After more than three years, Maya Bay in Krabi’s Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park is reopening its shores to tourists starting January 1, 2022. Kasetsart University’s marine scientist Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawat detailed in an online post last December 14, 2021, that the National Park Committee has decided to reopen the park next month.
Maya Bay gained worldwide popularity when it became the location of the Hollywood blockbuster film “The Beach” starring A-list actor Leonardi DiCaprio. Following this feature, visitors flocked to the Koh Phi Phi Leh Island where the beach is located, resulting in unprecedented tourist arrivals. At the peak of its popularity, over 6,000 tourists visited the beach per day, resulting in massive damage and deterioration: garbage was left everywhere, flora and fauna were hugely affected, and boat anchors destroyed as much as 50% of the bay’s coral reefs. After about 18 years of unrestricted mass tourism, Maya Bay was closed to tourists in June 2018 to give way to rehabilitation efforts.
Over the past three years, tens of thousands of coral branches have been planted in the area of Maya Bay. Drone photography and measuring dives have been conducted and have shown significant coral growth. The average coral reef cover in Maya Bay’s shallow waters is now 14%, compared to 2% at some point in 2018. The Department of National Parks is preparing to expand the coral regeneration area to the other side of the bay.
Further signs of the recovery of the bay’s marine ecosystem have also been observed. Dozens of blacktip reef sharks were spotted in the waters of Maya Bay just four months after its closure. Latest surveys have shown that at least 161 blacktip reef sharks have found home in the bay. The return of green and hawksbill turtles in Maya Bay has also been reported.
According to Director Damras Phoprasit of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, the reopening of Maya Bay will help stimulate the economy of Krabi and will serve as a “New Year’s present” to tourists who are longing to visit the famed destination.
To help preserve the beauty and protect the sustainability of the island, the following regulations will be set in place:
- Visitors can only enter the bay from 7 AM to 6 PM.
- Only 375 people will be allowed at any given time, with a maximum of about 4,000 visitors per day only.
- Tourists are required to make advanced reservations via the QueQ app to enter the bay. Admission fees shall also apply.
- Boats cannot dock by the beachfront. Instead, they shall load and unload visitors at a pier located behind Maya Bay.
- Tourists shall be prohibited from littering in the area.
- Swimming will be prohibited at the moment. Maya Bay is home to a large number of black-tipped reef sharks which may pose danger to swimmers. Additionally, this measure is also going to be implemented to avoid disruption to these animals and the coral reefs.
All visitors are expected to strictly comply with these regulations to protect the island’s natural resources and to avoid adverse effects brought about by tourism malpractices. More regulations are expected to be finalized soon, such as the total number of daily trips allowed as well as policies regarding water activities like snorkeling and diving.
The government, national park committee, as well as all stakeholders involved are deeply committed to preserving Maya Bay, avoiding past mistakes, and ensuring the longevity and sustainability of this crescent-shaped gem. Should the set-up and protocols in Maya Bay be successful, the same mandates will be implemented to other parts of the Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park as well.
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