Maya Bay, the cove in Thailand’s Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park that was made famous by the 2000 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio entitled, ‘The Beach’, has been given an official reopening date of 1 January 2022 after it had closed not due to the pandemic, but due to overtourism’s impact on the local wildlife.
According to CNN, Thailand’s Department of National Parks had closed tourism to Maya Bay, one of the country’s most famous attractions, in June 2018 in an effort to help rejuvenate the area’s coral reefs, back when an estimated 5,000 visitors arrived in the bay each day.
The closure, which was supposed to take a few months, was extended to two years after a need to plant new coral and upgrade the bay’s visitor facilities.
New entry rules will hopefully continue the upward trend for Maya Bay’s recovery. Boats are no longer able to enter the bay but will have to dock at a pier on a different side of the island. Only eight speed boats will be allowed to dock at any given time.
Visitors will be allowed one-hour visits to the bay, with 300 visitors allowed each hour from between 10am to 4pm each day.
"Maya Bay has been continuously receiving interest from tourists around the world. But this has also caused (the natural area) to deteriorate, especially the corals. After shutting down Maya Bay to revive and restore it, up until the present, it has returned to a good condition," said Varawut Silpa-Archa, Natural Resources and Environment Minister in the announcement of the bay’s reopening.
According to the World Bank, tourism accounted for about 15% of Thailand’s GDP prior to the pandemic. While it is not considered a Small Island Developing Nation by the UN, it does share many of the threats of one, including over-tourism’s threat to natural ecosystems. The new capacity measures will hopefully prevent the area from further risk.