Maya Bay – the iconic Phi Phi Island bay from the 2000 movie The Beach – has re-opened after three years of being closed to visitors. Maya Bay is a picturesque cove protected by 100-metre cliffs on three sides.
Most beaches in the bay are small and some are only visible at low tide. The predominant beach is about 200 metres long. The Bay is famous for its impossibly fine white sand, coral reef, colourful fish and glass-clear water. It is located in the Phi Phi islands – an archipelago of six islands between the large island of Phuket and the Straits of Malacca coast of Thailand (watch the video above, with features clips by TikTok creators @maiseyclairebailey and @riotravellers, to get a sense for the place).
Maya Bay has become the main tourist drawcard of the Phi Phi Islands since The Beach, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, was filmed there in 1999. Its popularity eventually became its downfall, however, with overtourism spoiling the beautiful bay with pollution and overcrowding (it was reportedly receiving about 5,000 visitors a day on average in 2018). The coral was also being decimated.
Because of this, it was closed to tourists three years ago, to give the natural environment time to recover. Now it is opening up again, in a more sustainable way.
Thailand’s Department of National Parks has released a statement saying Maya Bay will reopen to tourists on January the 1st, 2022.
There’s a catch though – you can’t just turn up anymore.
CNN Travel reports: “The reopening comes with several caveats. Boats will not be able to enter the bay. Instead, drivers will have to drop passengers off at a pier set at the back of the island away from the famed cove. Only eight speedboats will be allowed to dock there at a time, and visits will be capped at one hour, with a maximum of 300 tourists allowed per round, from 10 a.m.-4p.m daily.”
From now until January the 1st, boats are allowed to enter the outer limits of Maya Bay, but its shores are a no go zone, (you can look at the beach from your boat, and snorkel in designated zones).
Thailand recently (on November the 1st) loosened its quarantine rules for travellers who have stayed at least 21 days in one of 63 approved “low risk” countries and territories – including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, India and Canada.
CNN Travel reports: “Incoming fliers who meet the updated requirements only need to stay one night in a government-approved hotel while they await the results of a Covid-19 test administered upon arrival. Tourists who aren’t fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine must quarantine in a pre-booked, government-approved hotel for 10 days upon arrival.”
For Australians, a recent article by Traveller recommends the following (in terms of visiting Thailand): “As an Australian, and provided you’re fully vaccinated and you’ve not been outside the country in the 21 days before arrival in Thailand, you’re entitled to enter Thailand under the Exemption from Quarantine program. Ignore the Sandbox and Alternative Quarantine programs, both are more restrictive.”