Picture Maya Bay, Phi Phi Leh, Thailand prior to closure credit Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash
The film The Beach was released in 2000, starred Leonardo DiCaprio and featured as one of its stars Maya Bay, the beach paradise discovered by a small number of backpackers.
Maya Bay was damaged during the 2004 Tsunami on 26th December. Although the Bay itself escaped the worse of the tsunami it was still extensively damaged as monster waves hit the island.
The paradise bay was then overwhelmed with tourists who battled for the best picture opportunities and boats that crammed the waters. Extensive damage was done to the beach itself and the coral in the bay was all but destroyed.
The small bay on Phi Phi Leh was attracting around 170 people a day in 2008. By 2017 that had increased to an average of 3,500, with up to 5,000 visiting on the busiest days.
Closure of Maya Bay
A temporary ban on visitors was implemented in 2018 which was subsequently extended and continues today. There are reports that the coral has started to recover and that blacktip reef sharks had been sighted in the bay again.
Many local businesses have called for the reopening of the bay to help revive tourism in the area. Many had relied on the bay for business prior to the bays closure and have now been hit by the pandemic.
The National Resources and the Environment Ministry says that the bay will only re-open to visitors once an upgrade to facilities has been completed and an adequate system is in place to manage tourist numbers.
Work includes construction of a new jetty at Loh Samah Bay, the next bay along, which is estimated to be 70% complete and hoped to open in May. Other facilities including bathrooms and boardwalks are also nearing completion.
It is likely that boats will remain banned when the bay reopens and all visitors must use the new pier at Loh Samah.
Visitor numbers are also likely to be heavily restricted, at least initially, with some estimates as low as 400 being suggested. These may increase once the impact of visitors is established but they are unlikely to be ever anywhere near the numbers prior to the closure of the bay.
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