It's been 18 years since the Leonardo DiCaprio-led drama The Beach hit theaters. But apparently its popularity was such that over the years, millions of tourists have flooded to the actual Thailand beach used in filming — destroying its coral reefs and sea life in the process.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Thailand's National Parks and Wildlife Department have ordered Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh island in the Andaman Sea to be shut down for four months annually starting this June so it can recover from the environmental damage caused by tourists.
The beach is currently visited by an average of 4,000 visitors on at least 200 boats a day, according to the department. “If we don't do something today, it will be too late,” Thanya Netithammakum, the government organization's head, told the AP.
One climate scientist, Thon Thamrongnawasawat, explained it the outlet this way: “It's like someone who has been working for decades and has never stopped. Overworked and tired, all the beauty of the beach is gone. We need a timeout for the beach.”
Overall, tourism to the Southeast Asian nation has increased dramatically, according to the report, from 10 million in the year the movie was released to 35 million in 2017.
Ironically, The Beach — which was based on a novel by Alex Garland — followed DiCaprio's character's quest to find the oasis, said in the trailer to the Danny Boyle-directed film to be “an urban myth, secret beach on an island that no one can get to.”Thailand often closes it's marine national parks from mid-May to mid-October, the AP notes. But a high-demand kept Maya Bay open year-round for nearly two decades.
In the process, marine biologists told the AP, sea life “virtually disappeared” and “a large part of the coral reef around the area is gone.”When they reopen the beach, only 2,000 tourist a day will be allowed at the property. Boats, meanwhile, won’t be allowed to anchor there — instead, going to the opposite side of the island.