World famous Maya Bay reopens to tourists

After three years of repairing and restoring its environment, national park officials reopened the world famous Maya Bay on January 1, 2022, but will only allow limited numbers of visitors each day to protect its natural beauty and ecology.

Maya Bay is one of Thailand’s true national treasures. It was featured in the Hollywood film “The Beach” released in 2000 and starring actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Before that, it was only known to small numbers of travelers. Its reputation, however, was high among those in search of the best beaches in the world.

Maya is “a stunningly beautiful bay that’s sheltered by 100-meter-high cliffs on three sides. Inside the bay there are several beaches, most are small and some only exist at low tide, with silky soft white sand, colorful coral, and exotic fish in exceptionally clear water,” wrote the AsiaDirect travel website.

When audiences around the world saw the bay’s unique and beautiful landscape, it became a prime destination for those seeking a tropical paradise. Tourists flocked to the area in large numbers.

On any given day at any time before it was closed, there were around 30-plus speedboats and longtail boats on the beach, with large ferry boats carrying hundreds of snorkelers and sightseers moored in deeper water. Thousands of people visited each day.

The influx of visitors took a harsh toll on Maya Bay’s delicate environment. So much so that in 2018 the government made the difficult decision to close the bay to all visitors and embark on a project rehabilitate its ecology and allow it ample time to recover.

Its reopening had been promised twice earlier, but parks officials and environmentalists working on the project concluded at those times that it was not fully ready. They put Thailand’s environment ahead of tourism revenues and delayed the reopening.

Under the new rules, only 375 tourists can visit for just one hour at a time each day. Swimming in the bay is now strictly prohibited to protect and preserve the coral reefs and the rare species of fish that breed there.

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