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.

Practise your straight horizon photos.

Practise your straight horizon photos. Photo: David Luekens

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.

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.

Peak hour

Peak hour Photo: David Luekens

Known as Haad Lang Kao, the main west-coast beach hosts Libong’s only four resorts. The sand is a mix of fine tan and grainy yellow, with more than enough space to go around. A sheet of offshore rocks get in the way of low-tide swimming, but you'll have plenty of depth to do the backstroke at high tide. 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, Ko Kradan and Ko Rok. On a clear day at high tide, Libong's beach scenery is just about equal to these islands.


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.

You may struggle to find space for your beach towel.

You may struggle to find space for your beach towel. Photo: David Luekens

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.





Possibly related discussions on the forum about Ko Libong

ko Libong / Ko Muk /Ko Jum Posted by woodyuk on 12 Feb 2016. 1 reply and 754 views
Kantang or Hat Yao to KOH LIBONG? Posted by clodee on 20 May 2015. 3 replies and 1,068 views
Ko Kradan or Ko Libong (or both?) Posted by maristia on 24 May 2016. 2 replies and 1,038 views

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