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Koh Phi Phi - Maya Bay | Reopening January 2022

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  • Koh Phi Phi - Maya Bay | Reopening January 2022

    Thailand’s Maya Bay reopening January 2022

    Maya Bay. Remember that breathtakingly pretty beach on Koh Phi Phi Leh off Krabi? Now, the beach that featured in “The Beach” is now poised to reopen. The iconic natural cove of limestone karsts, turquoise waters and THAT beach was one of Thailand’s most popular attractions for a decade with up to 6,000 visitors everyday. But in the end even the local marine national park officials realised that tourists were killing Maya Bay with love. So they closed it. “The Beach” was a 2000 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio (and a great book) is now scheduled to reopen to tourists on January 1, 2022. This from Thailand’s Department of National Parks. The postcard attraction is sure to lure back some of the more reticent tourists who would be keen to see one of the world’s most favourite beaches, but without the mass tourism that closed it down in June 2018.

    Since then the park has been devoid of tourists and allowed to rejuvenate, with a bit of help from officials and marine biologists at the Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park. Replanting coral, revegetating the back of the beach and construction of some protective walkways, has taken most of the 3 year break. Koh Phi Phi Ley is one of two islands that make up the Koh Phi Phi group. Even though it’s officially part of the Krabi province, most visitors travel by speedboat from Phuket for numerous day trips. The larger Koh Phi Phi Don is somewhat of a sun and snorkel backpacker haven and as famous for its parties as it is for stunning scenery.
    But it’s Phi Phi Don’s smaller and more attractive sister that has attracted so many day trippers and Instagrammers.

    After the release of “The Beach” Maya Bay (the scene only occupies a few minutes of the film) became a Mecca for visitors seeking out THAT beach and the crowds kept coming. At its peak hundreds of tourists and long tail boats would be anchoring off the shores each day, delivering 5-6,000 tourists, trampling over the vegetation. The boat’s anchors almost completely destroyed the coral in the Bay. Covid, although it nothing to do with the closure of the Bay, just delayed the reopening, giving Maya Bay’s ecology an additional break before reopening.

    But, as with much of Thailand post-Covid, there are new restrictions that will make the visitor experience to Maya Bay very different from the past. Speedboats won’t even be able to enter into the actual bay anymore. A pier at the back of the island will now be the drop-off point where passengers will disembark and walk across protective boardwalks around the back of the beach. Visits will be capped at one hour with only 8 boats allowed to tie up at the pier at any one time. The trips will all take place between 10am and 4pm daily. At this stage the piers aren’t ready for boats and there’s now a mad dash to get everything completed before the reopening at the start of next year. Whilst the best intentions to limit tourist traffic have been laid down – less than 2,000 tourists a day – the local tourist industry will be pushing hard for Maya Bay to accept more visitors if the demand is there. There are still lots of spare boats and crews out of work in Phuket and Krabi and they’ll be pressuring authorities to relax the restrictions. History shows, in the case of Thai tourism, market forces usually prevail.

  • #2
    No confirmation on whether January 01. 2022 re-opening of Maya Bay can go ahead

    The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation says it’s still waiting to hear from the Natural Resources and Environment Minister if the re-opening of Maya Bay can go ahead. The hugely popular tourist draw was expected to re-open from January 1 and Damras Phoprasit from the DNP says he’s already reassured Minister Varawut Silpa-archa that the newly-constructed pier is ready.

    The pier, built at Loh Samah Bay, will be the main arrival point for tourists visiting Maya Bay, the famed location of the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach. According to a Thai PBS World report, the Environment and Natural Resources Parliamentary Committee had received word from the contractor working on the pier’s construction, indicating that it might not be ready in time for the January 1 deadline. The committee subsequently stated that it might ask Varawut to delay the re-opening.

    Thai PBS World reports that Damras says he’ll accept whatever decision the minister makes, but points out that re-opening Maya Bay would significantly boost the local economy and tourism to the region. Local tourism operators are in agreement and have voiced their opposition to any delay to Maya Bay’s re-opening. Tourism businesses in the region say people are anxious to return to the beauty spot, having waited 3 and a half years for it to re-open.

    Maya Bay was closed in 2018 to allow for the rehabilitation of its coral reefs and marine life, which had been significantly damaged by out-of-control tourist numbers. Local officials say that since its closure, things have improved significantly, with coral reefs recovering and black-tipped reef sharks returning to the bay. Once it does re-open, tourist numbers will be capped at 300 per round and opening hours limited to between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.


    • #3
      Maya Bay re-opening to go ahead with strict conditions attached
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      The tourist hotspot of Maya Bay, in the southern province of Krabi, will re-open as scheduled on New Year’s Day. However, the re-opening comes with some strict conditions attached. There had been some doubt about whether the re-opening of the beauty spot would go ahead, but Thailand’s prominent marine ecologist, Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawat from Kasetsart University, says it’s happening.

      According to a Thai PBS World report, Thon took to his Facebook page to confirm that the national parks committee has approved the re-opening. The bay was closed for 3 and a half years to allow the bay’s coral reefs and marine life to recover from years of excessive tourism.

      Re-opening it may be, but there are strict conditions attached, including a ban on swimming in the bay itself. Thon has welcomed the rules, saying they’re essential if the bay and its marine resources are to continue being protected. The rules include the following:
      • Tourist numbers cannot exceed 375 at any one time. The exact number of rounds of visits each day, and the duration of each visit, have not yet been decided.
      • Boats are not permitted to enter the bay via the front access but must instead use the newly-constructed pier at Loh Samah Bay, on the opposite side.
      • No swimming in the bay. This is to protect the coral and the black-tipped reef sharks that returned to the bay during its closure.


      • #4
        Rejuvenated Maya Bay open for business

        Maya Bay, the tropical island cove of Hollywood acclaim in Krabi province, finally reopened for tourism on January 1, after 3-and-a-half years of closure in a bid to restore its damaged white-sand beach and decimated marine ecosystem. Officials temporarily closed the bay in June 2018 to clean the beach and restore the area’s coral reefs. Originally planned as a 4 month closure, officials closed the bay indefinitely in October of that year to allow more time for the environment to recuperate from the effects of over-tourism.

        Located in the famed Phi Phi Islands of Krabi province, the bay is part of Phi Phi Lei Island in Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park. It was made famous in the 2000 dark romance film, The Beach, starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio. Since then, millions of tourists have flocked to the bay to capture a slice of cinematic paradise.

        Prior to its closure, the 250 metre long, 15 metre wide beach was receiving up to 200 boats a day, or about 5,000 tourists, The Guardian reported. Such a high volume of traffic proved unsustainable for the Andaman Sea gemstone with an estimated 80% of its coral reefs damaged by boats, trash and chemicals such as sunscreen.

        During its prolonged shutdown, boats were still allowed to anchor outside the bay to allow tourists to take pictures of it. The bay also underwent a rehabilitation program, during which the beach was cleaned, plants and trees were planted, and more than a thousand healthy corals were transplanted to restore the damaged areas.

        Officials briefly considered reopening the bay for limited tourism in early 2021 to help boost tourism in the region after a year of pandemic, yet the beach remained closed until January this year.

        The bay is now open from 10am to 4pm and visitors can book a boat in one of eight shifts per day, limited to 300 people each, for a maximum of 3,000 daily, according to LonleyPlanet. In an effort toward sustainable tourism, boats are no longer allowed to anchor in the bay, but most now dock at a new floating peer located behind the cliffs, and visitors are allowed to swim only in a designated area. But many tourism pundits are betting that the tourist visits will exceed that during busy times and enforcement may be ‘lax’.

        Although the bay has reopened, it’s recovery is still far from complete. Because coral grows at a slow rate of about .5 centimeters a year, it will take many more years for the aquatic ecosystem to fully recover. Visitors are advised to cherish the picturesque bay by practicing Leave No Trace principles, including packing their trash and wearing chemical-free sunscreen.