Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai Eco Tourism

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As yet totally unspoilt, these two islands are some of the finest in the area. They are the largest of the Phang Nga Bay, which in total has 50 islands in the area.

The east coast of the main island of Yao Noi has a long coastline with clear waters. There are no jet skis, banana boats or other distractions here – simply the sound of the waves lapping on the shore.

In the early stages of development the image of a pure tropical paradise sent the tourism public relations executives scurrying for their notepads, whilst investors viewed the islands as potential money spinners.

But as tourism started to develop on the islands, the villagers of Koh Yao Noi and Yai could see their traditional home environment being eroded in the efforts to make them a more popular place for visitors, seeking that ideal paradise island.

The increased levels of rubbish and some pollution were alarming to a community which until recently had simply lived a life based around fishing in Phang Nga Bay.

Without wanting to curb the development of the island the villagers formed the eco-tourism club which effectively ensures the community benefits from the financial benefits, and keeps an eye on how the (perceived) better facilities are brought in.

In 2003 the Eco Tourism Club programme was the winner of awards from the Tourist Authority of Thailand and National Geographic Travel magazine for its contribution to eco tourism.

The objectives of the organisation are clearly stated on the website, those being to raise awareness of conservation in relation to the island and its environment, and to ensure the tourist management brings benefits to the community – presumably in preference to foreign property developers. It is an honourable ideal and one which deserves support.

To encourage knowledge of the local environment the eco tourism club has programmes which help visitors to understand the environment they are staying in – the mangrove swamps, sea grass beds and shellfish grounds.

There are boat tours out to the shrimp grounds as well as tours on the interior of the island. It makes for a more interesting stay if the local knowledge can be shared with visitors, and all the better knowing that the financial benefits of these trip go to the local community.

The tours generally cost between 300 and 2,500 baht per person depending on the length of the trip. One good aspect of this "rate card" is that you do not have to spend time haggling with a boat man and then not worry as to whether you have been overcharged.

The website giving all the information about the Eco Tourism Club is at http://www.koh-yao-noi-eco-tourism-club.com

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