The famed Maya Beach will be closed for another two years to allow further ecological recovery, parks officials announced yesterday.
The once-idyllic beach destination that became overrun with tourists after it was featured in 2000’s “The Beach,” won’t reopen to the public again until mid-2021, the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department announced.
Following the additional two-year closure, Maya Bay’s environmental recovery will be re-evaluated before visitors are allowed to return. Measures will be taken to ensure the environment does not become damaged again, department Director Songtam Suksawang said.
Once the beach reopens, the authorities will continue to assess its condition every three months to determine the ideal number of tourists that should be allowed to visit daily.
The department is also planning measures to better regulate visits, including e-ticket and vessel-monitoring systems to better monitor the number of tourists. Marine biologist Thon Thamrongnawasawat, who has aided the government’s Maya Bay restoration effort, posted the full list of measures being considered.
They include building studier trails and housing for workers as well as prohibiting boats from entering the mouth of the bay and disturbing the coral and blacktip reef sharks that reside there.
The closure of Maya Bay last year was quickly deemed an environmental success. Photos and videos from its beach just days after it closed showed emerald water and sparkling sand – barely recognizable from how it looked when about 4,000 pairs of feet trampled it daily.
Originally, the department ordered it closed four months last year, June through September, but Wednesday marked the third extension.
Located off Phi Phi Ley, one of many islands in the Andaman, the once-pristine bay became a tourism magnet after it was made famous by Hollywood and Leonardo DiCaprio. In the wake of that popularity, it became more known for throngs of tourists – with photos of its packed beach coming to represent the perils of over-tourism and ecological degradation.