Phi Phi islands (well..it’s actually «Pee Pee»!) is a complex of islands in Andaman Sea, southwest of Thailand. Best known for the Maya Bay, aka «The Beach» from the homonymous movie, Phi Phi islands is a unique place that well deserves the fame! Needless to say, Phi Phi Don (the only inhabitant island) receives approximately 1000 tourists per day!
We arrived there after our 6-day stay in Phuket and of course we were impressed by the natural formations and the limestone rocks jutting out of the sea around the main island. The hills surrounding the two beaches are still lush even if the buildings have spread everywhere. Unfortunately, looking closer , we felt really disappointed. The two main beaches were overcrowded (even if we arrived just before the wet and low- season…) and , the most important, the sea water was dirty. We struggled to find a «clean» corner so we could swim a bit. However, the view is beautiful and if swimming is not your cup of tea you might be happier than us!
Luckily, the rest of the beaches (mainly not accessible by land…) are way better but if you choose to stay in the resorts there you have to commute with the local boat that operates till 5 pm or to pay around 1000Baht (£21) to return by a private boat taxi later (but not that late as the locals are not willing to drive you there after 8pm)! If you stay at Long Beach you can walk to the main village but it takes more than an hour in a very steep dark route- not advisable after few beers or at 1 pm under the hot sun!
The landscape of the islands group is indeed very unique. In some places , snorkelling is a great experience as you can even observe Nemo fishes (Clownfish) along with their favourite sea anemones! We were amazed by the colourful sea life there even if we are Greeks!
As some locals admitted to us, many business owners do not care enough for the environment and they have no plan for the waterwaste their businesses produce. Unfortunately, there is no proper sewage system in the island and even if it’s required by law for the owners to treat their trash before releasing it into the sea, we doubted they do it. On the other hand, the 20Baht fee, (less than £0.5!) that each tourist has to pay on arrival at the port, goes towards the company which transfers daily the 25-40 tons (!!) of solid waste to the mainland.
Of course, we , as travellers, have some responsibilities too. We can’t through away our trash anywhere, «forget» our stuff in the beach, leave our cigarette ends in the sea, block the toilets with paper etc. Also, we can’t require to have the same facilities and comforts in a secluded place as we could back home. The reason of visiting a natural paradise should be relaxing / enjoying the nature and being fascinated by this and what it can offer and not looking for the perfect pool, clubs, internet connection, western food, high standard facilities etc. No doubt, everyone appreciates a bit of comfort but having unrealistic expectations leads to demand that sacrifices piece by piece this paradise.
Undoubtedly, the governments have the power for bigger impact changes but we can make a tiny change as individuals too. Phi Phi Don has turned from a fishing village into an overcrowded place (still amazing though) and perhaps the authorities should have reacted accordingly by setting a maximum number of tourists per month/ year and a limit of the businesses that can operate here. But it s never too late! Some places have already closed down for tourists temporarily in order to recover (such as the Mosquito Island) and the ecosystem in others (such as the Maya Bay) is under threat so much so that it is considered to close down as well. Additionally, cars and motorbikes are not allowed in the island (apart from the Police’s ones), hopefully they will keep it like that!
It’s in our hands to preserve these idyllic places… and not only for «us» or «the next generations». This sounds quite selfish and human-centered . The species which have been living there for thousands years, the sea life, the coral reefs, the plantation and the nature in general deserve to be protected anyway. Unfortunately, we are not perfect so let’s share ideas and inspire each other! What are you doing as a mindful, «eco-friendly» traveller?