In case you missed the big news and are on a boat headed there now, Thailand’s iconic Maya Beach in the dreamy Phi Phi islands closed to tourists early last year. While there are plenty of beautiful coves to point towards in the Phi Phi Islands, Maya Beach is not one of them.
The beach, made ultra famous from the namesake movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio was on one too many bucket lists and over tourism brought the idyllic cove into disrepair. More than 3000 visitors per day where flocking to the shores for selfies and gratuitous parties.
Reefs were dying, trash was everywhere and tourism authorities were forced into decisive action in attempt to salvage one of the countries greatest resources: natural beauty. The closure brought one unintended but poetic consequence. Sharks now protect the beach, 60 of them in fact. Talk about almost instant karma.
The BBC today released a fantastic expose on Maya Beach a year after its public closure. The crew were granted close up access restricted to all other visitors, which allowed them to go past the 300m boat restriction, which keeps any visitors at least 300 meters away. Upon crossing the threshold, the crew found coral was growing back slowly and that natural life was slowly on the mend. The closure was working, and better than thought.
After dispelling the 3,000 plus tourists which were flocking to the cove daily, a family of grey tipped reef sharks found the warm shallow waters particularly inhabitable and chose to make Maya Beach their home. If anyone now thinks about breaking the closure rules and swimming the 300m distance from boat to beach, there are now over 60 sharks which may choose to weigh in. Their opinions tend to have bite…
Authorities plan to reopen Maya Beach to the public in years to come, once further sustainability studies have concluded. The key factor now is figuring out how many people the local ecosystem can sustain on a daily basis, and figuring out the best way to regulate that flow of traffic, without causing any further damage. If there’s one thing that may help regulate the flow of visitors, it’s an abundance of sharks.
Some things just work themselves out, don’t they?