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How Tourism and Fame Ruined the Most Famous Beach in Thailand

Last summer, in an attempt to salvage the island’s marine ecosystem and give coral time to recover, Maya Bay was shut to tourists.

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KRABI – Maya Bay on the island of Ko Phi Phi Leh closed by Thailand park officials after it became overrun with tourists. The beach became famous after Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach,” was released, two decades ago.

Up to 5,000 visitors a day swarmed by the boatload on day-trip junkets from the nearby hot spots of Phuket or Koh Phi Phi.

For a place as small as Maya Bay, that number packed a punch. Last summer, in an attempt to salvage the island’s marine ecosystem and give coral time to recover, Maya Bay was shut to tourists.

Originally the closure was to take place only from June to September, during Thailand’s low season. But, Songtam Suksawang, director of Thailand’s National Parks Department, announced that the bay will closed till June 2021.

“We will review again then if it is ready to open to tourists,” Suksawang told CNN Travel. “We need more time to allow nature to fully recover. Our team will reassess the situation every three months.”

The closure of Maya Bay, follows the temporary closure of the popular Koh Khai islands and Koh Tachai, both also due to overcrowding.

“Thanks to its beauty, Koh Tachai has become a popular tourist site for both Thai and foreign tourists.” The director general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, said.

“We have to close it to allow the rehabilitation of the environment without it being disturbed by tourism.

Coral Reefs Are Being Replanted Around Maya Bay

Coral has been replanted around the Maya Bay and has been thriving until Thailand’s recent heat wave.

That mercury rise caused the sea temperature to increase, too, resulting in some bleaching. The extra time closed to tourists will give the coral time to recover.

Suksawang said that the closure will also allow for expansion of the island’s visitor facilities. Plans include a new floating dock, an eco-focused boardwalk and new washrooms.

An electronic ticketing system is being developed to limit visitor to 1,200 people per day.

“Our aim is to achieve sustainable tourism,” says Suksawang. “We want to pass on this natural heritage to our next generations.”