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Popular Thai Beach Closes Indefinitely To Recover From Tourism

It's been nearly two decades since Leonardo DiCaprio filmed The Beach, his long-anticipated follow-up to the Titanic blockbuster that vaulted the actor to fame. Although The Beach didn't fare as well, it did create enough of a stir to attract tourists to Thailand's Maya Beach, where the film was shot.

In fact, the flick created a great deal of tourist traffic to Maya Beach, located on Phi Phi Leh Island in the Andaman Sea. And it's been that volume of visitors that have plagued so much havoc with the aquatic wildlife, especially the fish and corals, that the Thai government had to ban vacationers from the spot back in June. And despite anticipation from the tourist industry that the beach would be reopened by October, the government has now decided to close the spot until further notice.

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Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation made the announcement on September 25th, that the closure of the beach the past four months hasn't been long enough to rejuvenate the oceanic life and corals. It turned out that foot traffic in the shallow waters, as well as effluence from the speedboats, created more environmental damage than previously assessed. The government department also could not determine a timeline regarding when the beach's ecosystem would fully recover.

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It's not so much the Leo-was-here factor that's made the spot so attractive, although The Beach certainly spiked the initial allure. The scenic limestone cliffs and the white sandy shoreline, in tandem with Thailand's humid and warm climate, was as picture-postcard perfect as a getaway destination could get.

While the impact of the closure may have some long terms consequences regarding tourism, Maya Beach, fortunately, has no residents in the immediate area dependant on tourism dollars for their livelihoods.

The beach, however, is a popular segment of the country's Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, which is predicted to receive 2.5 million visitors this year, a 20 percent increase over traffic reported in 2017. Before the closure, it was estimated that Maya Bay received roughly 5,000 visitors a day, most of them from Phuket who take the one-hour speedboat trip to the beach for snorkeling and sunbathing.

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