If anyone is going to be familiar with Maya Bay, it's those who watched The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio. This bay inlet received major attention after the release of the film; albeit, a bit too much attention. The massive surge in tourism to Maya Bay is what eventually forced it to close, hindering its future and causing locals to question how much longer their beautiful beach had before it was destroyed.
Over-tourism is a problem in many places around the world, and Maya Bay was only one example of how too many people in one place can lead to its downfall. With 2022 came brighter news, though, for the shoreline - it seems that the beach will be open again soon.
Here's what we know so far.
The Downfall Of Thailand's Most Popular Beach
While Maya Bay may have been further popularized by The Beach, it was always a beautiful destination for those visiting Thailand. As part of Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, it was protected land. However, this did not stop 6,000 daily visitors - twice the typical limit for a beach of this size - from sunbathing on its shores, swimming in its aquamarine waters, and dropping anchors on top of the reefs that sheltered it.
- Fact: The beach at Maya Bay is only 15 meters (.009 miles) wide and 250 meters (.15 miles) long.
Following 2018, reports began rolling in that the beach was rapidly reaching a point of no return. With travelers leaving rubbish on the beach, making such a commotion in the water that it was scaring off local wildlife, and decimating anchors with so much boat traffic, something was about to break. Before that happened, though, officials made the call to shut down the beach the same year. At this time, it's estimated that roughly 50% of the bay's natural coral reefs were gone, and only time would tell if any native marine species would make their way back into its waters.
When Maya Bay was first closed, the intention was to reopen after a four-month period. However, this turned into a four-month evaluation period, because the beach had still not recovered in that time. It became clear that major work was required to restore Maya Bay to its natural state, and that started with several things:
- Installing an infrastructure to protect the bay
- Planting new reefs, flora, and trees to replace was what lost
- Eliminating and halting all water traffic
- Preventing people from entering the beach so it could be properly cleaned
The Reopening Of Revived Maya Bay
Now, the news has arrived that Maya Bay is finally reopening thanks to repeated and dedicated conservation efforts. However, its reopening comes with some very specific rules that need to be followed, lest the beach finds itself with the same tragic fate.
To start, the number of visitors to Maya Bay will be severely decreased in an effort to control the bright future it now has. Rather than allowing up to 6,000 visitors per day onto the beach, as was the case in 2018, visiting must now be done in shifts. There will be up to eight different time slots throughout the day when a maximum number of 300 people will be permitted to enter the beach between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. This will bring the number of total daily visitors down from 6,000 to 3,000, which will allow Hat Noppharat Tara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park to keep a close eye on the beach's conditions.
When it comes to boats entering Maya Bay, the decision is even more drastic - at this time, no boats are permitted in the inlet. Visitors to the beach will need to sign up for their allotted time slot and will be taxied to a pier that's docked on the opposite (not the cove side) of the island. Even this pier has new restrictions, however; there will only be eight speedboats permitted to dock there at any one time. This will be easily managed by the fact that each time slot throughout the day will be limited to one hour, maximum, which means it will be rare that there are ever eight boats docked at the pier at once.
A Good Sign
One thing that seems to be showing good faith that conservation efforts are going in the right direction is the return of the bay's wildlife species. Underwater cameras have revealed, according to Lonely Planet, that the region's native black-tipped sharks have made a reappearance. While it was once believed that less than ten had inhabited the waters around the island, it's now confirmed that there are as many as 100 who have come to call it home once again.