Officials in Thailand have confirmed that the popular tourist location of Maya Bay will remain closed for at least another two years. The decision has been taken in response to concerns that over-tourism, along with increased trash and boat traffic were damaging the local ecosystem beyond repair. Thailand’s most iconic beach will remain closed to the public during this time, so the corals and the beach have a chance to recover.
Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat is the assistant dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University and a renowned marine specialist. He confirmed the news in a statement today: “The meeting yesterday concluded that Maya Bay is to be closed for two more years as the natural environment needs more time to recover.”
Maya Bay first shot to fame in 2000, when the film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio chose the idyllic location as its centrepiece. At the height of its popularity following the film, Maya Bay was attracting upwards of 5,000 visitors every day during peak season. The crowds were beginning to damage the delicate ecosystem of the area, so authorities made the decision to close the bay to tourists temporarily.
Initial plans were for the bay to close from June – September 2018, in order to let the area recover. This was then extended to 1st November but the bay has remained closed ever since. The latest news is formal confirmation of an extension to the closure, with a tentative reopening slated for summer 2021.
The prolonged closure has had an impact on tourism in Koh Phi Phi, and there have been some protests from tour operators. Despite this, the National Park authorities have maintained that the long-term health of the area is of greater importance than short term gains at its expense. They have also outlined plans for regulating boat activity and tourism in the area, whenever Maya Bay has recovered and is ready to welcome visitors once again.
Positive effects of the closure can already be seen in Maya Bay. Earlier this year, reef sharks were spotted in the shallows; a sight that Maya Bay has not witnessed for many years and a promising sign of recovery. It is hoped that the continued closure of one of Thailand’s most beautiful locations will give it a chance to return to its full glory, so that in the future, properly regulated groups of visitors can enjoy its charms for generations to come.