After a two-month hiatus, Maya Bay on Koh Pi Pi Leh in Krabi province has reopened to the public. The iconic bay had been closed to tourists to allow for environmental recovery. The closure will be an annual occurrence to try to protect the ecology and wildlife living or visiting the iconic bay.
Maya Bay exploded in popularity after serving as the picturesque backdrop to the 2000 film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Millions of tourists flocked to the site doing significant damage to the nature they were coming to see.
As much as 50% of Maya Bay’s coral was destroyed by years of unrestricted tourism, with as many as 6,000 people visiting the bay every day at the bay’s height of popularity, prompting its sudden closure in 2018. After nearly 20 years of environmental abuse and damage, the bay remained closed for three and a half years, in part during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Officials for the national park said that the climate during this season was also considered in the decision to close for two months each year. The time off facilitates proper tourism management and a breather from humans would allow nature to heal itself.
The idyllic bay reopened on January 1 of this year and was quickly flooded with tourists, this time more carefully. Swimming was limited to a designated area and boats were asked to dock on the pier side of the island only, with a maximum of eight boats allowed at any one time. The number of tourists allowed on the 250-metre long stretch of beach was limited to 375 people per hour. Between the hours of 10am and 4pm, after one hour, national park officials would escort tourists away and bring a new group of tourists onto the beach.
All tourist activities were temporarily suspended between August 1 and September 30 to give both onshore and offshore ecosystems at Maya Bay a chance to recover. During that time, the healing seemed to be working. Last month, a group of about 10 bottlenose dolphins were spotted in the south of the Maya Bay by Hat Noppharat Thara – Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park staff.
Maya Bay’s three-year closure was successful at bringing back plant and animal species that had disappeared due to tourist overrun. The most notable animal to return to breed in the bay is the blacktip shark. In March, a park ranger told NPR that before the park closed, when there could be over 6,000 tourists a day, no one would ever think of seeing the local sharks. He said now, on a good day, 160 sharks could be seen.
SOURCE: The Phuket Express
Published by The Thaiger 3.October 2022