Tham Luang, Site of Daring Rescue, Reopens to Visitors This Week

Rescue workers continue to search for a group of missing boys and their coach in Luang Cave, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in Chiang Rai province. (AP Photo/Tassanee Vejpongsa)

CHIANG RAI — The cave complex in Chiang Rai province that came to worldwide attention during a dramatic rescue operation in 2018 will open to visitors again on Friday, officials said.

The Luang Cave, or Tham Luang, has been closed since April due to resurgence in coronavirus outbreaks nationwide. Tourists will be able to return to the site from Friday, but they will be required to present either proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.

Areas open to visitors will include the underground chamber used as a staging area by Navy SEALs and foreign divers during their effort to rescue 12 young footballers and their coach, who were trapped deep inside the cave in 2018.

The precise spot where the 13 “Wild Boars,” as they were known by the name of their football team, were actually stranded will not be open to the public, since it’s located nearly 3 kilometers inside the cave complex. During the 2018 operation, divers took hours just to make a one-way trip along the route. Portions of the passage were also flooded.

All of the trapped footballers were eventually rescued without a single loss, though one ex-member of the Navy SEALs died while diving to establish a supply route inside the cave.

From Friday, visitor numbers will be limited to 40 at any one time, to comply with health and safety measures and to ensure there is no build-up of carbon dioxide. Flashlights and colour cards will be given to visitors prior to entry.