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The idyllic Maya Bay, tucked away among Thailand’s scenic Phi Phi islands, has been opened to visitors from January 1 this year after remaining shut for almost four years.
Part of Krabi’s Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, Maya Bay was hardly known beyond the circle of keen nature enthusiasts and divers. It shot to fame following the release of the Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer, The Beach, in 2000, which was shot here. According to media reports, by 2017, it was not surprising to find nearly 5,000 people turning up daily along the 250-metre-long beach. The local people were happy with the turnout and the revenue generated.
But soon, scientists and others began to notice that the mass tourism was leaving a devastating impact on the ecology—there was pollution from motorboats, harm to corals by anchors, plastic and other garbage left behind by the visitors, damage to plants and animals, etc. Finally, the area was closed down in mid-2018 by the government to save the ecology. It was determined that the area’s coral and other marine life needed time to recover from the damage being caused by the thousands of daily tourists who were visiting the location.
The ban on tourist entry, followed by the lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, gave the region a much-needed breather. The replanted corals survived, many of the marine animals began to return, and biologists got a chance to reintroduce some. More trees were planted on the beach to prevent soil erosion. Meanwhile, environmental authorities said the famous tourist spot would only reopen to visitors after an upgrade to facilities was carried out and an adequate system was put in place to manage visiting tourist numbers.
According to a news release from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the infrastructural improvements include a new jetty at Loh Samah Bay on the opposite side of the island, which boats taking tourists to see Maya Bay will now have to use. Experts had advised that if the recovery of coral reefs in the area was to continue, the only access to Maya Bay must be via this new jetty. Also, the number of daily visitors to Maya Bay will be controlled to protect the local environment and marine ecosystem, and a specific area will be designated for swimming. Tourists will reach the beach via a boardwalk.
Stunning vertical cliffs capped with green foliage give way to small sandy beaches and tropical coral seas.— Tourism Thailand (@tat_india) January 4, 2022
Most visitors to Phi Phi find their way around Phi Phi Leh on an organised boat tour.
However you can rent a longtail boat for your own customized trip. pic.twitter.com/TrpMTX9TVZ
One of the hard lessons taught by the latest pandemic is that sustainability is key for survival, especially for the tourism industry. And now buoyed by the successful rejuvenation of Maya Bay, It has been reported by the media that Thailand is exploring ways to get out of the mass tourism mode. Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn was recently quoted in the media as saying that the nation’s the focus would be on "high-end travellers, rather than a large number of visitors".
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