A victim of its own success, the most famous beach in Thailand is set to be tourist-free for another two years. Maya Bay, the stunning cove made famous by "The Beach" movie, the 2000 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, has already been shuttered for almost a year, and will likely remain closed for two more years to allow for its natural resources to regenerate, according to Songtam Suksawang, director of Thailand's National Parks Department (NPD). He told CNN the popular bay's shores will be off-limits to tourists until at least June 2021.
"We will review again then if it is ready to open to tourists," says Suksawang. "We need more time to allow nature to fully recover. Our team will reassess the situation every three months." The bay has been closed since June 2018 part of a rejuvenation program aimed at reviving the area's decimated corals. About 10,000 corals have been replanted around the Maya Bay area since last year. These were growing successfully until Thailand's recent heat wave, which has caused the sea temperature to rise as high as 32˚C (90˚F). Suksawang says this is too hot for the bay's newly planted corals - some of which are quite shallow - and has caused some bleaching.
In addition to giving the coral more time to grow, he says they also need more time to expand the island's visitor facilities. "This will make it more convenient for tourists and at the same time help us maintain the conditions of ecosystem," says Suksawang. The park is planning to install a new floating dock, an eco-focused boardwalk and new washrooms.
An electronic ticketing system is also being developed to ensure daily visitor numbers are limited to around 1,200 people per day, divided into four time blocks. Prior to its closure, the bay was receiving an estimated 5,000 visitors per day. Tour boat operators will also be required to install digital trackers if they want to dock inside Maya Bay. "Our aim is to achieve sustainable tourism," says Suksawang. "We want to pass on this natural heritage to next generations."
The popular day-trip destination from Phuket was due to reopen in October of 2018, but the DNP decided to keep it closed indefinitely to give it more time to recover - news that was welcomed by conservationists. It's been one of the country's most famous attractions, thanks to the global success of "The Beach," which was filmed there.
Unlike the much larger Phi Phi Don, home to an abundance of budget and mid-range accommodation options, staying overnight at Phi Phi Leh is prohibited. Nonetheless, data released by the DNP suggested that the park was on track to pull in 2.5 million visitors in 2018, a year-on-year rise of half a million.
Presently, boats are allowed to enter the outer limits of the bay. Maya Bay's shores are off limits, but visitors can still view the beach from their boat. Snorkeling in the front of the bay is also still permitted. Many visitors to the area are day-trippers from Phuket, which is less than an hour's ride away by speedboat.
Maya Bay, Krabi’s main tourist attraction since it was featured in the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio film ‘The Beach’, will remain closed as natural rehabilitation of the beach and bay continues, after vast areas of coral were destroyed by excess tourism and boat traffic.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment says that in future boats will not be allowed to enter Maya Bay except from the back side of the island. Yesterday the minister visited Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Ley to inspect the progress of the recovery of both the land and marine environment. He says corals are not recovering as quickly as expected.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation announced the closure of Maya Bay on June 1, 2018, banning tourism and related businesses. “Maya Bay has been rehabilitated for the past year, and there has been great recovery.” “On the land, many plants, even Morning Glory never seen on Maya Bay before, are growing well. But under the sea, corals are still in a dangerous condition. Many coral species grow at a rate of only 3-5 centimetres in a year, while some species grow only 1-2 centimetres.”
The minister examined the idea of building a harbour at the back of Maya Bay in Loh Samah Bay. A team of academics and environmental experts are inspecting the area. Ships and other marine vehicles will not be allowed to enter Maya Bay directly.
- “Maya Bay will not be permanently closed.
When the coral growth is complete, then this place will be open to tourists from all over the world.”
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