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Marine officials close Maya Bay for a 2 months ‘rest’ from tourists

Maya Bay Phi Phi islands

Krabi’s Maya Bay, on Koh Phi Phi Leh, has been closed for 2 months, to give the ecosystem time to recover before the return of the tourist high season. The Bangkok Post reports that the closure has been confirmed by Ratchanok Phaenoi, chief of Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park.

The picturesque bay, arguably the most famous in Thailand thanks to the 2000 Leonard di Caprio movie, The Beach, will re-open on September 30.

Shaun Stenning from 5 Star Marine, one of the companies that runs tours from Phuket to Maya Bay, says the bay needs an annual break.

“5 Star Marine fully support the annual closure of Maya Bay. When it’s open the Bay receives a lot of visits from tourists and the 3 year closure in 2018 proved that giving Maya Bay a break is an important part of sustainable tourism for the area into the future.”

This time of the year, with the monsoon in full swing, trips across Phang Nga Bay can be much rougher, making it an ideal time to close down the bay and do any upgrades to infrastructure which protects the ecology of Phi Phi Leh.

In addition to giving the bay’s marine ecology a break from constant tourist traffic, the Head of the national park says the closure is also being done for safety reasons – the strong waves common during monsoon season make it a challenge for small boats to dock.

Tourist boats are now required to dock at a specially-constructed pier at Loh Samah Bay, at the back of Phi Phi Leh, from where tourists can access Maya Bay. Boats are no longer permitted to dock in the bay itself.

Maya Bay re-opened on January 1 last year after being closed for 3-and-a-half-years. The long closure was the result of damage caused by years of overcrowding, with thousands of tourists descending on the bay each day and no limits on how many boats could dock there.

Widespread damage to coral reefs and the bay’s fragile ecosystem ensued, including a dramatic drop in the black tip reef shark population. There is now a daily limit of 4,000 tourists a day, which was introduced last year, and a ban on swimming in the bay itself.

Ratchanok says the plan is to close the bay every year during the low season and give nature a chance to recover.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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