BANGKOK – Around 50 blacktip sharks have been seen swimming in the waters of Thailand’s Maya Bay, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2000 movie “The Beach,” which was closed to tourists in June as part of the country’s efforts to preserve marine environment.
The ecosystem at Phi Phi Leh Islands is also showing signs of recovery after remaining closed to tourism for over six months.
“Sharks are new for us (...) Maya Bay has always been the most popular tourist destination of the country, which is why we have never had the opportunity to explore or study the species of the area,” marine biologist Thon Thamrongnawasawat, one of the main leaders of the project for the recovery of the enclave, told EFE on Wednesday.
Although the expert does not know if the sharks will remain in the region permanently, he said the authorities intended to permanently ban entry of any boat to the beach, contrary to what happened before the tourist ban.
The popular white-sand beach and turquoise water on the island of Phi Phi Leh in southwest Thailand, visited daily by around 5,000 people in part due to the popularity of the 2000 film, was closed to tourism in June for a period of three months, which was later extended indefinitely.
“If we allow boats to enter, they will destroy the corals again. There is a project to build a port on the other side of the island (...) and a kind of walkway so that visitors do not destroy the vegetation while walking,” the professor of Kasetsart University explained.
“In addition, we are going to control the number of tourists per day,” he added, without giving an approximate number.
But an official of the Mu Ko Phi Phi national park – where Maya Bay is located – said no date has been fixed for the reopening of the bay.
Currently, a team of biologists from the national park, in collaboration with the private sector, is sowing around 3,000 corals, which will help increase the number of fish and improve the ecosystem, damaged by the hordes of tourists who flocked daily to the area for years.
In 2017, Thailand received 35.38 million tourists, nine percent more than the year before, and hopes to welcome 27 million in 2018.