Travellers hoping to visit famous “Maya Bay” in Thailand are going to have to wait a while longer to take in its creamy white shores and towering limestone cliffs.
The popular day-trip destination was due to reopen this month following a temporary tourist ban.
But on Tuesday, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) announced the bay will remain closed indefinitely.
Made famous by “The Beach,” a 2000 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Maya Bay has been off-limits since June 1 as part of what was expected to be a four-month rejuvenation program aimed at reviving the area’s decimated corals and installing additional boat jetties, among other activities.
But according to the DNP’s announcement, signed by director-general Thanya Nethithammakul, the marine ecosystem requires more time to recover.
“The ecosystem and the beach’s physical structure have yet returned to its full condition,” said the letter, in Thai, adding that they would extend the closure from October onward “until natural resources return to normal.”
Part of Thailand’s Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, Maya Bay is a huge draw for the area thanks to the global success of “The Beach,” which was filmed there.
Thailand regularly closes national parks and islands for a variety of reasons, from extreme weather to ecological recovery, but this was the first time such measures were taken in busy Maya Bay.
Data released by the DNP suggested that the park would see as many as 2.5 million visitors in 2018, a year-on-year rise of half a million.
On a visit to the area prior to its closure, visitor numbers multiplied by the minute as boats poured in an out of the bay, dropping off more bodies to sunbathe, snorkel and shoot photos.
Many visitors to the area are daytrippers from Phuket, which is less than an hour’s ride away by speedboat.
Boracay set to reopen
The move to close Maya Bay earlier this year followed on the heels of the Philippines government’s decision to shutter the popular tourist destination of Boracay for six months, beginning April 26, over concerns the island’s famous beaches and clear blue waters have been transformed into a “cesspool” due to sustained environmental damage.
Boracay is due to reopen in phases, beginning this month.
Unlike tiny Maya Bay, which has no hotels or inhabitants and prohibits overnight stays, the popular Philippines beach destination is home to as many as 17,000 people, many of whom are directly engaged in the tourism industry.