Komodo Island, Indonesia, tourist ban: Visitors to be banned from January 2020

Almost every day 20-year-old Rizaldian Syahputra puts on his blue uniform, laces up his high boots and leaves his wooden house on stilts for a job many nature-lovers would envy.

But by next year, he may no longer be employed.

Syahputra works as a wildlife guide at Komodo National Park on the eastern Indonesian island of Komodo, taking visitors around the park on foot to get up close to the leathery Komodo dragons, the world's largest living lizard species.

The Indonesian government plans to close the island to the public from January next year in a bid to conserve the rare reptiles.

The scheme also involves moving about 2000 villagers off the island. Authorities are holding talks with community leaders on how to relocate the residents, Josef Nae Soi, deputy governor of the province of East Nusa Tenggara, said recently.

It is hoped that closing the island to tourists will cut the risk of poaching and allow a recovery in the numbers of the animals' preferred prey, such as deer, buffalo and wild boar.

The island could reopen after a year, but the plan is to make it a premium tourist destination, Soi said.

Syahputra, who says he enjoys his job because of his passion for nature and conservation, shares the fears of many others on the island who rely on tourism for a living.

"The closure is definitely something that makes us unhappy," he said.


"If we really have to do it, I hope we can find a middle ground on the solution, not closing the whole island but just a certain area."

More than 176,000 tourists visited Komodo National Park, a conservation area between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores, in 2018. The whole area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

About 1700 Komodo dragons are estimated to live on Komodo island. Other islands in the national park that are home to more than 1400 of the giant lizards, such as nearby Rinca and Padar, will remain open to tourists.

Villagers who have lived on Komodo island for generations are unsurprisingly opposed to the idea of having to leave.

"We have been living as one for years with this village," said resident Dahlia, who gave only one name.

"The graves of my father and ancestors are here. If we move, who will take care of those graves?"

Komodo is the latest in a growing list of locations to close to tourists to protect the environment and/or wildlife.

Here are five other places that have recently closed to tourists:

1. Maya Bay, Thailand

This island cove made famous by the 2000 film "The Beach" starring Leonardo DiCaprio was closed to tourists last year until 2021 in a bid to salvage the area's coral reefs, which have been damaged by warmer temperatures and a flood of tourists.

2. Boracay Island, the Philippines

Visitors gather along the beach during sunset in Boracay island, Philippines, Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. Tourists sailed to the popular destination on the first day officials reopened the resort to visitors after a six-month closure to clean waters which the Philippine president had called a ‘cesspool’ due to overcrowding and development. (AP Photo/Joeal Calupitan)

Photo: AP

Boracay Island was closed for a six-month cleanup from April to October 2018 after being described as a "cesspool" by President Rodrigo Duterte. The island attracted 2 million visitors the previous year but has now limited numbers to 19,000 a day and banned beach parties, smoking and drinking.

3. Mount Everest base camp

File photo taken in May 2013 shows tents set up on a glacier at a base camp of Mt. Everest in Nepal. (Kyodo via AP Images) ==Kyodo SatSep29nepal Cho La Base Camp trek Nepal ; text by Andrew BainAAP *** REUSE PERMITTED ***

Photo: AP

The Chinese government closed its side of the Everest base camp this year to anyone without a climbing permit due to the huge amounts of rubbish piling up at the site, according to the Lonely Planet travel website. The Chinese base camp, located in Tibet, can be accessed by car.

4. Fjadrargljufur canyon, Iceland

This photo taken Wednesday, May 1, 2019, shows a cliff at the Fjadrárgljúfur canyon in southeastern Iceland. The canyon area has suffered environmental damages after intense traffic, prompted by the music video .

See: Incredible Iceland canyon closed after being overrun by Bieber fans

5. The Faroe Islands, Denmark

Ten popular tourists sites were closed temporarily this year for maintenance by an international team of volunteers after a 10% growth in visitor numbers in recent years.


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