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Thailand's Maya Bay made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio's 'The Beach' set to reopen after 3 years

"Now the natural resources are rehabilitated back to the good level," said Varawut Silpa-archa, Thailand's minister of natural resources and environment.
Tourists take pictures at Maya Bay before Thai authorities closed the destination in May 2018. Mladen Antonov / AFP via Getty Images file

A beautiful cove in Thailand made famous in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "The Beach" will reopen to the public almost three years after it was closed because of environmental damage, authorities said.

With its white sand and crystal clear waters, Maya Bay became a popular tourist destination after the film, based on the novel by Alex Garland, was released in 2000.

While the 4,000 to 5,000 daily visitors provided a welcome boost to the local economy, the trash — particularly plastics — they left behind damaged the island’s ecosystem and Thai authorities closed it off to tourists in May 2018.

Although it was originally supposed to close for four months, Maya Bay, which is a part of the Hat Noppharat Thara — Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, remained closed to help its environmental recovery.

"The closure of Maya Bay was to rehabilitate its natural resources. Now the natural resources are rehabilitated back to the good level," Varawut Silpa-archa, Thailand’s minister of natural resources and environment, said in a statement on Sunday.

He added that domestic and international tourists were once again welcome to visit the tropical paradise when it reopens in January.

Those visits will, however, be strictly regulated. Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., only 300 tourists an hour will be allowed on the island, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. They will then have to leave once their allotted time is up.

As well as coral regrowing efforts off the bay’s coast, the department said that on land, wild plants and trees had been replanted to “prevent erosion on the beachfront.”

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The bay, which was “famous” among Thai people before “The Beach” was released, has had more than 30,000 coral fragments introduced, according to Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist at the Kasetsart University in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok.

He added that he thought the bay was “healing” because the shark population was increasing.

“We have more than 100 sharks, before we had 100 speedboats,” he said.