The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation have announced a raise in park entrance fees at 29 national parks in Thailand from October 2012, including the Similan Islands and Surin Islands. The daily fee for diving at these Parks remains the same.

It will now cost 500 THB to enter the Similan and Surin National park, previously 400 THB, plus an additional 200 THB per day to dive there. A typical 4 day Similan Liveaboard trip will now cost 1,800 THB in park fees and a day trip will cost 700 THB.

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Both the reasoning behind the increase and the short notice given has left many tour operators baffled and angered. The Department of National Parks state they have imposed the price increase to deter people from visiting the parks in an effort to combat the deterioration of sensitive environments while using the additional revenue to better serve tourists through improved facilities.

Director-general of the department, Damrong Phudiet said,

“These new fees are based on the principle that people need to sacrifice to conserve natural resources.”

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The Similan National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in Thailand

The timing of the increases could not have come at a worse time for many tour operators. With less than two months to go before the official tourist high season most contracts for tour package prices have already been signed, marketing materials printed and numerous advance bookings made based on the old prices.

There is also discontent as to what will actually happen with the additional revenue generated. Since 2010 the National Park Department has been accused of corruption at many levels at numerous national parks around the south of Thailand, while little evidence is shown to conserve the park’s natural resources.

Illegal fishing practises continue in the Similan and Surin Islands despite their national park status. Recent evidence shows the decline in many key species such as sharks and manta rays. The number of visitors dissatisfied by the lack of fish life underwater and beautiful beaches spoilt by garbage is on the increase, say local guides.

10 million Baht is allocated to each national park for patrolling and looking after resources.

When booking a trip to visit any national park in Thailand it is advised to clarify in advance what you will expect to pay in park fees.