Thailand’s iconic Maya Bay to temporarily close again

Thailand’s iconic Maya Bay – located on Koh Pi Pi Leh in Krabi province – will be off-limits to tourists for the duration of August and September for another period of environmental restoration. The bay, made famous by “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, reopened to tourists on January 1 after a three and a half year closure.

All tourist activities will be temporarily suspended between August 1 and September 30 to give both onshore and offshore ecosystems at Maya Bay a chance to recover from a busy seven months of tourism since the bay’s reopening on January 1.

Maya Bay reopened under strict environmental protection measures. For the past seven months, tourists could visit the bay for one hour only between 10am – 4pm. The number of tourists allowed on the 250-metre long stretch of beach was limited to 375 people per hour. After one hour, national park officials would escort tourists away and bring a new group of tourists onto the beach.

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.

Temporarily closures of Maya Bay are expected to become an annual occurrence to protect the bay’s sensitive ecology. As much as 50% of Maya Bay’s coral was destroyed by years of unrestricted tourism, with as many as 6000 people visiting the bay every day at the bay’s height of popularity, prompting its sudden closure in 2018.

The closure of Maya Bay was a contested and somewhat unpopular decision for local tour operators who depended on the influx of tourists to make a living. But with the fish population in tatters, dead coral, and a polluted beach, the bay’s closure could not wait any longer.

Initially, authorities planned to close the bay to tourists for four months. It soon became clear that if any real environmental progress were to be actualised, it would take years, not months.

Rubbish was removed from the beach and animals returned to the bay in abundance, most notably, black-tipped sharks returned to the bay’s waters in their hundreds. Whereas in 2018, only six black-tipped sharks were thought to have visited the bay. The coral also became significantly healthier.

Maya Bay currently has an entry fee of 400 baht, but there are rumours that the fee will be increased once the bay reopens in October. With Maya Bay being a world-famous tourist destination, a price hike is likely, according to Thailand’s Minister of Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-archa.