beach. So after a brief stop at Maya Bay, the buckets containing the turtles and the kayaks set off to the smaller beach, where it would be easier to monitor the turtles when they returned to the sea.
The turtles were successfully released into the bay- and Koh Phi Phi Leh now has nine new inhabitants in its recovering wild.
Robb, Five Star Thailand Tours
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