Thailand_Lipe environs

Ko Lipe Environs, Thailand

This site is mostly about off-the-beach snorkelling, but occasionally I’ll write about boat-trips, too.

Various tour operators run one-day snorkel trips around the National Park islands to the West of Ko Adang (North-West of Ko Lipe). There are two designated routes (Trip 1 and Trip 2;  also known as Program A and Program B).  All the operators seem to follow the same routes. Most of the snorkel sites are in roped-off zones – so I assume that the routes have been fixed by the National Park authorities.  You can book/start these trips on either Ko Lipe or Ko Adang.  I went on both trips 1 and 2.

On another day, I hired a kayak from Koh Lipe and paddled-out to two distant rocky islands off the East coast of Ko Lipe.

This page covers:
1 Snorkel daytrip “Trip 1”
2 Snorkel daytrip “Trip 2”
3 My independent kayak trip to Hin Khao (which is also known as Ko Bung Kang)
4 My independent kayak trip to Ko Tarang (aka Ko Talang / Ko Talak)

Maps of 1, 2 and picture of 3, 4:

Thai_LipeEnv0_004_Environs-places-map_P2180829_.jpg Thai_LipeEnv_010_Snork-map_P3221083_ Thai_LipeEnv0_006_Environs-East-of-Lipe-Aerial-Pic_P1122298.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

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Trip 1 (aka ‘Program A’)

This trip roughly followed the red line on the maps, above.

I did Trip 1 at the end of November 2012 (after Trip 2, which I had done the previous season).

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The first stop on Trip 1 was on the South side of the small island Ko Hin Ngam Noi (which, on some maps, is called ‘Ko Bu Rat’).

It had a good range of corals:
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All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

We stayed there for about 30 minutes.

The next stop was the main attraction of Trip 1.  Jabang/Chabang is an underwater sea-mount which is covered in beautiful Scleronephthya species soft corals.

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Even at low tide, the top of the sea-mount is a few meters underwater.  You will have to dive down about three metres to get a decent-view of the soft-corals.  If you are wearing a life-vest or planning on staying on the surface, you might find this area boring.  Several people got back in the boat after just five minutes.

There were a few schooling fusiliers around, but the main attraction was the soft-corals.
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There is also an attractive rocky island with a rock-bridge nearby. I think that this might be Ko Jabang itself.
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Next, we headed North (past Ko Hin Ngam Noi again) and tied-up on the South West side of Ko Yang (which is also marked as ‘Ko Kata’ on some maps).

The big patches of Bracket coral were the main interest here:
Thai_LipeEnv1_041_Yang_PB300762.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_043_Yang_PB300766.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_044_Yang_PB300773.JPG

Although there were some other coral species:
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And a few interesting fish species:
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We then headed over to Rawi island to sit on the beach and eat our (supplied) packed lunches.   These hermit crabs went nuts over a bit of dropped lettuce.
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It seems that most daytrip boats stopped at the very far right (Eastern) end of Ko Rawi, on Haat Saai Khao (White Sand beach), where the Ranger Station is. You can see it at the far-right of this picture.
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But we stopped a couple of km to the West. No problem – the beach was long and empty and beautiful and I guess that there’s less chance of getting hit-up for the National Park fees here.

After lunch, the activity was walking on the beach.
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I went for a snorkel instead.   About 40 metres off the beach, there was a fair-bit of coral, mostly Porites species (“Hump” coral), but with spots of other species, as well.

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Points of interest were some pretty green Chlorodesmis species algae:
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…some small Groupers
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…and a school of friendly Vanikoro Sweepers:
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Plus a few others
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When everyone was ready, we motored off East towards Adang Island.

There was a buoyed-off snorkelling area on Adang’s West coast (you can just-about see the buoys to the right of the picture).
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We parked on the beach and people decided for themselves whether to go in the water or stay on the beach.

There was a fair bit of current, running South to North and the underwater visibility wasn’t that great.

The coral was mostly patchy Porites species.
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But there were small patches of a other species.
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Notable fishlife here were some schooling Raccoon Rabbitfish and a Titan Triggerfish who was too interested in eating to run away like they usually do.
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Other fishlife (mouseover for names):
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Because of the adverse currents and the poor visibility, I ended up doing close-up photos in the shallow waters.
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That was pretty-much the end of the trip.  On the way home, we cruised down the West coast of Adang looking at the miles of beautiful beaches there.
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I booked this trip with the KohLipeThailand travel agency.  They’re the ones who make the free Lipe Maps at KohLipeThailand.com . They have two offices on Ko Lipe walking street. One is about five doors away from Pattaya beach and the other near is the top of the hill. They seem like very decent folk. They make your packed lunch and hand-out your mask and snorkel, but after that you are in the hands of your allocated longtail boat driver (who was fine, but don’t expect expertise in English).

The price was ~550B for an all day trip (0930-1630) including mask & snorkel, packed-lunch and drinking water.

It was a good day-out and well worth doing.

If I had to choose between doing trips 1 and 2, I would go for Trip 2, because of the better itinerary.
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Trip 2 (aka Program B)

Here’s those maps again: 1 2

Trip 2 follows the yellow line around the islands to the far West, which are sometimes known as Mu Koh Dong (Dong Island archipelago).

I went with Dangdee travel. Here is their written itinerary (program 2). It looks like it’s pretty standard – it was the same as the other operators around and I found the same tour on the web by yet another operator here.

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The first stop was to take a quick look at this fun rock formation. This is Ko Hin Sorn.

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Nearby, we were dropped off at a spot where there were about 15 other longtail daytrip boats. I think that this was Ko Sa Maung. There were lots of people in lifevests snorkelling around the surface inside a roped-off area.  I started by avoiding the crowds and went off and found some gorgonians and other bits and pieces :

 

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…then returning to the roped-off area, I saw that the attraction was some purple Scleronephthya species soft coral.  This was pretty deep (about 6 metres) and the visibility wasn’t great.  It was a lovely sight if you could dive down and get close, but it was all a bit hazy and distant from the surface.

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Next stop was on a small island about ten minutes away, possibly Ko Buloh. Here, there were lots and lots of anemones.  This is the sort of place where nemos usually live, but here, housing supply was exceeding demand.  The other boats had thinned out a bit – there were only about ten here and there was plenty of space to explore.

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The next spot, possibly Ko Lokoi, was all about the Blue/fire coral (Heliopora-coerulea).   Fields of it, stretching as far as the eye could see.   We were the only boat at this one.

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I spotted a filefish here:

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Next, we motored around the coast to eat our (supplied) packed lunches on a beautiful deserted beach on Koh Dong.

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There was an offer to go feed some monkeys on ‘Monkey Beach’, but we weren’t too keen on that, so we just stopped-in at the beach, waved at some monkeys and headed off to the next spot.

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The next stop was (probably) Ko Pung/Pheung, between Ko Dong and Ko Rawi.  Ko Pung is also known as Ko Raba, and is incorrectly shown on the Dangdee map as ‘Ko Usen’.

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This place had lots of pretty gorgonians, anemones and Scleronephthya soft corals:
 

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It was quite a long trek to the next stop. There is a beach on Ko Hin Ngam where it is a local tradition and source of good luck to make tall piles of balancing pebbles . (edit: I hear that, from 2103, there is a 100B charge to land/walk around on Ko Hin Ngam).
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Ko Hin Ngam was the next stop on the trip, but all being farangs, we weren’t too interested in this, so took-up the offer to go to a snorkelling spot on the South side of the island instead.

This (final) spot had a mix of features – some corals similar to those seen earlier in the day, some unusual red sponges, a lot of Christmas tree worms, some pretty reef fish like redfin-butterflyfish, and I spotted a moray eel swimming between two rocks:

           

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..then it was a straight run back to Lipe, passing along the South coast of Ko Adang on the way.

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All round, it was a good day-out and we got to see some stuff that you can’t find on Koh Lipe, itself.

The tour was by “Dangdee” and was booked through a small travel agent opposite the general store behind Varin2 resort on Lipe’s Sunrise Beach.  That’s their detailed routemap up the page.

There were 6 of us in a big longtail boat, which had a sunroof.  The trip ran from 0830 to 1600hrs and cost 600B per person and included a packed lunch.  This was in May. It may cost a little more in high season. Here’s that info link again to what seems to be the same thing.

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General observations about the Snorkel Trips:

There are numerous operators on Ko Lipe running these trips. They all seem to follow the same route, but check their detailed itineraries if there is somewhere in particular that you want to stop-off at. Operators will try to stagger things as much as possible so that not everyone arrives at the same snorkel sites at the same time.

That said, there are only a limited number of snorkel sites, so you can expect to find a lot of people there, especially during holiday periods.  Most people stay on the surface, so if you can dive-down, you will hardly know that they are there.

The more popular operators send dozens of people a day. They put about ten people into each longtail boat. If they have 60 people, they will send six boats. You won’t have to suffer an overcrowded boat.

Smaller operators will have fewer guests. My Dangdee trip only had six of us, which was nice and friendly.

Please be kind to your boat driver, he likely doesn’t speak very much English and if your vegetarian meal didn’t get loaded onto the boat, there is nothing he can do about it, no matter how much you shout at him.

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The trips are all in the Tarutao National Park grounds. Technically, you have to pay the Park entrance fee.  For foreigners, this is 200B . In reality, you only have to pay it if a Park Ranger boat  comes over and asks for the money. Keep the receipt – it is good for five days and you might want to go on another trip.

One longtail driver kinda, sorta suggested that I pay him the 200B. That’s not how it works. Only pay Park Rangers in uniform.

Edit: I hear that, from 2103, there is a 100B charge to land/walk around on Ko Hin Ngam.  I assume that this is a kind-of ‘mini Park entrance fee’ and if you have already paid the 200B Park Fee, you don’t have to pay again to land on Ko Hin Ngam, but I’m only guessing.  Unless you are into building piles of stones, you could easily skip the walk on Hin Ngam and go for a snorkel instead.

Operators provide a meal & drinking water and mask & snorkel. Bring swimwear and suncream and 200B in case you get charged the National Park fees. Bring not-much else. If you bring a camera, put it in a waterproof bag or have something that you can use to hang it from the roof of the boat while you are swimming.

If you go from Ko Lipe, you can buy a trip ticket per person (about 600B).  If you go from Ko Adang, you have to hire the whole boat (about 3000B) and share the costs between your party. Obviously, this can be expensive if you only have a few people.  It is also possible to get a ‘per boat’ price from Lipe, if that suits you.

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Alternative maps: There is a clearer map here by Satun Divers, and an official Tarutao Marine Park map, with locations of the main attractions is here. There are some more maps on the main page for Tarutao Marine Park here.

Update: I notice that in 2013, the itinerary for the “ThaiBeachTravellers” Trip 2 (Program B) has had Jabang added to it. Trip 2 was always the better of the two, but the addition of Jabang makes it a hands-down winner.  The list-price is 650B.    Their full itinerary  Ko Hin Sorn; Ko Lugoi; Ko Dong; Ko Pung; Ko Bulu; Jabang

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I haven’t got round to writing-up 3 and 4 yet.  Here’s a few short notes, for now:
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All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

3 My independent kayak trip to Hin Khao (aka Ko Bung Kang)

There is a small rock about 1 km North East of the North East corner of Ko Lipe. Not Ko Kra – much further out. Many maps show a quite-big island here called Ko Bung Kang.  Two maps (the National Park ‘white billboard’ and one of the Urak Lawoi ones) show it a small rock called Hin Khao (white rock).  As it is actually a small rock that is kinda white, let’s go with that name.

I rented a kayak from Tarutao Cabanas for 500B a day and went out to this small rocky outcrop.

Here are a few snaps

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4 My independent kayak trip to Ko Tarang (aka Ko Talang / Ko Talak)

You can see Ko Tarang from Sunrise beach on Lipe – sitting tantalisingly off in the distance.  I have often wondered whether you could swim out to it (you can’t, btw -it’s a long, long way and the currents are strong).

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That’s it in the far distance. (Picture taken from south Sunrise beach, with Ko Usen in the foreground).

As I had some time left-over at the end of trip 3, and the sea was nice and calm, I decided to check it out by kayak.

It was about an hour’s paddle from Hin Khao and another hour back to Ko Lipe.

 

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Thai_LipeEnv4_TEMP_PB290632.JPG Thai_LipeEnv4_TEMP_PB290662.JPG Thai_LipeEnv4_TEMP_PB290691.JPG Thai_LipeEnv4_TEMP_PB290693.JPG Thai_LipeEnv4_TEMP_PB290697.JPG

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Summary

I went to Adang, Ko in Khao and Ko Talak in one day.  It was a big of a slog by kayak and I wouldn’t want to do it if there was any wind/waves.  You can charter a longtail boat to do private trips. I think they are around the 1500B for a half day.

Btw, on the subject of kayaks, I notice that as of 2013, one place on Lipe is advertising Glass-bottomed kayaks – “Benji Glass Kayak at Forra Pattaya Resort”.

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Written: May 2012    .  .  .       Last updated: Jun 2014

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10 responses to “Thailand_Lipe environs

  1. The rate for this daily snorkelling tour is the same in high season.

  2. Excellent website. Thank you. It is much easier to justify travelling halfway across the world if you have a better idea with regards to what you can expect. Snorkelling is such fun but it is not easy finding great spots. Good work!

  3. As at November 2015, the park fee is collected when you arrive at Lipe….get off the ferry onto the floating pier and pay 200B + 50B for the long tail boat to shore. So remember to take your ticket with you and you “should” not have to pay again. They don’t publicize this, but it’s what I was told when I asked ….never had to test it out though, did not see any park rangers.

  4. Thank you for your excellent insight. We are staying on Sunrise Beach on Lipe right now and, following a fabulous afternoon snorkelling off the northern end of the beach, your knowledge has helped us decide on tomorrow’s trip out on the water. Itinerary 2 it is, possibly on our own private long tail if we decide to splash out!

  5. Thanks for your review. Did you have to dive down 3 meters to see the soft coral at both locations or just at Jabang? If so, do you know If you always have to dive down pretty deep to see soft coral? I see quite a few pictures of the baby giant clams in your photo’s above. I read your blog about Ko Tao from a few years back and you said that they didn’t have any of the giant clams at Ko Tao. I just went in June and they had the baby Giant clams at all the snorkeling locations we went to. The dive shops on Ko Tao have been planting them along with other types of coral and removing the coral eating snails and star fish. I put video’s of each bay we snorkeled on Ko Tao into a trip advisor travel article. I think all of the bays had the giant clams. They have amazing color. I used a Sony AS100 action cam with an underwater housing. The camcorder had an underwater color setting that worked pretty good.

    • Hi there

      Yes, I have seen your article on Trip Advisor – very good stuff 🙂 – always good to let people know what they are in for….

      Did I say that I didn’t see the small clams in Tao? If so, I lied! I have pictures-up of them in Mango Bay and Hin Wong Bay. The smaller ones (15-30cm long) are fairly common throughout Thailand. The really big ones (70-120cm) are actually a different species (Tridacna gigas, Giant Clam) and these are extinct throughout Thailand. It would be interesting if someone was reintroducing those….

      About the Scleronephthya soft corals near Lipe (the ones in Jabang), – they were also at Ko Sa Maung and Ko Pheung and, yes, they were a few metres down at both.

      If you were lucky to have a day with clear water and arrive at low-tide, then you’d have a reasonable view, still.

      Most of the instances I remember seeing this species, they weren’t growing very near to the surface. They like strong currents – perhaps closer to the surface there isn’t enough constant flow.

      The shallowest ones I can think of nearby are at White Rock in Ko Bulon, but again, there are a metre or two down….

      I hope that helps some
      all the best…

  6. Hi hi, I love reading your detailed materials on off-the-beach snorkelling, very interesting and unique. We just visited Koh Lipe on March, 5-9 for 5 days. It was fantastic and we couldn’t wait too long and wish to go again around Oct/Nov… but I worry it won’t be good at snorkeling at that time… Or should we go for Koh Tao / Ko Kradan ? What would you suggest ? all the best to you, Theresa

    • Hi there

      October is a difficult month. West coast (Lipe and Kradan) are at the end of wet season and underwater visibility will probably be bad. It might pick up in November as we move into dry season, but you are still pusihing your luck.

      East coast (Tao) is probably a better bet, but it is appraoching the end of the East coast Dry season and may or may not be OK. I think Tao is your better option, but do some more research into your dates and the detailed weather reports there…

      HTH

  7. Hi,
    Thank you for the effort put into your blog! Its lovely .. and such priceless information and gorgeous photos!
    My family is looking at visiting around mid to third week August. Will visibility be good? I thought I read somewhere that visibility is better low season and weather is still ok despite being ‘rainy’ season as the rain doesn’t last long. Not sure if I can trust that?
    LovelyBee

    • Hi Bee I haven’t been there between May and September. As I understand it, uptop there is only an hour or two’s rain a day, so you should still get some sun, but that the choppy waters and rainwater runoff from the land does bring the underwater visibility down.

      I hope you have a good time – let me know what you find about the visibility 🙂

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