Minister bans boats to protect Maya Bay coral reefs

Determined to save a national treasure, Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment has banned nearly all ships from entering world-renowned Maya Bay after learning its coral reefs have not recovered as quickly as hoped.

Maya Bay is a cove on Phi Phi Island in Krabi province that is beloved by travelers for its clear turquoise waters, white sand, plentiful fish, the stunning backdrop of limestone cliffs, and of course its coral reefs. Since it was featured in the Hollywood film “The Beach” starring Leo DiCaprio in 1998, however, it has strained to handle a massive influx of tourists.

“Because of excessive tourism, our coral reefs have been destroyed,” said Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-archa.

Thailand, and many countries that are popular destinations, have been suffering from the environmental and cultural effects of mass tourism. Some travel and environmental advocates have called for a different more sustainable approach, but with so many businesses and jobs relying on visitors, change has been slow.

Nonetheless, in 2018, the government closed Maya Bay to tourists temporarily to allow its environment to recover. The plan was to allow it to reopen this year, but that is now in doubt.

“On the land, many plants such as Morning Glory never seen on Maya Bay before, are growing well. But under the sea, corals are still in a dangerous condition. Many coral species grow at a rate of only 3 to 5 centimeters in a year,” Varawut said.

The minister said, however, that visitors would eventually be able to enter the bay again.

“Maya Bay will not be permanently closed. When the coral growth is complete, then this place will be open to tourists from all over the world,” Varawut said

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