Maya Bay: Saving paradise
From the air, its beauty is breathtaking. Sheer limestone towers soaring out of an impossibly turquoise sea. A landscape so dazzling it starred in a Hollywood movie.
But the movie brought fame and popularity, so that the famous beach began to be crushed under the weight of visitors numbering thousands each day.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, Marine scientist
Thon Thamrongnawasawa 海洋科学家
Before, we crossed [the] Maya Bay, sometimes there were more than 200 boats inside the bay, this small bay that you see. [And there is not] look like a bay, it looked like a floating market.
Tourists can still come to the mouth of Maya Bay, but their only view of the beach is a distant one.
We followed a team from the National Parks Department who'd come to see how well the marine life is recovering. Mostly, we saw only dead and broken coral. This is the damage done by years of uncontrolled tourism. The new coral is embedded back in the bay floor. It will need many years to mature, but already there are visible improvements.
The sudden closure of this region's most famous tourist attraction has not been popular with local entrepreneurs. They agree that there were too many visitors, but not with the response.
The initial closure was for four months - now it's indefinite. There is a plan for the boats to dock on the other side of the island for tourists to walk to the beach.
In truth, no one really knows how to balance the preservation of this fragile landscape with the desire of millions to see it.