The islands in the Eastern Gulf of Thailand have a special appeal to tourists, partly because they are easier to get to than the beaches on the Southern Peninsula, and partly because they are less crowded. But now there is another reason too; the area has been identified by the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA) as an ideal low-carbon destination and has provided funding to encourage hotels and restaurants to reduce their waste and their energy requirements to a minimum. Recently a ‘low-carbon’ holiday was arranged for visitors to see what progress has been made on the islands of Ko Chang, Ko Wai, Ko Mak and Ko Kut.
Resorts and hotels which participate in the low-carbon tourism project have garbage management systems, recycled water (for gardening), solar panels to provide electricity and notices suggesting that guests adjust the temperature to 25 degrees Centigrade and switch off air conditioners and lights when not in their rooms.
On Ko Chang, visitors were introduced to healthy eating, meditation and detoxification at The Natural Therapy Study Centre of the Spa Koh Chang Resort, after which they joined a cruise along a canal in Salak Khok, visiting a coconut oil factory, Wat Salak Phet and its museum, and a mangrove study trail. They were also treated to a feast prepared by seven leading chefs on the island, using local seafood, vegetables and fruits.
On Ko Wai, off the southeastern tip of Ko Chang, visitors were invited to help plant staghorn corals on PVC pipes in order to revitalize the coral reef. Unfortunately much of the coral was killed off some years ago by bleaching, but with care and attention it is hoped that the reef will be restored to its former beauty.
In many ways, Ko Mak is a model of sustainability for tourist resorts. There is virtually no traffic, so there are almost no carbon emissions, and most of the island is blanketed in rubber and coconut plantations. DASTA has constructed a waste management plant, which significantly reduces the amount of waste generated, and turns much of it into fertiliser and biogas.
On Ko Kut, tourists released baby fish into the Khlong Chao Canal and enjoyed kayaking on the canal. Ko Kut is Thailand’s fourth largest island, but it is comparatively undeveloped, making it an ideal location to develop low-carbon tourism. Some resorts have been cleverly constructed out of recycled materials, and the island’s west coast features some idyllic beaches. With more and more tourists looking for a holiday that leaves a low-carbon footprint, the future for these islands in the Eastern Gulf looks rosy.