Thai beach made famous in DiCaprio movie to remain closed until at least 2021

Maya Bay from 'The Beach' will be closed to tourists after an influx of people damaged the area's natural ecosystem

A view from Thailand's Maya Bay which is closed to tourists until at least 2021. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons 
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A Thai beach made famous in Leonardo DiCaprio's movie The Beach is to remain closed to tourists until at least 2021.

Once known for its pristine shorelines and coral-filled waters, researchers discovered that the region’s natural ecosystem was suffering from over tourism, up to 80 per cent of its coral was reported dead.

After a four-month closure last year, Thai officials have confirmed that the beach will stay closed until at least 2021, and possibly longer. The news comes after it was revealed that the original closure didn't give the natural ecological system time to rehabilitate.

Maya Bay became a bucket-list favourite after it featured in the 2000 backpacking blockbuster directed by Danny Boyle and starring DiCaprio as an American adventurer seeking escape at a pristine island in Thailand.

After the movie's release, the island saw a sharp uptake in visitor numbers and was hosting over 5,000 tourists per day at its peak. The influx of people caused mass environmental impact including coral reef damage, soil erosion and the uprooting of trees and vegetation.

Recent sightings of Blacktip reef sharks in the island’s waters are a promising sign of recovery that the extended closure hopes to build upon. But the shutdown has been criticised by some people in the Thai tourism industry considering the island draws around 38,000 visitors every year.

"Maya Bay is the heart of our tourism," said Wattana Rerngsamut, chairman of Krabi Provincial Tourism Association, who called the extension of the closure unfair. During the shutdown, the land entrance is sealed and boats are barred from dropping passengers on the island.