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Marine life returns to Maya Bay, but the tourists continue to come

Maya Bay

Efforts to restore the fragile ecosystem at Krabi’s Maya Bay are paying off, according to a prominent Thai biologist.

The bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh, part of Hat Nappharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, came to worldwide attention thanks to the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach.

At its peak, over 100 longtail boats and speedboats, packed with tourists. would moor in the bay every day, resulting in 5-6,000 pairs of feet trampling around the beach and the boats throwing their anchors over the side, destroying the coral.

The delicate coral reefs were destroyed as a result and the blacktip reef sharks that called the bay home all but disappeared. Finally, in 2018, officials decided to take action and announced that the beach would be closed for 4 months in order to allow the ecosystem to recover.

Then came the pandemic and Thailand itself closed down, meaning Maya Bay had even longer to recover, unhindered by boats and the daily parade of thousands of tourists.

Since it reopened, officials have imposed strict limits on visitor numbers, capped at 300 a day, and introduced a number of other regulations. People can no longer swim in the bay, although they can be up to knee-deep in the water.

Boats can no longer moor in the bay but must use a specially-constructed pier at Loh Samah Bay on the other side of Koh Phi Phi Leh. From there, tourists walk across the island to reach Maya Bay. In addition, the bay continues to be closed for two months a year to give the marine life a rest.

Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat from Kasetsart University says the decision to close the world-famous beach for two months every year is having a positive impact.

“The target point for Maya Bay was to set up a system that would help us, and would become a permanent system that would still allow tourists to enjoy Maya Bay. We used to get about 6,000 – 7,000 tourists visiting every day.”

Dr Thon points out that prior to the closure, the bay’s population of blacktip reef sharks had been decimated. Now, the sharks have returned, with around 60 in the bay at last count, and the damaged coral reefs are recovering.

Prior to the closure of the bay, only around 8% of the coral was considered “living”. This has now increased to between 20 and 30%. However, Dr Thon says it won’t reach 50% anytime soon and it could take up to 15 years for the coral to return to what it was 50 years ago.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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