The sheltered Thai cove made famous by the movie "The Beach" will be closed indefinitely due to the damage caused by millions of tourists, which has left it looking "overworked and tired".

The news comes as authorities in the Philippines also moved to restrict visitors to Boracay, a tiny island once regarded as the world's most idyllic holiday spot.

The small white-sand beach at Maya Bay, on Thailand's Ko Phi Phi Leh island, was initially closed from June 1 due to an unsustainable influx of tourists since 2000, when it featured in the popular film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Thai authorities planned to reopen the beach this week but announced that it will remain shut to try to help it to recover from damage caused by the arrival of up to 5000 tourists a day, more than double its capacity.


The sandy beach, Thailand's most visited national park site, is only 800-feet long and 50-feet deep. It has lost much of its marine life and an estimated 80 per cent of its coral, due to harm caused by snorkellers, divers, boats, anchors and sunscreen-covered swimmers. Sand cover has also been disappearing.

Leonardo DiCaprio in the film The Beach.
Leonardo DiCaprio in the film The Beach.

"We need a time-out for the beach," marine scientist Thon Thamrongnawasawat said earlier this year. "Overworked and tired, all the beauty of the beach is gone."

In 2006, a Thai court ordered Twentieth Century Fox and other officials to pay compensation for the damage caused to Maya Bay during the filming of The Beach.

When the bay reopens, Thai authorities plan to limit visitor numbers to 2000 a day and to ban the use of anchors.

On Wednesday, the Philippines also said it would limit the numbers of tourists on Boracay when it reopens on October 26 after a six-month closure to allow it to rehabilitate.

The island, which spans slightly less than four square miles, received almost two million local and foreign visitors last year.

When it reopens, just 19,000 tourists will be allowed on the island on any day, along with up to 15,000 workers. Only half of its 12,000 hotel rooms will be allowed to be used and beachfront parties will be banned.

In April, president Rodrigo Duterte described the island as a "cesspool" and ordered its closure. This followed the release of video footage which showed sewage flowing into the blue waters.


Authorities also said buildings had been constructed too close to the shore and about a third of the island's 700 resorts were operating without permits.

The closure of tourist resorts in Asia is taking a heavy toll on local economies. Maya Bay is believed to generate about £9.5 million in revenue each year for Thailand. Boracay earns the Philippines more than £770 million each year.

Responding to criticisms of the closure by tourism operators, Thai official Songtham Suksawang said the measure was necessary to preserve long-term tourism to the famous beach and beyond.

"If we continue to exploit the natural heritage until it is beyond recovery, tourism would completely end since no one would come anymore," he told The Nation newspaper.

"Today the corals are growing steadily. If we open Maya Bay to tourists now, they will die and the lost marine ecosystem may take decades, not just years, to recover."