Friday, 28 September 2018

THAILAND: Maya Bay Remains Closed

Thailand's popular Maya Bay will be continue to be closed to tourists until the end of October due to unfinished restoration and dangers associated with the current monsoon season.

The pristine beach on the southern island of Koh Phi Phi popularized by the 2000 movie "The Beach" was closed for the first time in June after it was discovered that most of its coral had been damaged by boat anchors.

The part of the bay where damaged corals are rehabilitating and new corals are being planted has been closed to boats permanently, the National Park Department has said.

Initially, the beach had been set to reopen for tourists on October 1 but the temporary closure has been extended as a tourist bridge has not been completyed, according to Nopparat National Park chief Worapoj Lomlim.

We're also concerned about the tourists' safety amid the current monsoon season, Worapoj said, adding that damaged corals have rehabilitated fast and officials have managed to plant more than 2,000 new coral colonies during the closure.

The temporary closure will continue each year to prevent further damage to the environment.

Thailand's overall coral damage has reached a critical level, with an alarming increase to 78 per cent from 30 per cent a decade ago, said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a prominent marine ecologist overseeing the effort.

The famous Maya Bay in Thailand has been closed for three months to give its coral reefs a chance to recover. After the reopening on October 1st, each visit will be limited to one hour.

Since June, more than 500 new coral colonies have been planted in Maya Bay, on Phi Phi Leh island in the Andaman Sea.

The young corals are growing at an unbelievably fast pace. We will soon see the return of this paradise, said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a prominent marine ecologist overseeing the effort.

Maya Bay — popularized by "The Beach," a Hollywood movie released in 2000 — was closed for the first time in June after it was discovered that most corals in the area had been damaged by boat anchors.

The front of Maya Bay, where damaged corals are rehabilitating and new corals are being planted, has been closed to boats permanently, according to the National Park Department.

Tourists can access the bay from the back entrance when it reopens on October 1. The four-month temporary closure will continue each year to prevent further damage to the environment.

Thailand’s overall coral damage has reached a critical level, with an alarming increase to 78 per cent from 30 per cent a decade ago, Thon said.

The country aims to balance the booming tourism industry and the protection of ecosystems. Thailand welcomed about 35 million international visitors last year, a five-fold increase in little more than two decades.

At Maya Bay alone, there were some 4,000 tourists each day. After the reopening, the government has set a limit of only 2,000 tourists a day who will be allowed to visit the beach, with each visit limited to one hour.

The once-pristine Thai bay which became a tourist magnet after the 2000 movie "The Beach" will be closed to boats for several months to prevent further damage to its coral, an official said Wednesday.

Hordes of tourists flock daily to Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Ley for selfies in front of the famed limestone cliffs and blue waters, leading to complaints of environmental damage to the water and sand.

But the picture-postcard beach of the Leonardo DiCaprio film will be closed to boats from June to September this year, Worapoj Lomlim of the Phi Phi islands National Parks told.

For around 20 years the bay has welcomed boats to moor in front of the beach but their engines have damaged coral reefs and caused problems with the sand, he said.

Overcrowded tourist boats have also blocked the view, he added, saying tourists will still be able to reach the beach by foot from an adjacent bay where boats can park.

The closure is the latest effort to mitigate damage caused by tourism, a crucial pillar of Thailand's economy with more than 35 million travellers visiting last year.

But environmental experts and officials are worried the mass tourism is causing irreversible damage to idyllic beaches, with litter and unchecked development disrupting local ecosystems.

Smoking has already been banned on 20 of the country's most famous beaches this high season, with a hefty fine or even jail for those who flout the new rule.


Tourism Observer