Do you remember the quite wonderful film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio from the year 2000? Well, since it first premiered, the filming location of Maya Bay became a tourist hotspot, along with Koh Phi Phi Island in Thailand, where visitors came to retrace and experience the footsteps of DiCaprio’s character “Richard” on the untouched islands of the Andaman Sea.
Fast forward 18 years, and now Maya Bay has been closed off from tourists indefinitely, citing the deterioration of 80% of the coral in the picturesque bay, that we all have seen and grown to love from watching the film.
Only day tours would operate to and from the idyllic location from the nearby islands of Koh Phi Phi, Phuket and Krabi, and the venturing of boats in and out of Maya Bay has caused lots of eco damage to Phi Phi Leh island.
The fact there were no hotels or resorts in Maya Bay was originally thought to preserve the locations eco system, but with some 6,000 visitors each day for eighteen years arriving by boat, in tours to and from Maya Bay have now abruptly stopped, so as to preserve the coral reef.
Once you consider the amount of eco damage from motorboats dripping gasoline into the ocean on nearby islands (you can literally smell it in Koh Phi Phi), which has been overrun by tourists, then it’s not too surprising that the coral in Maya Bay would also be in regression, and that the bay would ultimately close down to tourists.
Initially, Maya Bay closed on June 1st for four months, but now experts say that the closure wasn’t long enough, with officials saying that the area’s reefs need plenty of time to recover in order to survive.
Songtham Sukswang of Thailand’s Office of National Parks said, “Four months’ closure was not enough.”
“We need at least a year or even up to two years or maybe more for the environment to recover – this includes the coral reefs, mangrove and the beach.”
One of the most recognisable beaches and beautiful bays in the world, which grew too popular courtesy of ‘The Beach’, will now get its time to recover. One wonders if the same exclusivity or clean up plans will be made for the neighbouring islands.
One can really hope so in order to preserve the natural beauty of the sea around islands such as Koh Phi Phi, eliminating gasoline smells for one, and maintaining its once scenic surroundings for future tourism.
For now, it seems like if you want to relive your own ‘The Beach’ experience as shown in the feature film, then it’s best to consider doing that some years down the line, after Maya Bay reopens, if that will ever happen again.
It’s clearly imperative that beautiful islands must maintain their beauty and avoid being ravaged by pollution via too much tourism, don’t you think?
Relive the magic of ‘The Beach’ here!
Story by The Narrator
Featured Photo Credit: Phi Phi Island