by Rowena Santos
Maya Bay, Phi Phi Ley setting for the movie “The Beach”
The Phi Phi Island’s are hailed as the island “superstars” of Thailand, and it’s not surprising why that is so. Phi Phi Island’s beauty is said to be so amazing that when you approach them on a boat, it seems as though they rise from the water like a fortress. Tourists also love to come here because of the island’s laid back atmosphere.
Phi Phi Island’s are actually made up of six separate islands. The second largest island is Phi Phi Leh and it does not have any permanentresidents.
Even though Phi Phi Leh is uninhabited, it is frequently visited by tourists as it was made popular by the Leonardo DiCaprio film, “The Beach.”
The famous beach in the film is actually called Maya Bay. Even before the film was released, Maya Bay was already well-known to scuba divers. The popularity of Maya Bay skyrocketed after the film was released!.
The movie “The Beach” is based on the best-selling book of the same name, written by Alex Garland. It tells the story of young travelers who shunned society to live in a lagoon, hidden somewhere in Southern Thailand. 20th Century Fox thought Maya Bay was the perfect setting for making a movie about the story.
However, the film corporation thought the beach needed a few more improvements to fit Hollywood’s idea of paradise. Some sand dunes were altered, as well as grass and some coconut trees were cleared away to widen the beach.
Even though 20th Century Fox had set aside a fund for plans to returnthe beach into its original state, environmentalists believe that the damage to Maya Bay’s ecosystem had been done and that restoration was futile. Lawsuits were filed against Fox and some Thai government officials because of this.
After filming was finished, additional bamboo fences were placed to support the sand dunes and the vegetation was replanted. Unfortunately, the dunes collapsed after high tides and a huge storm happened around a year after the restoration. Because the dunes collapsed,sand poured into the sea and killed the coral.
20th Century Fox had done their best to return Maya Bay back the way it originally was, but many say that the place had not recovered yet when the storm happened.
Maya Bay is enclosed on three sides by 100-meter high cliffs and there are actually several beaches found in it. Most of the beaches are small and some of them disappear during high tide.
The main beach is approximately 200 meters long with very fine white sand. Colorful underwater coral and fish live in the extraordinarily clear waters of Maya Bay, making it one big reef.
The best time to visit Maya Bay is between November and April during the high season, as the seas are calm & access to the bay is easy.During the rainy season (June-October) visits to the bay can be affected by bad weather & heavy seas.
During this time however, Maya Beach gets really busy, we counted over 30+ boats when we visited April 2007, with at least 200 tourists exploring every inch of the bay!.