I was sorting through a few things at the weekend and came across a bunch of photos from my year of travels that I took many moons ago. Very much a blast from the past!
There were a mixture of pics from Thailand, New Zealand and Australia, but the one that caught my eye was this one:
It is of Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh in Thailand, better known as the beach in the film ‘The Beach’ which was released in 2000.
The photo was taken around this time of year in 2003, when my friend and I had just started out on our year long adventure and were exploring South East Asia. It certainly seems like a lifetime ago now!
We set out early from Ko Phi Phi Don on a long tail boat headed for this location, to get there before the crowds and this is what greeted us…it was truly a paradise. The beach was almost empty and it was pretty much as we had seen it in the film.
We wandered the beach, had a swim and generally marveled at its beauty and serenity. It didn’t last though and the beach filled up after a little while, at which point it was time for us to get the hell out of there.
At the time I couldn’t believe how many people were arriving, but it was nothing compared to the numbers that were to come. But also at the time I didn’t give a second thought to our visit and the impact that it might have on the bay. It was a truly stunning place and one I wanted to see whilst I was there.
And we were not alone in that longing, as the years have gone on its popularity has led to it being increasingly inundated. The bay was sustaining extensive environmental damage, with its coral dying and rubbish becoming a big problem. According to reports it was receiving up to 3500 visitor a day, numbers this small bay just couldn’t sustain.
The Thai authorities finally closed it to all visitors last year to allow the eco-system to regenerate, and it looks as though the closure will now continue to 2021.
It’s not the first place that has closed its doors to tourists, the island of Boracay in the Philippines also closed for a while last year as well to clean it up and bring in new regulations and there have been numerous other Thai islands to stop visitors. It’s a trend that I’m sure will continue and increase as tourist numbers everywhere soar and destinations struggle to cope.
So lets hope this closure of this beautiful bay helps it to recover, there have already been sightings of blacktip reef sharks returning to the bay, some also giving birth there, a positive sign!
As to its future? Well, that will be down to the Thai authorities to manage, but also to the actions of the tourists who choose to visit. Trying to get the balance right between tourism and environmental sustainability will be tricky, but hopefully it will be achieved.
Posted as part of the fabulous Friendly Friday Photo Challenge.