Published Mar 28, 2018The Thai beach made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach is being closed by authorities in attempts to stop widespread environmental damage being caused by too many tourists.
Maya Bay — on Phi Phi Leh island of Thailand in the Andaman Sea — is being closed to all visitors for four months every year starting in June, the Associated Press reports. The decision came today from Thailand's National Parks and Wildlife Department, which stated that the area needs to be temporarily closed to help recover the island's battered coral reef and drastically dwindling sea life.
While many national parks in Thailand are closed for part of the year, Maya Bay has until now been allowed to remain open all year due to the high tourist demand initially sparked by the 2000 DiCaprio film, which was directed by Danny Boyle and based on the book by now-director Alex Garland.
Since the film crew first touched down on Maya Bay in 1999, it has been flooded by some 200 boats and 4,000 tourists a day, AP reports. And according to marine biologists, this has had a devastating effect on the area, where now huge sections of coral reefs have disappeared and almost no sea life now lives.
"It's like someone who has been working for decades and has never stopped," said marine scientist Thon Thamrongnawasawat. "Overworked and tired, all the beauty of the beach is gone. We need a timeout for the beach."
Thanya Netithammakum, head of the National Parks and Wildlife Department, added, "If you ask me if it is too late to save our islands, the answer is no. But if we don't do something today, it will be too late."
Upon reopening, the beach will now cap tourists to 2,000 a day and boats will no longer be allowed to anchor there. Some other islands in Thailand have been closed to tourists completely since mid-2016 due to similar damage.
When The Beach premiered in 2000 about 10 million tourists visits Thailand. Last year, that number had risen to 35 million.
Thon said, "I have always dreamt that one day we could work to bring her back to life. I have been following and working on Maya Bay for more than 30 years. I had seen it when it was a heaven and I see it when it has nothing left. Anything that we can do to bring this paradise back to Thailand is the dream of a marine biologist."