The Sharks of Maya Bay

A pair of blacktip reef sharks cruise the sandy area of Maya Bay, Thailand

October 2019

Currently Maya Bay is closed to the public to allow human pressures to be reduced in the hope that nature will repair the damage done by 20 years of heavy, unregulated tourism. This was not a popular decision by many, however it was in our eyes certainly the right decision, and made by a government with a long term vision to protect their natural resources before they are all gone.

Maya Bay was made famous by the 2000 blockbuster movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo di Caprio. Since its launch, Maya Bay has become a must-go selfie location for any tourists to Southern Thailand. With anywhere from 2500 – 5000 tourists every day, arriving in hundreds of boats, all anchoring and destroying the delicate coral reefs found in the bay the destruction to the ecosystem has been devastating. At the time of closure the seafloor was devoid of any life.

Enter Ocean Quest and its founder Anuar Abdullah who in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Reef Guardians Thailand began the worlds largest coral reef restoration project. Ocean Quest trained volunteers working beside National Park staff and rangers have been planting coral for the past 16 months. (More detailed information on the Coral Propagation Project in an upcoming post.)

Since closure 16 months ago, life has started to come back at a rapid rate, proving that nature can come back if only given a chance. The highest profile species that has come back to Maya Bay, is the 100+ Blacktip reef sharks that have made the bay a nursery ground, something impossible to imagine just a short 16 months prior.

At 4am and the sharks can be seen under the light of the full moon cruising along the waters edge. With upwards of 200 million sharks being killed each year it is easy to lose hope, however thanks to the Thai Government and their forward vision places like Maya Bay become beacons of hope and show that properly managed and enforced marine protected areas do work.

Blacktip reef sharks cruise the shallows of Maya Bay at 4am just a few feet from the waters edge.
A shiver of blacktip reef sharks cruising the shallows of Maya Bay at low tide.
A blacktip reef shark in the shallow waters of Maya Bay.
A blacktip reef shark in the shallow waters of Maya Bay.