WITH the whole world rejoicing with Thailand after 12 young soccer players and their coach were found at the huge Tham Luang cave in northern Chiang Rai province, the question that now arises is whether it should continue to remain open for visitors in the dry season, Sanook!Travel columnist Peeranut P. wrote today (July 4, 2018).
Where tourism is concerned Tham Luang, which is part of Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district, is a priceless natural treasure particularly for those who appreciate the greatness of nature.
Records show that this cave has the 4th largest limestone rock in the country, being all of 10,316 meters long. Within are beautiful reflective rocks, glistening stalagmites and stalactites as well as grottoes and creeks. It is geographically a strange looking place.
The global spotlight on this cave is an opportunity to put it to use for tourism rather than closing it and letting it turn into a legend.
However if tourism is to be permitted it has to be well arranged to ensure safety; particularly that the number of officials be increased so that it can truly be a natural heritage.
This cave is normally only open during the dry season from November to April, and shut during the dangerous rainy months. Tourists can ask for permission to go in on their own or ask the officials to arrange local residents to be their guide.
However it is important that in keeping it open for tourists concrete management and strict regulations be put in place.
For example there should be signs warning tourists that the cave is very dangerous during the rainy season because it gets flooded. Or perhaps a checkpoint could be set up to stop people from sneaking in, and better still a fence or ropes be put across the entrance to stop them from entering during the rainy months.
Even during the dry months when it is open to visitors, more lights are needed in the passages and restriction placed on how deep tourists could go in.
It might be a good idea to only allow tourists accompanied by an expert to go in.
It is clear that with good management this cave can be an interesting tourist attraction which would draw income and development to people in this area.
Top: The rescue operation underway at Tham Luang to bring out the 12 trapped boys and their soccer coach. Photos: Sanook.com
First in-text: Rescuers install a water pump inside Tham Luang on June 28, 2018 . Photo: Linh Pham/Getty Images via Sanook.com
Second in-text: Rescue personnel are seen at the opening of the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018. Photo: Lilian Suwanrampha/ AFP/ Getty Images via Sanook.com
Below: Thai Air Force officers walk through the football field used by the missing football team near Tham Luang cave on July 1, 2018. Photo: Lilian Suwanrampha/ AFP/ Getty Images via Sanook.com