Asia

Thailand: Tropical bay from 'The Beach' to close until 2021

Maya Bay crowded with tourists in April 2018. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Maya Bay was crowded with tourists in April 2018 but its shores are now empty

A Thai bay that was made famous by its appearance in the film The Beach is to remain closed until 2021.

Maya Bay, on the island of Phi Phi Leh, was temporarily closed last year after officials said a sharp rise in visitors had severely damaged the environment.

Before it closed, up to 5,000 people were visiting the bay every day and most of its coral died as a result.

Authorities have now extended the ban on visitors by two years to give more time for Maya Bay's ecology to recover.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boats visiting the island now have to wait 300 metres away from its shores

The beach featured prominently in the 2000 film of that name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Since the bay closed last year, blacktip reef sharks have been sighted swimming in the waters of the bay.

Prof Thon Thamrongnawasawat, who advises the Thai department of national parks, told the BBC in January that when the park reopens the number of visitors will be restricted and boats will be banned from mooring within the bay's waters.

Local tourism operators have said they rely on the beach.

The head of the local tourism association, Wattana Rerngsamut, told AFP that there should be public hearings "so that local people can earn a living".

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