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Maya Bay | Reopening January 2022

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  • Maya Bay | Reopening January 2022

    Thailand’s Maya Bay reopening January 2022
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    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 01, 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 10:00 am and 4:00 pm 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
    Thailand makes another travel list: Fodor’s No List

    Thailand boasted recently of its ranking on many travel lists, from being among the least corrupt countries in Asia to ranking one of the best locations for expats, and rating one of the safest countries to visit. The country has made the ranks by having some of the top-rated food and beaches in the world. But Thailand also received a nod this year that they might not be as quick to promote: Fodor’sNo List for 2023.

    The popular travel company puts out a list each year of countries, cities, and locations that people should reconsider travelling to for various reasons. The company considers tourism’s damage to a place’s culture and the environment, or a country’s record on human rights or corruption.
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    This year the list focused on areas that were affected by overcrowding by tourism that depletes resources, locations damaged by water crises, and areas of natural wonder that need time to heal from constant tourism. Fodor’s Travel observed while compiling this year’s list that 2022 saw 29 disasters causing more than a billion dollars of damage that were climate-related. And while tourism can bring much-needed revenue to an area, it can also significantly affect climate change.

    In Thailand’s case, the effects of overcrowding by tourists to many popular natural attractions earned it a spot on the No List. Fodor’s list pointed to locations like Maya Bay which had become so popular after shooting to global fame, when featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, that the impact on the environment was catastrophic. Up to 3,000 tourists per day arrived on boats and crowded the beaches.

    The government stepped in and closed the whole bay in 2018 to allow nature to recover from the damage inflicted by humans. After three and a half years it reopened with plans to limit the number of tourists to 380 per hour. But after the Songkran holiday flooded the beaches once again, Maya Bay was closed throughout August and September to allow more recovery time.

    In fact, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment was so heartened by the tangible recovery to the environment in Thailand’s 155 national parks when the tourists were gone during the Covid-19 pandemic, they instituted a rule that every park must close for at least one month each year to allow some natural rehabilitation.

    The famous scuba diving island of Koh Tao also took action to try to counteract the harm done by tourist-driven overcrowding. A tourist fee was instituted to fund conservation efforts for the marine environment and biodiversity. Working with the Biodiversity Finance Initiative, a project of the United Nations Development Programme, Koh Tao’s mayor stated plainly the need for urgent action.

    “If we don’t take care of our home and let it be ruined, who will want to visit us?”