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.
PHOTO: “The Beach”- 2000.
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.
Watch a short Thaiger report about the closure of Maya Bay in 2018.
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.
PHOTO: Maya Bay in its heyday, when a parking was a problem
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