PHOTOS: Singha Estate and Marine Discovery Centre
Maya Bay is poised to re-open to tourists at the end of this month, albeit in a much better ‘controlled’ system which will limit the number of tourists visiting the famous Bay. There will be no accommodation following the Maya Bay make-over, staying overnight remains prohibited. Maya Bay is the star attraction at Koh Phi Phi Ley, the smaller of the archipelago known as the Phi Phi islands.
The much larger Phi Phi Don, considered a backpacker haven with an abundance of budget and mid-range accommodation options, is famous for its wild party scene.
In 2017 some 2 million tourists visited the Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park with Maya Bay drawing an average of 3,700 tourists every single day.
Now the Thai government, after years of lobbying from concerned locals and environmentalists, are capping the numbers and taking firm action to maintain the sustainability of the National Park and its fragile eco system. The private sector, too, are now approaching tourism to the islands differently.
Behind the scenes there has been a push for better funding for the park’s rangers and the installation of more mooring buoys in tourist areas to prevent boats from damaging the sea floor with their anchors along the damaged coral reefs. There is also a campaign to educate local communities about how to better protect their environment.
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort, owned by property-developer Singha Estate, has spearheaded a massive education program aimed at rehabilitating the area’s fragile marine environment. The focus is their new Marine Discovery Centre.
Working with the Thai government, Singha Estate has played a leading role in the recent closure of Maya Bay, part of a string of operations that kicked off back in 2016 called the “Phi Phi Model.” The man leading the way is the highly respected Marine biologist Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawat.
CNN Travel describes Thon as… “a jovial, energetic man who isn’t afraid to dish out criticisms where they’re due, is a bit of a celebrity in Thailand. He even loaned his vocals to the Thai-dubbed version of “Finding Dory,” playing the disembodied voice that comes over the speakers in the Marine Life Institute, where Dory hunts for her parents. (It’s a fitting role, given Thon’s passion for clownfish breeding.)
“Everybody in Thailand is focused on the Phi Phi Model as it’s something different,” he says. “It’s not only important for Phi Phi, it’s important for the whole country. It brings us hope.”
The resort has established the Marine Discovery Centre, free for anyone to visit. It’s divided into The Shark Room, the Phi Phi Islands Room, the Auditorium and the Clownfish Room (Thon’s favourite).
There’s also a nursery for injured marine animals – turtles and baby sharks that have been caught and wounded in fishing nets.
Read more about the Centre HERE.