Thailand closes world-famous beach to tourists

The authorities want to save Maya Bay’s coral reefs from critical damage caused by over-tourism

Made famous in Danny Boyle’s 2000 movie The Beach – with Leonardo DiCaprio as the main character – Thailand’s Maya Bay beach has become a victim of its own popularity.

Overtourism has destroyed around 77 per cent of Thailand’s coral reefs — Shutterstock Thailand beach
Overtourism has destroyed around 77 per cent of Thailand’s coral reefs — Shutterstock


The authorities of the Phi Phi islands, where the beach is located, have decided to close the area to the public, as over-tourism is severely damaging local coral reefs and the marine ecosystem.

It is estimated that around 5,000 travellers coming from the tourism hubs of Krabi and Phuket daily have contributed to the “critical” destruction of the beach’s marine life.

According to marine expert Thon Thamrongnawasawat from Bangkok’s Kasetsart University, around 77 percent of Thailand’s coral reefs have been destroyed in total due to tourism.

A decade ago, it was only 30 per cent, the German Press Agency reported.

Dr Thamrongnawasawat blames the beachfront hotels, along with plastic rubbish that had been dumped at sea for the coral damage. Boat anchors contribute to the unfortunate state as well.


“Temporary closures can help to a certain extent. But an ideal solution is permanent closure, which is not possible due to our reliance on tourism revenue,” he said.

May Bay is not the first location in the country that has put restrictions on its visitors. In 2016 the authorities announced a shutdown of Koch Tchai, a popular island in the south of the country.

“Thanks to its beauty, Koh Tachai has become a popular tourist site for both Thai and foreign tourists. This has resulted in overcrowding and the degradation of natural resources and the environment,”  director general of the department of national parks, wildlife and plants conservation, Tunya Netithammakul, told the Bangkok Post.

“We have to close it to allow the rehabilitation of the environment both on the island and in the sea, without it being disturbed by tourism activities, before the damage is beyond repair.”