Decision on Closure of Komodo Island Pending

A famous island in Indonesia is facing closure due to “over-tourism,” echoing the plight of other islands in Asia, including Boracay in the Philippines and Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi in Thailand.

Komodo Island (pictured) is the subject of an impending decision by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry on whether it should be closed to protect its ecosystem.

But unlike those islands in Thailand and the Philippines, the environmental qualities of Komodo have nothing to do with pristine sand beaches. They are instead defined by the giant Komodo dragon lizards that roam the island, giving it a unique Jurassic Park aspect.

As a subject of fascination, the Komodo dragons have drawn an increasing number of visitors to their remote home in the Indonesia island chain. Now that popularity is causing environmental damage through over-tourism.

The regional East Nusa Tenggara government has recently released a statement indicating that the island would be closed next year. But in response, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry said that a research team will continue its work until August, and that any decision on the island’s closure will await the results of that research. The ministry reiterated that the closure of the Komodo National Park, including Komodo Island, must be based on scientific considerations.

In the meantime, the ministry and its team will continue to implement steps to improve the sustainability of Komodo National Park, it said.

But commercial considerations are also in play. For instance, there “is a need to give certainty to tourism stakeholders, both local or international, as this could potentially affect of the country’s foreign exchange income, tourism business, and local economy,” said Indonesia’s director general of Natural Resources Conservation and Ecosystems. This includes the regular visits of cruise ships to the Komodo Island group.

Until the integrated team completes its research, tour operators can still sell tour packages to Komodo Island, he said. However, rules around tourism activities, such as tracking, snorkelling and diving have been tightened to ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem.

(Photo by Joshua J. Cotten)