Thailand to shut ‘the Beach’ to help environment recuperate
It is one of the world’s most famous beaches thanks to its starring role in Danny Boyle’s film of Alex Garland’s novel, and is often referred to simply as “the beach”. However, this summer, Maya Bay, on the Thai island of Koh Phi Phi Leh, will be closed as authorities try to reverse decades of damage done to the marine environment.
The closure will take place from June to September, during the island’s low season, to give its coral reef time to recover.
Maya Bay gets up to 5,000 visitors a day, with most tourists travelling by boat from Phuket or Koh Phi Phi Don. Much of that tourism has been spurred by the film The Beach, released in 2000 and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which tells the story of a backpacker on a quest to find the perfect, untouched beach.
Almost 80% of Thailand’s coral reefs have been destroyed, according to Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean of the faculty of fisheries at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, with the primary causes being beach-front hotels, boat anchors and plastic waste being dumped in the sea. Speaking to Deutsche Welle, he said that, while temporary closures can help to an extent, the “ideal solution” would be for the bay to be closed permanently.
Thon has long been outspoken about the need to protect Thailand’s marine parks. During a visit to the bay in 2016, he described the beach as being so crowded he was speechless.
Luke Finch, 27, visited Maya Bay last Christmas. To avoid the crowds, he took one of the earliest boat trips, arriving at Maya Bay at 6.30am. “By the time we were about to leave, more and more boats were streaming in and the noise levels began to grow,” he said. “I was pleased to be heading elsewhere. I don’t think it’s drastic enough closing it for three months. The numbers need to be permanently limited.”
Maya Bay is perhaps Thailand’s most famous beach, thanks to its starring role in The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, below