If you’ve been planning a trip to finally see Maya Bay once it’s reopened, you’ll have to keep waiting until 2021. Located on the island of Phi Phi Leh off of the coast of Thailand, Maya Bay has been closed since June 2018 after a surge in tourism destroyed 80% of the region’s coral, causing Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation to implement a ban on visiting the bay. The original ban was upgraded from temporary to indefinite last year, and now authorities have extended the ban until 2021 to give the region more time to recuperate.
Maya Bay is probably best known as the titular beach in the post-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach (directed by Danny Boyle and based on a book by Alex Garland, who would go on to direct Ex-Machina and Annihilation). But before you start pointing fingers at Leo, just change to the selfie-cam for a second because this one’s on you. Well okay, not so much you as us — meaning travelers.
Overtourism is a serious issue, Maya Bay was only averaging about 170 people a day in 2008, but by 2017 the bay was hosting over 3,500 visitors a day, its popularity no doubt bolstered by thirsty-travelers looking to claim “the beach” as another stamp in their virtual passports. Since the closure, blacktip reef sharks have been spotted swimming in the bay, which is a good sign. The BBC reports that when the park eventually reopens in 2021, the number of visitors will be restricted and boats will be completely banned from mooring within the bay’s waters.
How can you help in situations like these? Remember that there’s plenty of room on the road less traveled. Thailand has hundreds of islands. There are scores of blissful bays out there. So be intrepid, read our “Best Islands” list and don’t stick to the Instagram trail.