Since starring in 90s films like What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Romeo + Juliet, and Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio has switched gears into environmental activism. The Oscar-winning actor has started his own climate change prevention charity, urged politicians to address global warming, and produced a powerful documentary to address how close we are to trashing the planet beyond repair.
Strange, then, to find environmental scientists in Thailand forced to step in and save a habitat made unsustainably popular by one of DiCaprio's movies. The country’s National Parks and Wildlife Department decided on Wednesday that Maya Bay on the island of Ko Phi Phi—the stunning beach that played a starring role alongside DiCaprio in The Beach—will close to tourists for four months every year.
According to the Associated Press, pressure from so many travelers looking for the Danny Boyle–directed film’s unsullied paradise has put the area's coral reef and marine life in serious jeopardy. The once-idyllic cove has been open all year round since the big screen adaptation of Alex Garland's novel came out back in 2000. It now sees 4,000 tourists and 200 boats a day, on average.
"Overworked and tired, all the beauty of the beach is gone," marine scientist Thon Thamrongnawasawat told AP. "We need a timeout for the beach."
The annual summer shutdown at Maya Bay begins this June. When it reopens, only 2,000 people will be allowed access each day and boats will have to anchor on the other side of the island. As well as helping the local ecosystem recover, the restriction on numbers might actually help the spot recover some of its allure again. Some young backpackers have been sadly disappointed to find it jam-packed with fellow human beings.
As for DiCaprio, he hasn’t quite given up on chasing utopias. Talking to President Obama at a South by South Lawn event in 2016, the actor appeared enthusiastic about Elon Musk’s idea of colonizing Mars. Let's hope we don’t end up spoiling our neighboring planet the way we have with this one.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Adam Forrest on Twitter.