Ko Phi Phi Le or Ko Phi Phi Leh (Thai: เกาะพีพีเล, RTGS: Ko Phiphi Le, pronounced [kɔ̀ʔ pʰīː.pʰīː lēː]) is an island of the Phi Phi archipelago, in the Strait of Malacca. It is in Krabi Province of Thailand and is part of Hat Noppharat Thara–Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park
Ko Phi Phi Le is the second largest island of the archipelago, the largest one being Ko Phi Phi Don. The island consists of a ring of steep limestone hills surrounding two shallow bays, Maya Bay and Loh Samah. During low tide, Maya Bay cannot be accessed directly from the sea via boat, due to shallow waters and coral. Therefore, boats must anchor at the deeper Loh Samah, requiring people to walk through a short section of rocks and jungle to reach Maya Bay itself. There is also one large shallow fjord like inlet called Pi Ley with a small coral reef at the entrance. The Maya Bay area harbors bioluminescent plankton.
Filming The Beach
Controversy arose regarding the 1999 production of the film The Beach, released February 2000, due to 20th Century Foxbulldozing and landscaping the natural beach setting of Ko Phi Phi Le to make it more „paradise-like“. The production altered some sand dunes and cleared some coconut trees and grass to widen the beach. Fox set aside a fund to reconstruct and return the beach to its natural state. Nevertheless, lawsuits were filed as many believed the damage to the ecosystem is permanent and restoration attempts failed.
The lawsuits dragged on for years. In 2006, Thailand’s supreme court upheld an appeal court ruling that the filming had harmed the environment and ordered that damage assessments be made. Defendants in the case included 20th Century Fox and some Thai government officials.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation claims to be investigating ways to control tourist numbers amid concerns that visitors are destroying the environment at marine tourism spots. The move was prompted by marine scientist Thon Thamrongnawasawat, who posted photos of large numbers of low-season tourists packed onto small Maya Beach. According to Mr Thon, during low season 2016, about 5,000 tourists a day crowd onto Maya beach, which is just 250 metres long. The beach has 14 available toilets. The tourists are worth 1.6 million baht a day to the park. Thon said that state agencies were running campaigns to drum up tourist numbers with no regard for the environment’s carrying capacity.
Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi Marine National Park as a whole, from October 2015 to May 2016 generated revenues of 362 million baht from 1.2 million tourists, 77 percent foreign.
In March 2018 Thai authorities announced that Maya Beach would be closed to tourists for four months to allow it to recover from environmental damage due to excessive visitor numbers. The beach receives an estimated 4,000 visitors per day, while 200 boats per day set anchor in the bay. Surveys by marine biologists have found that 80% of the coral reefs surrounding the bay have been destroyed by long-term boat traffic and pollution; marine life is virtually nonexistent as a result. When Maya Beach reopens visitor numbers will be limited to 2,000 people per day and boats will have to dock outside the bay.