Thai authorities are still unsure when they will reopen Maya Bay, a tourist hotspot made famous as the setting for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach.

The beach on Thailand's Phi Phi island has been closed to visitors since June 2018, due to concerns that tourists were contributing to the destruction of its coral ecosystem.

While the BBC has reported that sharks have returned to the area and coral is starting to recover, experts say it may take decades for the ecosystem to fully mature.

Maya Bay was the setting for Danny Boyle's film The Beach, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio. Photo / Getty Images
Maya Bay was the setting for Danny Boyle's film The Beach, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio. Photo / Getty Images

The British broadcaster was recently granted access to Maya Bay on a snorkelling expedition to check on the progress of the area.

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At present, tourist boats are only allowed to come within 300 metres of the bay.

Kritsada Theerawut, a diver with Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, took the BBC's crews into the water to show how coral was slowly starting to grow at Maya Bay.

However, he said a full recovery could take many years.

Marine scientist Thon Thamrongnawasawat told the BBC that blacktip reef sharks had started visiting the bay and three female sharks had given birth in the area.

"There are big changes. We now have 60 sharks and before we had no sharks," he said.

"We need to take a break and give Mother Nature a chance and we will be proud that this generation left something for the next generation."

While the situation has improved, it seems unlikely that Maya Bay will be open to tourists any time soon. Authorities are still trying to figure out how many daily visitors would be sustainable.

The closure has also had an effect on businesses in the area that rely on tourism.

Hordes of tourists flocked to Maya Bay after the release of the film The Beach. Photo / Getty Images
Hordes of tourists flocked to Maya Bay after the release of the film The Beach. Photo / Getty Images

Some had cancelled trips to the island because "they couldn't go to the selling attraction," Ekawit Pinyotamanotai, president of the tourism council of Krabi, told the BBC.

Maya Bay's popularity is due in part to Danny Boyle's hugely successful film The Beach and the novel by Alex Garland on which it was based.

After the film's release in 2000, tourists began flocking to the island – with reports of 5000 visitors every day.

All parties agree this damaging level of tourism was far too much for the 300-metre strip of beach and will not be allowed to reach again.