The famous Maya Bay beach, on Thailand’s tiny Ko Phi Phi Island, is going to be closed to tourists during the summer this year. This is a preventive measure to help reverse the damage sustained by the coral reefs that surround it.
Fame Can Be A Problem For Beaches Too
Made famous by the Danny Boyle adaptation of The Beach featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Maya Bay is an idyllic spot that has suffered from its big screen appearance. At first, the movie encouraged people to go to the previously almost unknown Phi Phi Islands. But today, over 5000 tourists come each day. This has caused fears about destruction to the reefs that lie beneath the water.
Maya Bay as it is today is far from the tropical paradise portrayed in the movie that was released in 2000. Now it is crowded with tourists all seeking their own island adventure, far away from the urban sprawl of cities like Bangkok.
The three-month visitor ban during the summer off-season (June to September), is an attempt by local authorities to let the coral reefs recover naturally. This tactic is one used in many other areas with endangered reefs or large deposits of corals. In 2016, Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources issued a ban on tourists visiting the coral reefs on the islands of Ko Khai Nok, Ko Khai Nui and Ko Khai Nai. The three islands off the coast of Phuket had faced similar problems of overcrowding endangering the marine life.
Some people, however, have criticized this move as a temporary measure, calling for stricter policies. These include a more limited number of visitors each day, as well as imposing fines and taxes. Research has, in fact, shown that the recent increase in tourism to Thailand corresponds with an increase in damage to the coral reefs. Waste is often dumped here from the nearby resorts of Krabi and Phuket. Boats crowded with tourists also bump into the reefs causing irreparable injuries to the corals.
Nonetheless, despite the worsening situation, the closure remains temporary, with Maya Beach set to reopen for the peak tourist season.
UPDATE (October 2018): Maya Bay was expected to reopen on 1 October, but this date was initially extended until the Beginning of November. However, even this six-month closure was deemed insufficient. It has recently been announced that the popular beach will be closed indefinitely to allow it to recover from damage caused by tourists. During peak season, over 5000 people would visit every day. Even when Maya Bay does eventually reopen to visitors, a daily cap will be introduced.