The famed Maya Bay in Krabi province will probably be reopened to tourists on Jan 1, with regulations in place to preserve the rehabilitated beach and bay from the ecological ruin it previously suffered.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa announced the tentative opening date on Monday.
He said Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park was in the final stage of building an improved pier on the island and defining the swimming zone for beachgoers.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation closed the bay on Phi Phi Le Island in June 2018 after its was overwhelmed by tourists, leading to the destruction of reefs and the marine ecology.
Although small in size, at just 250 metres long and 15 metres wide, the bay has drawn global attention since it featured in the Hollywood movie The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, filmed there in 1999.
The minister, in Krabi for a cabinet meeting, said reopening of the bay will come with strict conditions.
The number of visitors would be limited, and the time from 10am to 4pm, and each tourist would be able to spend only one hour swimming in a designated zone, to save the reefs being nurtured by park officials.
Boats would be allowed to anchor only in another bay on the other side of the island.
More than half of the corals suffered major damage before the bay was closed three years ago. At its peak, the bay was crowded by 4,000 visitors and 200 boats a day, far beyond the area's ability to handle.
Park officials have planted coral on reefs over more than 10 rai of the bay.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a Kasetsart University marine biologist and member of the national park's committee, suggested in 2019 that daily visitors should be limited to 2,400 a day and they be required to book trips in advance online.