UPDATE 10th April 2015: Please note that the 200bt (100bt kids) government tax or 40bt/20bt (Thai Nationals) for visiting Koh Rang is now in place. Collection is either in Bang Bao before you leave or on site by the rangers in an inflatable dinghy. This fee is not included in our guide to the snorkeling prices.
Whilst the capital has been the center of political unrest, closer to home, local business owners have been venting their fury at the new boss of Koh Chang National Park, Veera Khunchaiyarak.
As Mu Koh Chang is National Park, it is strictly speaking liable to a 200bt fee for its entry, in exactly the same vein as other National Parks throughout the country. Visitors to Koh Samet, for example, pay as they arrive on the island. On taking up the his new role a month ago, Veera’s first major initiative was to re-introduce this park fee, but opt to enforce it only for visiting Koh Rang and its surrounding islands, with December 1st set as the start date. Koh Rang is the main attraction of the marine park for divers and snorkelers alike and if you take a boat trip, you will end up there at some point.
Collection of fee fails at Koh Rang
There is a history to fees and Koh Chang, and an unsuccessful one at that, with various plans put forward over the years on how to collect the 200bt, all of which have ended in confusion and abandonment. At one point, it was mooted that all visitors should pay at the ferries, but difficulties in its enforcement, meant the plan was ripped up and for a good few years, the only charge imposed is that at the waterfalls of Klong Plu and Than Mayom, 200bt for adults, 100bt for kids and 30bt to 40bt for Thai Nationals. The idea for a fee for the boats entering the Marine Park area is itself certainly not new either but up until now, it has been resisted and thought impractical to collect.
About 200 locals demonstrated against the proposal outside the National Park Offices, insisting that there has been no consultation over the plan and how it would directly impinge on their livelihoods, with anger also directed at the authorities for handing them the poisoned chalice of actual collection. On December 1st, boat owners refused to do the Park’s dirty work, creating a farcical situation of rangers joining boat trips to tap up the tourists and even shuttling from boat to boat off Koh Rang.
Not surprisingly given that those due to pay (the tourists) are…
Wearing snorkel and fins or 10 metres down,
Barely clothed – where do you store your wallet?
Unawares of any fee,
Plenty more besides
…the situation descended into farce.
A few meetings later and the plan has been put on ice until the middle of next year, so we will keep you posted. Seems flavour of the month at the moment, these truces, though not sure how long the other slightly more important one up in Bangkok might last!