It is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Thailand. Maya Bay beach reopened on 1Ahem January 2022, after more than three years of banning tourists, in order to preserve its ecosystem, and in particular its coral reefs. Surrounded by 100-meter-high cliffs, the beach is located on Phi Phi Leh Island in the Andaman Sea and is only accessible by boat from neighboring territories, including Phuket, Phi Phi Islands or the province. from Krabi.
The pandemic had made it possible to curb mass tourism, which is hitting the region and its surroundings hard. Previously, the beach welcomed up to 6,000 visitors a day… A true ecological disaster for the bay, between ship engines and debris, which led to the destruction of the seabed and more than 60% of the coral cover.
Tourists in April 2018 in front of a row of boats in Maya Bay.Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP
For a country whose tourism represented around 12% of the economy, the pandemic marked an abrupt halt in its growth. If since the timid reopening of the borders, and that equally delicate of the bay, tourists can step on the white sand of May Bay again, now they must meet certain conditions. The authorities have indicated that only 375 visitors can go at the same time, while swimming remains prohibited. The dinghies, small speedboats that can only accommodate 8 people at a time, can only dock at a designated spot, to protect reefs threatened by pollution and plastic debris.
“The sharks are back, the coral reefs are recovering and the water is clear again,” Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told Reuters. He shows that nature heals if given time, and we must strive to keep it that way,” he continued. In addition, violators of the new rules incur a $150 fine.
“The Beach” and the beginnings of a disaster
It was in 1999 when the cast of the film “La Plage” by Danny Boyle, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Virginie Ledoyen, set their camera on the islands of Phi Phi Leh, and more specifically in this bay. The film narrates the adventure of a young American who flees from modern society in the company of two Frenchmen, in search of a lost Eden in Thailand.
But the filming of the film has significantly modified the beach of Maya Bay so that it responds exactly to the ambitions of 20th Century Fox, even going so far as to level the dunes with bulldozers and plant mature coconut palms…
Things quickly escalate as environmentalists and many locals get involved to preserve the survival of native plants in accordance with the laws of the national park that constitutes the place, but the lawsuit filed by Thai officials to stop the filming fails, and the studies simply claim to keep environmental transformations to a minimum.
Nearly 20 years later, Maya Bay’s goal is to become a bastion of responsible tourism and strike a balance between ecology and economy. At the moment, the authorities are cautious and the tourists are parsimonious