Rehab effort for Maya Beach set to begin as tourists shut out

Can't take me to the beach: Maya Beach in Krabi has been closed for four months. (Photo from the Department of National parks Wildlife and Plant Conservation)

Authorities will launch a major rehabilitation of the famous Maya Beach in Krabi province after ordering the site to be temporarily closed for the first time.

Forest officials are bringing in trees to plant on the beach while marine park staff are preparing to begin the rehabilitation of 25 rai of coral reef in the sea just off the coast, Songtham Suksawang, director of the National Park Office, under the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation told the media yesterday.

The rehabilitation programme has been made possible after the department ordered the beach to be closed for four months, from June 1 until Sept 30. It is the first time the beach has been closed. Maya Beach is located in Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park in Krabi province.

Mr Songtham said the department has received cooperation from local tourist operators despite their previous disagreement with the temporary closure.

"The beach is quiet with not even a single tourist. No reports of illegal entry to the beach have been made, and the cooperation from business operators has been good," he said.

Maya Beach has suffered severely from the impact of tourism. Each day, around 5,000 visitors flock to the small beach, which is only 250 metres in length and 15 metres in width. The site became famous after it was featured as the main setting of the 2000 film The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Seagrass and other plant life on the beach have been severely damaged by visitors which worsened beach erosion, said Mr Songtham, while rubbish was often left to rot and fester while wastewater from hundreds of boats has polluted the sea and coral. Coral was also damaged by anchors dropped from irresponsible tour operator boats, he added.

The department will spend 100 million baht to develop a boat parking zone and floating pier to receive tourists, he said. It will use an online ticketing system to register income from entry to the park and guard against corruption.

The department has hired Kasetsart University to conduct a study into the tourist capacity of nine sites in this national park. They are Talay Wak, Pilah Bay, Viking cave, Loh Samah Bay, Nui Bay, Koh Mai Phai, Koh Yung and Koh Bi Da Nai. Staff plan to use this national park as a model for managing tourism and the environment on a national scale.

Mr Songtham said the department plans to impose a quota on visitors to ecologically sensitive sites including Maya Bay.