Maya Bay (AKA 'The Beach'), Thailand: Resort helps with famous beach's recovery

After Thailand's Maya Bay featured in the 2000 Leonardo Di Caprio movie, The Beach, it was almost loved to death.

The surreally pretty location is in Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, and part of Phi Phi Leh, one of the two main Phi Phi islands in Krabi province.

Phi Phi Leh was only open to day-trippers. Still, the movie production company made controversial alterations to the landscape and visitation to Maya Bay grew to the point where it was receiving an estimated average of 5000 visitors a day, with popular tourism spots not far away by boat.

Scientists made the alarming discovery of badly damaged coral reefs and diminishing marine life and in mid-2018 the decision was taken to close Maya Bay to tourists for four months to allow the ecosystem to recover. But the break in tourism allowed closer inspection and the damage was deemed far worse than first estimated. The closure was extended till January 2022.

Though Maya Bay has not fully recovered, it has been reopened to a limited number of visitors for small-scale excursions with strict rules applying including no swimming. Nearby SAii Phi Phi Island Village resort is one operator offering access to it through its "Marine Discovery Package" which includes a half-day island excursion by long-tail boat that includes access to Maya Bay.

However, the beachfront, rustic-chic resort on Ko Phi Phi Don has its own Marine Discovery Centre that is giving back to the national park, providing both conservation and guest and local community education.

Featuring interactive displays and overseen by a marine biologist, the centre supports critical conservation projects. It has successfully bred more than 100 clownfish and released them back into the ocean, and it recently collaborated with the Phuket Marine Biological Center on its "Save Our Sharks" initiative to care for over 40 juvenile bamboo sharks and eggs at its Shark Nursery Pond with a view to releasing them back into their habitat.

SAii Phi Phi Island Village, which underwent an extensive refurbishment during 2020, is also involved in waste management on Koh Phi Phi Don and collected more than 8000 kilograms of coastal debris in 2021. Like all SAii Resorts, it has abolished single-use plastic and has achieved the Gold Level Green Hotel Award for its commitment to sustainability.

From $167 a night. See saiiresorts.com 

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