Thai cove made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach to remain closed until 2021

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The once-pristine Thai cove made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach will remain closed for another two years in an attempt to save it from ruin after years of heavy tourist exposure.

Key points:

  • Maya Bay was first temporarily closed by Thai officials in May 2018
  • Since the release of The Beach, it’s estimated that around 5,000 people a day visit the area
  • It is believed that the closure has already had a positive effect on the bay’s ecosystem

Thai authorities initially closed Maya Bay, on Phi Phi Leh Island in the Andaman Sea, in May last year, after years of uninterrupted visits from tourists destroyed much of the coral and sea life and contributed to erosion of the beach.

That closure has been extended indefinitely ever since, but Thailand’s National Parks Department has now committed to closing it until 2021.

Reaction to the closure has been mixed. At the time of the initial decision last year, many experts said the move was long overdue given the beach was attracting thousands of visitors a day.

“I tried to push this campaign for many many years, but you know in Thailand we are a tourism industry country and we need a lot of money, so before not so many people listened,” Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and member of a government committee on development and the environment, said at the time.

A heavy crowd of tourists walk along the Maya Bay

“It should have been done 10 years ago but at least it has been done.”

But the other argument centres around tourism — one of Thailand’s most important industries.

Locals to the area have long protested the closure, saying their livelihood has been thrown into jeopardy as the tourist hotspot offered job opportunities to many.

“We are not against protecting our environment,” the head of Phi Phi Tourist Business Association, Watrapol Jantharo, said in March last year.

“We know full well that Maya Bay is our important resource, like a rice field to a farmer, but we wish there are more communications about the government’s plan before the decision was made.”

Reports say the ecology of the area has improved since it has been closed to the public, with some coral and sea life returning.

Tourists walk down the beach on Maya Bay