Has COVID Restrictions Improved Diving in Thailand
There is no doubt that COVID has taken a lot from the tourism in Thailand, especially the scuba diving sector. However, with the lack of tourists (and divers) there is a reduction in the negative impacts on the environment. With less boat traffic, divers, snorkelers, coral damaging sunscreen and less fishing vessels due to the lack of demand of seafood the strain has been greatly reduced. It appears that the COVID restrictions has improved diving in Thailand.
Although the lack of divers and tourists has not pleased business owners and those employed in the tourism industry, it appears to be having a positive impact on mother nature.
This was highlighted this week when one of the oceans most majestic creatures, the whale shark, decided to pay a shallow water visit to Kata beach. This simply would not been possible pre COVID with the number of boat traffic, jet skis and beach goers.
Some old timers talk about whale sharks strolling through the western side beaches of Phuket. Twenty plus years ago, Patong Beach was no stranger to one of the most popular and sort after creatures of the sea. This all faded away with the increase of tourism to Phuket and the destruction of the original mangroves and coral reefs that are so vital to the marine life.
Back in October 2020 on one of the first Similan liveaboard trip , popular and long time liveaboard tour leader Darren King was shocked when during a dive in the Similan Islands a Tiger Shark casually swam by. This is the first tiger shark seen in the area by anyone currently involved in the scuba diving industry. What is presumed to be the same shark, sightings have continued into March 2021 which would indicate the creature is happy with the lack of activity currently.
In early 2021 Leatherback Turtles laid eggs on the beaches of Phuket and Phang Nga for the first time in 20 years. Again, the normally crowded Kata Beach featured as a place for the rare turtles to lay their eggs. Some 50 days later local Phuket residents were delighted to witness the baby turtles making their way into the sea, hopefully boosting Phuket’s and Thailand’s population of one of the biggest turtles in existence.
Recently divers were thrilled by Dolphins in Koh Tao and for a period of a week or so Phuket was entertained by a pod of Bryde’s whales very close to Chalong Bay. Most dive areas throughout Thailand are reporting a very good health increase in the coral reefs. This can only have a positive impact on the marine life. There has been reports of more shovel nose rays and a variety of other marine life.
In 1999 just over 3,000,000 visitors came to Phuket, 2 million of them were international. This was actually a massive 15% increase from the year before. Compare that to 20 years later and there were in excess of 10 million visitors, mostly international. Bangkok Post reposted that at times that number was as high as 15 million in a year.
Tourism and mother nature have never really got along and the probably never will. It is a tough balance between tourism and looking after the environment, unfortunately it appears the mighty dollar nearly always wins.
It is difficult to find positives out of COVID however the increase in marine life and improvement in coral is definitely a positive and that COVID restrictions has improved scuba diving in Thailand.
Let’s hope that with the predicted slow return in tourism mother nature continues to provide Thailand with some more pleasant surprises.
Posted in Marine Life on .