Thai­land to shut ‘the Beach’ to help en­vi­ron­ment re­cu­per­ate

The Guardian - - INSIDE | NEWS - Will Cold­well

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.”

MAIN PHO­TO­GRAPH: COLOURPLAYER

Maya Bay is per­haps Thai­land’s most fa­mous beach, thanks to its star­ring role in The Beach, star­ring Leonardo Di­Caprio, be­low

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