Authorities in Thailand are putting finishing touches to work that will enable world-famous Maya Bay to reopen to the public and are planning new projects to improve travel in the region.
Main picture Maya Bay pre-closure credit Nehal Patel on Unsplash
Maya Bay in the Phi Phi islands of Thailand became famous after the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach was released in 2000.
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.
A dramatic increase in pollution, damage to vegetation and litter was seen. Extensive damage was done the coral reef caused mostly be speedboats, their anchors and tourists touching and breaking the coral.
A temporary ban on visitors was implemented in 2018 which was subsequently extended and continues today.
Work has been taking place to help the natural environment recover, including planting coral fragments to help the reef to recover.
The lack of tourists and pollution has led to an increase in the marine wildlife spotted including black tip reef shark who have returned to the bay to breed.
Work was also undertaken to improve the infrastructure. A new pier has been constructed at Loh Samah on the opposite side of the island, a boardwalk and toilets have been built.
On 14 November, 2021, a high-level delegation of executives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment led by H.E. Mr. Warawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, and Mr. Jatuporn Burusphat, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, was given an update on the infrastructure improvements being made at Phi Phi Leh for the reopening of Maya Bay.
Now we finally have news of a proposed reopening date for the bay, 1st January next year. The date is subject to change but will be a massive relief to many locals who depended on tourism to the bay for their livelihoods.
The reopening however will see strict controls on visitor numbers, visiting times, restrictions on swimming zones and the banning of boats from the bay itself.
Maya Bay sits within Krabi province, as do other popular tourist destinations of Ao Nang, Railay Beach and Koh Lanta.
Transport links in the province have lagged behind other areas of the country and officials are now pushing for the go ahead for a number of projects.
“Krabi tourism ranked fourth in terms of revenue in the country, and the province deserves to get approval for infrastructure to facilitate locals and tourists as some of the projects have been delayed for too long.”Sasithorn Kittidhrakul, president of the Krabi Tourism Association.
Work has been taking place at Sala Dan pier in Koh Lanta, but there are hopes that this can now be speeded up to help improve ferry links between the island and other locations such as Koh Phi Phi and Phuket.
There are also hopes that approval will be given for the construction of a bridge between the mainland and Koh Lanta Noi which will make travel far quicker and easier thatn the relience currently on ferries.
Although the relative remoteness of Koh Lanta is an attraction for many visiting the islands, there is a belief that more tourists will visit the paradise area with improved transport links.
Source: Tourism Authority of Thailand & Bangkok Post
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