Paradoxically, Chief Worapoj made it clear that there will still be access to Maya Bay, it’s just that boat operators will have to park at a different cove and tourists will have to walk overland to reach the iconic bay – which gained world-wide fame when it featured in the Hollywood film The Beach.
In the film, Maya Bay was portrayed as a tropical Eden where adventurous backpackers gathered to live out their self-sustained desert-island dreams far from the mass tourism that is destroying Thailand’s popular holiday islands.
In a darkly ironic twist, the spotlight the film shone on the once pristine Maya Bay has turned it into a perfect example of very thing the film’s protagonists sought to escape – a beautiful natural environment overexploited and degraded by unregulated mass tourism.
Any measure to slow the destruction of the coral reefs surrounding Maya Bay, and indeed all of Thailand’s precious coral reefs, should be applauded – but sadly it seems that this recent measure is again a case of appearance over actual action. Coral reefs do not simply bounce back in matter of months after years and years of exploitation for the sake of the almighty tourist baht.
Much more drastic measures are needed immediately to create sustainable tourism operations for Thailand’s precious tropical islands before we will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
A recent AFP article describes a similar situation facing Ecuador and the management of tourism in the country’s famed Galapagos Islands. Recognising the importance of preserving nature through sustainable forms of tourism, Ecuador’s Tourism Minister Enrique Ponce de Leon said, “The Galapagos are the crown jewel, and as such, we have to protect them… we must be drastic in caring for the environment.”
Echoing this sentiment, the Director of the Galapagos National Park Walter Bustos, said, “The environmental, social and biological features of this place forces us to set a limit, to manage tourism in terms of supply, rather than demand.”
A drastic approach indeed… Thailand’s authorities should take note, before it’s too late.