PHOTO: Sarah Buthmann
For years, Maya Bay on the island of Koh Phi Phi Leh in Krabi province, has been overrun with visitors. Every day, thousands of tourists competed for space on Thailand’s most famous beach.
Having been made famous by the 2000 Leonardo di Caprio movie, The Beach, tourists arrived by the boatload every hour, every day of the year. It’s estimated that at its height, the tiny island was receiving 5,000 visitors a day.
Something had to give.
Last summer, authorities finally decided to close the island to visitors, in order to give the coral and fragile marine eco system time to recover. In what was widely criticised for being too short a period, the closure was originally for three months only, from June to September.
However, the director of Thailand’s National Parks Department, Songtam Suksawang, now confirms the bay will remain closed until June 2021, at which point it will be reviewed again.
“We will review again then if it is ready to open to tourists. We need more time to allow nature to fully recover. Our team will reassess the situation every three months.”
Coral has now been replanted around Maya Bay and was apparently doing well until the recent hot spell, which led to some coral bleaching. It’s hoped the longer closure will allow it time to recover.
It’s understood that National Park authorities are also planning an expansion of visitor facilities, including a floating dock, environmentally friendly boardwalk, and new washrooms.
Plans are also afoot for an electronic ticketing system that will limit visitors to 1,200 a day, a significant decrease on the numbers visiting prior to the closure.
SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times