A beautiful bay in Thailand that has become famous in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” will reopen to the public nearly three years after it was closed due to environmental damage, authorities said Wednesday.
With its white sand and crystal clear water, Maya Bay became a popular tourist destination after the film, based on the novel by Alex Garland, was released in 2000.
While the 4,000 to 5,000 daily visitors gave a welcome boost to the local economy, the waste – especially plastic – they left behind damaged the island’s ecosystem, and Thai authorities shut it down to tourists in May 2018.
Although originally scheduled to close for four months, Maya Bay, which is part of Hat Noppharat Thara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, remained closed to aid its environmental recovery.
“The closure of Maya Bay was to rehabilitate its natural resources. Now the natural resources have been rehabilitated back to the good level,” Varawut Silpa-archa, Thailand’s natural resources and environment minister, said in a statement on Monday.
He added that domestic and international tourists were once again welcome to visit the tropical paradise when it reopens in January.
However, these visits will be strictly regulated. Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., only 300 tourists per hour will be allowed on the island, according to the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. They will then have to leave when their allotted time has expired.
In addition to efforts to rebuild corals off the coast of the bay, the department said that on land, wild plants and trees had been replanted to “prevent erosion on the beach.”
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The bay, which was “famous” among Thais before “The Beach” was released, has had more than 30,000 coral fragments introduced, according to Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist at Kasetsart University in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok.
He added that he thought the bay was “healing” because the shark population was growing.
“We had more than 100 sharks before we had 100 speedboats,” he said.
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