Maya Bay Phi Phi

by Guest

Koh Phi Phi is an archipelago off the eastern mainland of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. In recent years, development has creeped in, but not to the extent of many of the other Thai islands. Koh Phi Phi is particularly beautiful, with high limestone cliffs that traumatically rise out of the turquoise sea, covered in jungle like forest. Many of the guidebooks are adorned with photos of the picture postcard scenery of white sandy beaches and long-tailed boats, all found on Koh Phi Phi.

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Arguably, Koh Phi Phi is best known for Maya Bay, famously used as the filming location for ‘The Beach’, the movie adaptation of Alex Garland’s award winning book. The wrap around bay doesn’t go quite as far around as in the movie (some CGI was used), but it’s even more spectacular in real life. It’s simply to reach from Koh Phi Phi Don on one of the long tailed or speed boats as long as the sea isn’t too choppy. It’s not surprising that the spectacular beach gets seriously busy with tourists flooding in to seeing the film location, so don’t expect to visit in high season and have the bay all to yourself. If you want to visit the bay when there are fewer tourists, try visiting in the early morning when the other backpackers are sleeping or nursing their hangovers, or take the boat during low tide when the boats can’t cruise into the bay. It’s worth remembering that during this time you will need to swim the 50 metres to the beach from the edge of the bay. If you make your own way to the bay, you will need to pay at US $13 national park entrance fee, while the speedboats include this in the ticket price. There are no hotels or facilities on Maya Bay and it is not permitted to stay on the island overnight (unless it is on a liveaboard boat).

Maya Bay Thailand

Maya Bay. Photo by Shoufan

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While it’s not hard to find a boat to take you to the bay, Maya Bay Tours offers some interesting tours. The Maya Bay sleep aboard tour which allows you to see the bay in (relative) peace. You will be picked up from your hotel and taken to the harbour to board the boat which leaves at 3 p.m. Be sure to bring a change of clothes, camera, mosquito spray and swimwear. After departing, you will visit the famous Viking Caves where you will have some time for swimming, snorkelling and sea kayaking before continuing on to the bay. When you arrive, you’ll have the pleasure of watching all the other tourists depart back to Koh Phi Phi, the bay slowly emptying. At 6 p.m. you board the boat for a delicious Thai dinner and wait for the sun to set. When darkness arrives, you’ll don masks and fins to jump in to swim with the glowing bioluminescent plankton, one of only a few places in the world where they can be seen. It’s a truly awe inspiring site, one that you can see in the movie. The lack of light pollution around the bay mean you can see some incredible views of the stars. Back on board, you’ll enjoy a party in the bay with a bar serving up cold beer and Thai rum buckets, accompanied by music and the other guests on the boat. Over the day, you’ll have built up quite an appetite and the crew fire up a barbecue and cook chicken Thai style while the evening continues. Whenever you’re ready (though the noise will continue in the wee hours), you’ll be given mattresses, pillows and sleeping bags and you can find a spot on the deck to sleep or look up at the stars. In the morning, your crew will wake you early so that you can spend some time on the beach before the day trippers arrive. Grab those all important snaps for your social media, work on your tan or just marvel at the beautiful cliff faces. The crew will serve you up some breakfast of coffee and eggs and you can have some time for swimming before heading back to Koh Phi Phi, arriving at 10 a.m. It may not be the quietest of trips, but it’s one way to see the island without the hordes of crowds. Prices for the overnight trip starts from US $100 and includes national park entry fees, snorkelling equipment, dinner, barbecued food, water, fresh fruit, sleeping bags, mattresses, pillows, and a free Thai rum bucket.

Also read about: Lamai Beach

If you don’t want to overnight, the tour operator offers evening trips to swim with the plankton. Leaving at 3 p.m., you’ll have some time to explore the bay while the day trippers are leaving. When night draws in, you’ll be provided with fins and a snorkel to swim with the bio-luminescent plankton, an amazing experience that shouldn’t be missed. Back on board, enjoy a drink or two and dinner under the stars before the boat takes you back to Koh Phi Phi in the late evening. The cost of the tour starts from US $60 per person including guides, snorkelling equipment, dinner, national park entrance fees, kayaks, fresh fruit, and soft drinks.

Maya Bay Phi Phi

Also read about: Phi Phi Island Tour

The production film house 20th Century Fox has been embroiled in a long court battle after clearing away some of the beaches trees and landscape to make the bay more picture perfect. This included changing some of the dunes and clearing away a number of the coconut groves. Though Fox has used a fund to reconstruct the beach somewhat, experts believe that there was some permanent damage. Thai courts have upheld the lawsuits and are still looking into what damage has been made.

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The Thai government body in charge of national parks and wildlife are looking into how to curb numbers to Maya Bay. Over 5000 people visit the bay everyday which experts believe is quickly causing damage to the island. It’s a difficult situation because international and domestic tourists create over US $10 million in park fees each year, a significant revenue stream for the tourism department. If you are going to visit Maya Bay, be wary of the damage that you may be doing. If you think about the number of tourists which go, it may be worth looking at the other beautiful bays and coves which are more secluded and just as beautiful.

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