When you have a beach known for its immaculate white sands and pristine waters that 6,000 tourists come to check out every day — something’s gotta give. Thailand’s Maya Bay has been closed indefinitely, per a Tuesday announcement by the country’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Located off the coast of southern Thailand, Maya Bay is famous as the setting of the movie The Beach (starring Leonardo DiCaprio), and has become one of Thailand’s biggest attractions. Initially, the park was only scheduled to remain closed from June until October 1st, but it was later determined that this wasn’t enough time for Koh Phi Phi Leh island to recover from the damages caused by tourism.
The island’s beaches have taken quite a beating, as thousands of tourists visit each day from nearby islands and coastal resorts, dropping litter into the sea. Marine biologists found that a large part of the area’s coral reefs are gone, and that many fish have vanished. Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a member of Thailand’s National Strategy Committee on Environmental Development, told the Associated Press, “All the beauty of the beach is gone. We need a time-out for the beach.”
To restore the ecosystem to full strength, new trees and coral must be planted. Their growth, however, won’t happen overnight, and it may take a few years. Songtham Sukswang, director of the Office of National Parks, told Reuters, “We need at least a year or even up to two years or maybe more for the environment to recover — this includes the coral reefs, mangrove, and the beach.”
Unfortunately for vacationers, they won’t be able to access the Insta-famous beach until the ecosystem has recovered. And when it does reopen, you might want to anticipate a limit on the number of daily visitors allowed.
H/T: Lonely Planet