Thailand reopened the pristine beach of Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh island on 3 January 2022. This step comes after it was closed for over three years because of over-tourism.
On reopening the beach, Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told Reuters that, “The sharks have come back, coral reefs are regrowing, and the water is clear again.”
“These things show that nature will heal if we give it time, and we have to work to keep it that way too,” he added.
Maya Bay was made immensely famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer 2000 movie The Beach.
Here’s what we know about the reopening of Maya Bay
Why was Maya Bay closed?
Thailand authorities had shut the entire Maya Bay area in 2018 as intensive tourism adversely affected the delicate and thriving ecosystem. Lots of coral reefs had died, and the natural environment had received severe blows.
New rules and restrictions
Now that the ecosystem is reviving and returning to its previous form, Thai authorities are allowing tourists to visit the place but with several rules and restrictions.
A maximum of 375 visitors will be allowed at a time and all swimming activities are prohibited for now. Additionally, boats will be docked at a safe distance to ensure no damage is done to the underwater corals.
Maya Bay’s location
The beautiful white sand beach, laced with 100-metre-high cliffs on the Andaman Sea, is one of the most popular spot frequented by tourists. The remote beach, surrounded by clear azure waters, is accessible only by boat from the nearby islands of Phuket, Phi Phi or Krabi.
Thailand and tourism
Once a remote and not-so popular place, Maya Bay saw around 170 people visiting daily in 2008. The number saw a steep rise and by 2018, it had escalated to nearly 5,000 daily visitors.
Tourism has always been a major pillar in supporting the Thai economy. It comprises almost 12 percent of the country’s revenue and before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an annual footfall of over 40 million visitors to Thailand in 2019.
(Main and feature image: Mladen Antonov/AFP)