Sharks return to restore and protect Maya Bay
Sharks have returned to Maya Bay, but their presence is no reason for alarm. Rather, it is a cause for celebration as their return heralds the success of efforts to repair and restore the environment of the landmark bay made famous by the Hollywood film “The Beach.”
Video footage taken by a drone shows blacktip reef sharks swimming among visitors in the crystal-clear waters of the bay surrounded by limestone karsts. While blacktip reef sharks have bitten people on rare occasions, they pose no serious threat to humans.
“Blacktip Sharks are actually fairly safe to swim with. As they are often located in more tropical waters and around coral reefs, many snorkelers and scuba divers have had the privilege of swimming with this shark,” according to the American Oceans website.
Maya Bay is an example of how tourism can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Situated in the southern Phi Phi Islands, Phuket, Thailand, it was a popular destination for locals. But once worldwide audiences got a look at its unique beauty in the 2000 film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, it was overrun by tourists.
The massive numbers of visitors were too heavy a toll on the bay’s precious and fragile environment. The sharks and many other species of marine life disappeared, and the waters became less than pristine.
In efforts to save a priceless natural wonder, Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment chose to completely close off the bay to visitors in 2018 and launch a serious program to repair the damage done.
In 2021, the program had succeeded to the point that the government reopened the bay but has limited the numbers of tourists allowed to visit at any one time.
Photo courtesy of https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-04-03/sharks-tourists-jostle-for-space-around-thai-destination-island/102173584