Photo: The beaches on Ko Libong can get very busy.

Introduction

The largest but certainly not busiest island in Trang province, Ko Libong lulls travellers into a simpler state of mind with its unusual landscapes, deep starry nights and Muslim fishing villages uninfluenced by mass tourism. Lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of an endangered dugong, but all will depart with a sense of experiencing something completely different.

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Close cousins of the manatee and more distantly related to elephants, around 130 chubby and amiable dugongs, also known as “sea cows,” feed on sea grass amid eastern mangroves that are protected as part of the Libong Archipelago Wildlife Reserve around Ju Hoi Cape, and sometimes closer to the resorts in the south. If you take one of the dugong-spotting boat trips, expect about a one in three chance of actually seeing one.

Don’t fret if you’re not able to spot a dugong — a poke around Libong’s varied 40 square kilometres of terrain reveals plenty of other surprises. The eastern reaches reveal a savannah-like landscape with cashew trees and long grasses growing out of fine white sand. Dense jungle covers inland hills, tapering into rubber groves and fruit orchards. Much of the west coast is graced with broad gold-sand beaches peppered with some interesting rock formations.

Practise your straight horizon photos.

Practise your straight horizon photos.


Do stop by the southeast-coast village of Batu Bute (and have fun pronouncing the name), home to a group of Muslim islanders who subsist off fishing and dwell in stilted houses over a picturesque bay. From here, a long cement walkway takes you many hundreds of metres out over the sea, ending at a five-storey observation tower that was built for dugong spotting but makes for a rewarding climb in any case — especially around sunset. Be respectful of the local customs by covering up when you’re away from the beach.

While we missed it on our last trip, Travelfish user Eric Portnoff also recommends a place known as Point Dugongs, which includes a fairly strenuous hike/climb leading through karst rocks to a dugong feeding area. To find it, he says to look for a dirt road running south off of the main cross-island road, about a kilometre east of Batu Bute. Wear decent footwear and bring plenty of water along if you go.
Peak hour

Peak hour


Known as Haad Lang Kao, the main west-coast beach hosts Libong’s only four resorts, with a new upmarket spot on the way at time of writing. The sand is grainy and offshore rocks get in the way of low-tide swimming, but the beach is nearly always empty. The usual tidal garbage gets cleaned up in front of the resorts, where hammocks strung to the trunks of umbrella and coconut trees afford a view out to Ko Muk and Ko Kradan.
You may struggle to find space for your beach towel.

You may struggle to find space for your beach towel.


Orientation
Visitors coming from the mainland arrive at the local pier in Baan Maphao, a small village on the east coast. From here, a narrow brick-and-cement road cuts south to Batu Bute before crossing the island to access the resorts. Reaching into the wildlife reserve on a wide eastern peninsula, and up into the hilly northern terrain with its isolated beaches, all of the other roads end at dead ends. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth exploring.
Just another sunset.

Just another sunset.


Ko Libong has no banks, ATMs or exchange booths, so bring along cash. A small health clinic is located near Batu Bute but anything serious will require a trip back to Trang town, some 50 kilometres northeast of the mainland pier in Hat Yao. Libong’s high season runs from November to April, with some resorts closing for the rainy months. All of the resorts now run electricity 24 hours a day.

 Browse places to stay in Ko Libong on Agoda.com. Free cancellation.

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