Authorities in Thailand have ordered the closure of the beach at Maya Bay, made famous in Leonardo Dicaprio’s film The Beach, in order to counteract environmental damage caused by an excess of tourism.

In a decision made on Wednesday (March 28th) by Thailand’s national parks and wildlife department, the beach, located on the island Koh Phi Phi Leh in the Andaman Sea, is to be closed to all visitors for a period of four months starting in June, in order to allow the island’s coral reefs and sea life to recover.

Normally, most of Thailand’s marine national parks are shut to tourists for half the year from mid-May to mid-October to minimise the impact to wildlife.

Leonardo DiCaprioLeonardo DiCaprio starred in 'The Beach' in 2000

However, ever since Danny Boyle’s film crew set foot on Maya Bay back in 1999 to film the adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the island has been left open all year round to fulfil tourist demand.

But the island has since received around 200 boats and 4,000 tourists every day for the last 19 years, and recent surveys conducted by marine biologists have found that a huge part of the coral reefs in the area have been destroyed, and sea life has virtually disappeared.

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“It’s like someone who has been working for decades and has never stopped,” Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a member of Thailand’s national strategy committee on environmental development, said of the impact that such consistently large tourism had made. “Overworked and tired, all the beauty of the beach is gone. We need a timeout for the beach.”

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When it re-opens, authorities have determined that the number of daily tourists visiting has to be at least halved, while boats will no longer be allowed to anchor in the bay and will have to moor at floating piers.

More than 35 million tourists visit Thailand every year now, compared to just 10 million when The Beach made its premiere back in 2000.

“The locals know that and we all know that,” Thamrongnawasawat continued. “This would be a good way to start managing our tourist destinations… We know that it’s important we manage our resources well. It’s not about more numbers of tourists but about sustainable tourism that benefits locals as well.”

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