Ko Libong, Thailand
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IN BRIEF :
Ko Libong (เกาะลิบง) is a largish island (5km x 5km) in the Andaman sea in the South West of Thailand. The nearest town is Trang.
Ko Libong is not as shiny and glamorous as its nearby neighbours Ko Kradan and Ko Ngai. Because of this, it tends to attract fewer tourists than other islands. It is known to people who prefer a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere rather than stunning, pristine beaches.
Libong isn’t noted as a snorkelling destination. The underwater visibility is usually bad, due to the shallow waters and the muddy underwater terrain on three sides of the island. There is some scrappy coral and decent fishlife off the beachy West coast, but your main problem will be trying to see it through the murky waters. Underwater visibility is worse-still at Spring tides (no Moon and full Moon).
Dugongs/sea-cows feed on the grassy-seabeds of the mangrove swamps on the East side of the island. The tourist Resorts (which are all on the West side) will sell you three-hour boat trips to try and find them.
There aren’t many hazards to worry about. There are no currents or jellyfish. Boat traffic is slow moving and tends to stay wide of the swimming area.
You wouldn’t go to Libong especially for the snorkelling, but if you are there, it is worth having a peer around to see what you can see.
People wanting better snorkelling should head to the next island, Ko Kradan, a few kilometers to the West.
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Public boats (from Hat Yao jetty, on the mainland) arrive in Ko Libong on its North side, at the main village, Baan Praow. All of the tourist accommodation is on the West coast, so you will have to pay a couple of bucks for a motorcycle & sidecar taxi to take you down to the South West corner.
Where the cross-island road hits the West coast, there is another muslim fishing village (Baan Laang Khao). There are a handful of modest tourist resorts to the North (/right) of the village and a couple more to the South.
The locals aren’t too fussy about keeping the village beach up-to tourism-cleanliness standards. You might find trash and broken bottles in the sand there, so watch where you are stepping if walking between the Northern and Southern resorts.
Near the resorts themselves, the beach is cleaner, but it is still wise to watch where you are stepping.
The island is 100m in diameter and is named Ko Gwaang (also spelled Ko Kwaang, เกาะกวาง) (=Deer Island), although not many people use its name. And you certainly wouldn’t fit many deer on it.
At low tides, there is a sandy spit exposed above the waterline and you can walk to the little island without getting your toes wet. Here is a picture taken from Ko Gwaang, looking back towards Ko Libong:
The waters on each side of the sandy spit are very shallow and (especially on the Northern side) there is a bed of sharp, unsightly coral-substrate exposed at half-tide and lower. It starts at the beach and stretches out a couple of hundred metres into the sea. It is not conducive to casual off-the-beach swimming.
Fortunately, La Dugong Resort (which seems to have been renamed “Relax Beach Resort”, lately) has a channel dug through the rocky substrate so their boats can get to the beach:
(at 1a on the map).
Use this channel to get to the actual coral reef beyond the rocky substrate. There is a small flag at the seaward end to indicate where it starts. At low tide, the channel is still is too shallow to swim in, so you will need something solid on your feet.
Just beyond the rocky-shallows is where most of the coral is. Your best bet for easy off-the-beach snorkelling in Ko Libong is to use the channel at 1a to get out to area 1b and just snorkel around there to see what you can see.
Area 1 – The West Coast (Resort-area) beaches
Actually, there is surprisingly good species-diversity in the corals in this part of Ko Libong. Here is one of the better patches I found. It has six or seven species, all gathered together in the same area.
The problem is that the patches of healthy coral are generally small and far-between, interspersed with large areas of brown/grey, dead stuff.
Aside from the corals, through the murk, you should see some fun reef fish.
There should be plenty of common reef-fish about (see my ‘common reef fishes in Thailand’ page).
Also look out for schoolers:
It is quite a long swim out to the little island, Ko Gwaang, but hard-core snorkellers might want to venture out there as the water is much deeper and you can find bigger fish there.
Area 1d – Around Ko Gwaang
So far, everything we have seen has been in a couple metres of water. But heading out to the seaward side of the small island, the water gets much deeper (the bottom is about 8m deep) and you might find some bigger fish and more interesting species.
I also saw a big Talang Queenfish flashing by, but the water was too murky for pictures. Here’s a library picture.
Generally in Ko Libong, the water is so murky, that the pictures need good scrub in Photoshop to even see what the subject of the photo is, but one day, I managed to charm these reef-fishies to come close enough to actually get a decent picture:
White Collared Butterflyfish
Blue & Yellow Fusilier
South of Ko Gwaang
The horizonal stripe down the side of this Whitecheek Monocle Bream (Scolopsis vosmeri) is an uncommon feature.
This vertical bar on the cheek is pretty standard, but I haven’t seen one with horizontal stripe before.
Pulling-in towards the beach between Libong Sunset Resort and Libong Nature Resort, the seabed is all sand. This makes for easy access to the water at low tides (it is much easier than struggling over the sharp, rocky substrate at 1b).
The sandy seabed here provides a habitat for some different species.
This Western beach with the tourist resorts (1a-1g) is your best option for swimming and snorkelling, but I thought I would also try a trip North to see if there was anything better.
A Trip North
About half of Libong’s West coast is sandy beach, and through a combination of swimming, rock-hopping and beach-walking; hardcore people can get all the way along the deserted West coast to the Northern tip of the island. From there, there is a nice view of the scenic, rocky coastline of the mainland and it is not far to the muslim village (Baan Praow) where the public boats arrive.
It is a long walk up the West coast and it can be tough-going in the sweltering heat of the day. I have made it up to the North West corner on previous trips (without a camera), but this time I took a camera with me and just focussed on the underwater world.
Coral-wise, it was all very disappointing. This stretch of the island is mostly sandy bottom, peppered with some constellations of silt-covered rocks.
But here we go anyway:
Of course, you could also swim round:
This is the last coral that you will be seeing.
Here is a short video of him shaking his groove thang:
I guess it was some kind of sea-louse. I have only seen them at the surface or in the shallows before. I didn’t know they were furry like that.
Having already swum 4km, I decided to cut my losses and stopped here at 2c.
If you are planning to walk the rest of the way to the Northern tip of the island, rock-hopping along the coast gets tricky at headland 2c. A better option is to use the raggedy road, set-back a hundred metres from the beach, and leading up to Baan Praow village in the North. If you have a shady hat and lots of drinking water, it is quite fun to walk along the road and explore the various side-tracks running through small farms and homesteads back to the coast. There is also a (?abandoned) National Park ranger-station there.
The road doesn’t run South to connect with the ‘resorts’ beach (=Area 1), but it is possible to follow the road the long way round (North, then East, then South) to get back to the main part of the island.
Ko Libong is somewhat famous as a home to the Sea Cow (Dugong). The Dugongs live on the marshy East side of the island, so to see them, you have to take a boat trip. The going price for a half day Dugong-spotting trip is 1500B per boat (up to two people); or 550B per person for larger groups. (Prices correct @ 2015).
I have spent lots of time diving with Dugongs in Egypt, so I didn’t need to visit the ones in Libong.
I’m not sure if there is scope to walk to the East side and just swim around looking for them, but if you can/do, then please keep in mind that they are a timid (and protected) species, so don’t do anything that might frighten them away from their natural habitat.
The Rest of the Island
From what I can see from boat journeys and satellite pictures, the North and East coasts are all muddy sand flats and mangroves – terrain not conducive to interesting snorkelling. Other than the areas 1 and 2, described above, I haven’t checked-out the snorkelling in other parts of Ko Libong (and am not planning to). If you want to explore further, there are a few roads around the Western half of the island and it is possible to rent motorbikes. It is also possible to rent kayaks.
There are some pleasant walks around the Western part of the island and, above the waves, you can expect to see Monkeys and Monitor Lizards most everywhere you hike.
The dry season is November to April. Try to avoid full-moon and no-moon periods if you want to snorkel, as the tidal range is wider and underwater visibility even worse than usual.
There are public boats from Hat Yao on the mainland to Libong’s North coast jetty. The public longtail boat should cost about 70B per person and leaves when the boat is full. From the jetty, you need to take a motorbike/sidecar down to the West coast resorts for about 150B. You could also charter a private boat in Hat Yao and ask the captain to take you direct to the resorts on Libong’s West coast. Private charters will be about 1000B per boat.
Public and private boats run all year round.
There are public minibuses from Trang to Hat Yao. They take about an hour and leave when full. They should cost about 150B. Catch the minibuses outside the ‘108 Convenient Store’ by the railroad crossing, 400m North of the train station. See my page on Trang and aim for ‘Minibus Station #1’ on the map. Or buy minibus tickets from the Travel Agencies near the Train station and the minibus will come and collect you from the Travel Agent’s office.
The Tigerline long-distance Andaman ferry (dry-season only) calls in at Hat Yao.
Libong Resorts (North to South) are:
-La Dugong (now renamed to ‘Libong Relax Beach Resort’, but still carrying some signage saying La Dugong)
-Libong Beach Resort
-Libong Nature Resort (possibly now renamed to “Bar and Bed Libong”).
Andalay is more upmarket, but all the others are similar to each other in their prices and standards. Accommodation is generally big wooden beach huts for around 800B. Or with aircon for ~1500B.
My favourite is Libong Beach Resort, which has a few smaller, cheaper huts (around 500B) for cheapskates.
Notable updates (from the above blog accounts on accommodation) are that the cheapo bamboo huts at Sunset and La Dugong resorts have been replaced with midranger woodens. There is no longer a dive-shop on the island.
There are one or two other ‘resorts’ dotted around other parts of the island, but they are targetted at domestic tourists and aren’t what most foreigners would consider to be a Resort. I believe that there are also a few homestays in the villages.
Libong has round-the-clock electricity and most resorts provide free wifi.
Most resorts rent motorbikes for about 1000B per day.
A few also rent kayaks. Sunset’s rates (@ 2015) were 200B for the first hour then 100B for each subsequent hour; or 700B for a whole day.
Resorts can provide day-long boat trips to nearby islands at about 3000B per boat (slightly more for islands that are further-away).
Visiting the local fishermen to haggle for cheaper boat prices doesn’t work, as they all whip-out the same laminated, standardised pricelist.
Libong is big with bird watchers in (?August??), when migrating waders call-in for a rest-stop.
Alternative Maps: 1
Originally written: May 2015 Last updated: November 2017