Thailand has reopened Maya Bay, a white sand beach made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2000 film The Beach, after closing it for more than three years to allow the ecology to recover from the impact of hundreds of visitors each day.
The beach, which is flanked by 100-meter-high cliffs, is located on the island of Phi Phi Leh in the Andaman Sea and can only be reached by boat from adjacent locations such as Phuket or Phi Phi islands, or mainland Krabi.
Authorities closed Maya Bay to the public in 2018, claiming that persistent tourist activity has harmed coral reefs and beach areas. However, some guests have been allowed to return since the beginning of this year.
“The sharks have come back, coral reefs are regrowing, and the water is clear again,” said Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of Thailand’s Tourism Authority, told Reuters.
“These things show that nature will heal if we give it time, and we have to work to keep it that way too.”
To keep it safe, authorities have warned that only 375 people will be permitted to visit at a time, and swimming will be restricted for the time being. To avoid injuring coral reefs, boats will only be allowed to dock at a specified site near the bay’s back end, they said.
Tourism contributed for around 12% of Thailand’s economy prior to the coronavirus pandemic and was a crucial driver of growth, with the country drawing 40 million visitors in 2019.
However, in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, mass tourism has sometimes come at the expense of the environment, with once-beautiful tropical beaches becoming filthy and littered.
Manuele Panin, a 40-year-old Italian visitor who was visiting the beach, remarked, “Maya Bay is wonderful, it’s a marvellous site.”
“I think it’s wonderful that it’s been closed for so long to protect the environment and enable it to heal and rebuild itself.”
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