With its vertical limestone cliffs covered in lush vegetation dramatically plunging into the turquoise waters and white sand beaches, no wonder why Maya Bay, a stone’s throw from Koh Phi Phi Island was chosen as the filming location for the Hollywood blockbuster “The Beach”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. However,
Koh Phi Phi has become a victim of its own success with overcrowded hostels, overpriced hotels & food, irresponsible waste management, boat engines overpowering the songs of birds and leaving a thin layer of oil at the surface of the gorgeous translucent waters, and arrogance has replaced the legendary Thai smile.
The island is simply not big enough to handle the thousands of tourists arriving on Koh Phi Phi every day by boats from Phuket or Krabi. Only a few beaches on the island are OK to swim: Tonsai Bay with its never-stopping boat ballet is a no go, the opposite Loh Dalam Bay with its 30-centimetre depth at low tide is not ideal, and many beaches on the north are private as part of resorts and far from the stunning limestone formations; so most tourists discover the area by long-tail boats, the source of a constant engine noise in Tonsai Bay from early morning to dusk. Loh Dalam Bay is home to young backpackers who stick to the crowded beach and sloppy bars where a constant and loud music can be heard at any time. Beyond the noise pollution, 25 to 40 tons of solid waste are generated daily by this mass tourism. This waste is supposed to be disposed of on the mainland, but hiking a few lesser trodden trails reveals many open air dumps just away from tourists’ sight. Maybe even more worrying, no wastewater management plant seem to be located on Koh Phi Phi, making it every business owner’s responsibility to treat its own water before releasing it into the sea. Based on the average approach we noticed where pure exploitation of visitors and nature is the norm, I doubt of the efficiency of such a measure, especially as the majority of the thousands of workers on the island come from the North of Thailand seasonally, not caring that much about Koh Phi Phi and seeing it as a revenue-generator.
To put it in a nutshell: Kho Phi Phi has been destroyed by the way it has been exploited in order to satisfy the needs of mass tourism. The most worrying of all is that the splendid waters of Phi Phi are protected by a Marine National Park status (Hat Nopparat Thara-Ko Phi Phi National Park)! One can wonder why the authorities are so inefficient at promoting sustainable development and eco-tourism, and why tourists keep visiting the island…
Claire & Marcella
- Instead of Koh Phi Phi, we suggest you to discover Koh Yao Noi, if you are looking for an authentic and stunning island overlooking karst formations and quiet beaches while maintaining a fair price to quality ratio. It might be slightly less picture-perfect, but its authenticity and friendliness will make up for it by far.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!