MAYA BAY, KOH PHI PHI (THAILAND)
If you love to travel, you’ve most likely seen The Beach, the 2000 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Millions of people saw it, and it seems like most of them ended up traveling to Maya Bay Beach on Koh Phi Phi, where most of the film was shot.
Sadly, the place is a paradise no more, thanks to seemingly endless hordes of tourists. If you visit during the middle of the day, you’ll mostly see it packed with long-tail boats and people. Many are rowdy and obnoxiously drunk, leaving a trail of litter in their wake. The only way to see the real beauty of Maya Bay is to find a boat that will bring you there early in the morning, or around sunset.
The bay is located on Koh Phi Phi Leh. You can’t stay there overnight, but you can stay on the nearby (and bigger) island of Koh Phi Phi Don. Another option is taking a Maya Bay Sleep Aboard tour, where you sleep on the boat near this spot and get to spend almost a full day here. –Sonal & Sandro of Drifter Planet
PERHENTIAN ISLANDS (MALAYSIA)
When we got to Malaysia, my partner Karen couldn’t wait to show me the Perhentian Islands. Having been there previously on a diving trip, she raved about these tropical paradise islands, with their white sand beaches and crystal clear waters.
Unfortunately, what we found once we arrived was more like Paradise Lost. Every day we would notice these weird brown patches floating in the ocean. To this day I’m scared to think what they were. All I know is that everyone avoided them.
What was once an occasional speedboat taxi had now turned into a sea full of them. To make matters worse, they were driven by teens racing each other, making what should have been a leisurely swim into a worrisome nightmare. One day we even had a helicopter land right on the beach, unannounced!
The Perhentian Islands are becoming a victim of their own success. Instead of trying to keep the natural balance of things, there seems to be more and more tourism-related development going on. Unfortunately, if this keeps going, the pristine beauty of these islands will be lost forever. It’s in everyone’s interest to help preserve the Perhentians before it’s too late. –Paul Farrugia of Globalhelpswap
TOURISM IN AUSTRALIA
ULURU (AUSTRALIA)
Australia’s most iconic natural attraction, Uluru (or Ayers Rock) is a symbol of the Outback that attracts more than 300,000 visitors every year. Believed to be millions of years old, this beautiful red rock juts imposingly out of the sand in the middle of the Australian desert.
Looming large at 1,142 feet, Uluru is considered a sacred site by the Indigenous Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land, and holds UNSECO World Heritage status for its ancient rock paintings. But mass tourism has caused numerous issues, provoking long-standing debates over whether or not tourists should be allowed to climb it.
Much of the controversy centers around respecting the Aboriginal community’s repeated requests that visitors not climb their sacred site. Tourists have been defecating, urinating, leaving trash, and vandalizing the rock face at the top of Uluru for years. Visitors have also been chipping off stones and defacing culturally significant engravings with name carvings of their own. As a result, a recent decision by local authorities will make Uluru off limits to climbers starting in October 2019.
To avoid the problems associated with overtourism, consider visiting during the wet season (January-March). The days are much hotter, but you’ll find very few tourists in the National Park. Early birds can head out for the base walk (6.5 miles, which takes around 3 hours) while everyone else is sleeping, getting close to the rock in complete silence. -Megan Jerrard of Mapping Megan.