Health

Thailand reopens Maya Bay, tourist spot made famous by ‘The Beach’, after 3 years

The beach, surrounded by 100-metre (328-ft) high cliffs,
lies on the island of Phi Phi Leh in the Andaman Sea, and is only accessible by
boats from nearby spots such as the islands of Phuket or Phi Phi, or mainland
Krabi.

Authorities shut the whole of Maya Bay to the public in
2018, saying coral reefs and beach areas had been damaged by constant tourist
activities. But since the start of this year some visitors have been allowed to
return.

“The sharks have come back, coral reefs are regrowing,
and the water is clear again,” Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of the
Tourism Authority of Thailand, told Reuters.

“These things show that nature will heal if we give it
time, and we have to work to keep it that way too.”

To ensure it remains protected, authorities said only up to
375 visitors will be allowed to visit at one time and swimming will be
prohibited for now. Boats will only be allowed to dock at a designated location
at the back of the bay to avoid damaging coral reefs, they said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, tourism accounted for about
12% of Thailand’s economy and was a key driver of growth, with the country
attracting 40 million visitors in 2019.

But mass tourism has often come at a cost to the environment
in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, with once-beautiful tropical
beaches becoming polluted and strewn with garbage.

“Maya Bay is beautiful, it’s a marvellous place,”
said Manuele Panin, a 40-year-old tourist from Italy, who was visiting the
beach.

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“I think it is fine that it has been closed all this
time to protect the nature and allow it to restore and recover.”

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