Photo Credit: DeAnna Taylor
Thailand’s Iconic Maya Bay Reopens After Much-Needed Rejuvenation
After a three-and-a-half year closure to restore its damaged white-sand beach and marine ecoysystem, Thailand’s Maya Bay officially reopened for tourism on January 1, 2022.
The iconic bay was temporarily closed by officials in June 2018 in order to clean the beach and restore the area’s coral reefs. Originally intended as a 4-month closure, the bay remained closed indefinitely so that the environment could properly recuperate from the effects of over-tourism.
A main tourist attraction of the highly visited Phi Phi Islands of Krabi province, Maya Bay has brought in millions of tourists after the famed DiCaprio movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed there in 2000. After decades of unchecked tourism, the effects of visitors leaving behind rubbish and damaging plants and sand, the call was made for the bay to close. Outrage from Thai citizens also fuelled the decision to close the popular attraction.
“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,” explained Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-Archa in a statement following the announcement revealing the reopening.
According to official figures, the bay was receiving an estimated 5,000 visitors per day on average in 2018. Said to now be in a better place, the bay underwent major work to restore the ecosystems such as trees, plants and coral being replanted. The bay was also thoroughly cleaned of trash in sustainability efforts.
The reopening of Maya Bay, located in the Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, comes with some significant changes. The park will cap the number of daily visitors. Vorapot Lomlim, head of Hat Noppharat Tara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, told Lonely Planet that visitors will be limited to 300 people in one of seven or eight shifts per day between 10am and 4pm. This would essentially equate to 3000 daily visitors.
A boardwalk has also been installed to limit the amount of damage to sand and plants. Visitors will arrive at the bay using a floating dock located behind the cliffs now that boats will no longer be permitted to anchor in the bay itself. As an additional change, there will be a designated area in the bay for swimming.