Thailand’s national parks – clocking in at 127 at the last count – are arguably the jewel in the Kingdom’s crown, attracting tourists, locals and explorers of every sensibility for their lush landscapes and abundance of exotic flora and fauna.
฿500 million (US$14.2 billion) has been allocated by the Department for National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to upgrade 50 of the most popular national parks by the end of the year, reports the Bangkok Post.
Upgrades would focus on visitor services, namely restaurants, toilets and accommodation, which would enable Thailand’s parks to compete on a global level with other natural attractions and improve their accessibility.
“We will improve the recreation zone in the parks to welcome tourists, responding to the government’s policy,” said Thanya Nethithammakul, director general of the department, referencing the government’s 5 year plan to improve the nation’s national parks.
Also on the agenda for improvement are landscaping and waste management – another ฿500 million (US$14.2 million) project, expected to get underway this year too.
These investment upgrades are possible thanks to an initiative over the past year to streamline and legitimise the collection of entrance fees at the parks; it was suspected before that park officials in some of the southern region’s marine parks had been pocketing fees themselves.
฿880 million (US$25 million) was raised from entrance fees in 2015, and ฿1.2 billion (US$285 million) is expected to be collected by the end of 2016. Around 13 million people visit national parks every year. The most popular parks and those that record the highest revenue are Erawan (Kanchanaburi), Khao Yai (Nakhon Ratchasima) and Ko Phi Phi.
Take a look at our picks for Thailand’s most stunning national parks.
One national park has hit the headlines this week after Chinese tourists were found to have been illegally fishing in a protected area there.
Mu Ko Similan, a group of islands off the coast of Khao Lak in the Andaman Sea, is famous for being one of the best dive sites in the world, thanks to its abundance of marine life and beautiful underwater landscape.
Around 20 tourists from China and Hong Kong came under fire after they were caught on Facebook posting photos of caught seafood, including lobsters, on a boat in the area – illegal thanks to its protected status. While the captain of the fishing boat was arrested, the tourists were not and it’s unknown as to whether they have yet left Thailand.
Featured image is of Mu Ko Similan National Marine Park and is by yutphuket (Creative Commons)