Thailand_Bulon-environs

Ko Bulon Ley environs, Thailand

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It will be a while before I get a chance to write this up properly, so here’s some rough-and-ready notes and a few pictures in the meantime. A fuller and shinier version with lots more photos will replace this someday when I get the chance.
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Ko Bulon Lay is a small island about 80km North West of Satun in South West Thailand. It is usually reached from the port at Pak Bara – the same port used for Koh Lipe and the islands in the Tarutao National Park.

There are a few islands in the Bulon Group. Ko Bulon Lay is the only one with a tourist infrastructure. There is a separate page about the snorkelling on Ko Bulon Lay over here.

This page is to describe other snorkel sites that are near, but not on, Ko Bulon Ley.  Specifically:

1 A longtail-boat snorkel trip to White Rock, Ko Ma, Ko Gai, Ko Rang, Ko Bulon Maipai
2 Two little rocklets South of Ao Muang on Ko Bulon Lay
3 A little rocky island with a lighthouse, North of Ao Panka Noi on Ko Bulon Lay

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All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

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1 Bulone Resort Snorkel trip

Some folks I met had booked up a half-day longtail boat snorkel trip with Bulone Resort and asked me to come along to share the costs. The cost being 1500B per boat.

Bulone resort have map of the route. That’s the one on the right, with the white background.

The main attraction is the first- stop – White Rock (1a).
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There are a couple of big rocks at the surface, but the point of the visit is an underwater rocky seamount which is covered in Scleronephthya species softcoral.
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Similar to Ko Jabang, the soft coral is 2-3 metres below the surface of the water, so you will have to dive-down underwater to get the fully glamorous perspective. On the day we went, there was a bit of current running, so you had to either fight against it or just accept that you will only get a look at the coral during your flyby. Your boat driver will pick you up on the other side (and maybe take you back for a second go).

Some folks who went a few days later said they couldn’t enjoy this place because of the strong current and low visibility.

Either way, try and go at low tide and you will have less of a dive-down to get close to it.

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The next stop was at small island, Ko Maa (1b).

The notable point here was some different coral species from the norm – notably some bracket corals. There were also a few Nemos around.

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The next stop was further round at Ko Ma (1c), on the South side.
Again, there were some different species of coral here including some Fire/Blue coral and some blue Porites.
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We all pottered around the reef, finding a Juvenile Many-Spotted sweetlips and a Lionfish, hiding underneath the Porites coral.
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The trip would usually continue-on to Ko Bulone Mai Pai, but we had been taking our time on the previous sites, so didn’t have time to go there. This was fine, we had been given a choice earlier-on and preferred to take it slow in the first three places. I understand that there is a Muslim fishing village on Mai Pai, which is touted as an attraction.

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That’s all for this trip. Go if the visibility is OK during your visit or if you have enough people that the price is right. I have some more photos that I’ll upload someday.

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2 Rocks near Mango Bay / Ao Muang on Ko Bulon Lay

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This was my favourite spot for ‘off-the-beach’ snorkelling at Ko Bulon Ley. But it’s quite a long swim, so it is only suitable for ‘hard-core’ snorkellers.

These two rocks, sticking out of the sea, are easily spotted from Mango Bay or from the beach near Pansand Resort. Someone said that the rocks were known locally as “Morning Rock” and “Evening Rock”, which I guess would be Hin Chao and Hin Yen, although I haven’t found any maps which name them.

About 5 metres below the surface is some attractive soft-coral, similar to that found at White Rock (above).

Exploring around this area reveals the occasional sprig of beautiful branching softcoral.

But let’s enjoy the journey, as well as the destination. As you swim the 1 km through the murky waters between Mango Bay and Morning/Evening Rocks – have a dive-down to the bottom (at ~5 metres depth). If you scout around, you can find some big patches of this attractive frondy soft-coral (probably Rumphella species ).
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Underwater visibility was only about 4 metres when I was there – so you just had dive down blindly, as you can’t see where you’re going until you are almost there.

Photoshop does a good shop of taking the murk out of photos and these pictures scrub up pretty nice:
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Unfortunately, in reality, there is much more of a yellowy-browny haze over everything.

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One day, I saw a cute Indonesian Sweetlips skulking near the bottom.
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As you arrive at the rocks, most of the best soft coral is on the Bulon-side of the rocks, slightly to the right and about 7m back from the rock. (There is also some good stuff to the left of the rock). To the right, there are several little clumps like this:
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Again, you’ll just have to take your chances and dive down blind, as you won’t be able to see anything from the surface.

Occasionally, there will be a few reef fish around, throwing some shapes.
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..and some other passing animals. Check-out these Long-Jaw Mackerel – swimming around with their big mouths open, eating whatever they can.
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Or these baby squid (there were often schools of about twenty of them around):
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Once, I made a blind-dive down and almost landed on top of a huge passing Eagle Ray. She didn’t stick around for souvenir photos.

On the outside face (furthest away from Bulon) the rocks plunge sharply down to a seabed at about 10 metres. You might find some Trevally here, larking about in the open water.

Don’t forget to look on the underside of the rocks where this bud coral likes to live in the shade.
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I also found this (??) worm here, all coiled-up like a blossoming flower. (edit: Catherine and Joe have kindly commented that these are actually Nudibranch eggs):
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The East side of the rocks has a quite steeply sloping slope going down to deep, deep, deep. If you are into pushing your limits, this is a good spot to hold your breath and discover some interesting patches of who-knows-what?

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Back on the Bulon side, but closer to the main-island and further away from the rocks – some dedicated searching revealed quite a lot of these little fellas:
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Aren’t they cute? I have dozens of photos of their friends that I’ll upload someday.

But in the sea-creature beauty pageant, not much tops a pretty nudibranch. This little lady was only about 2cm long. It took about ten dives down to 6 metres to get a decent snap of her, but I think it was worth it.
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Tips for this area:

Only come here if you are a confident swimmer. If you can’t dive down to at least 5 metres – don’t come at all – there is nothing to see in the shallows. If you are coming, aim for low tide – it will cut 1.5 metres off the depth you have to dive to.

Watch out for speedboat ferries. The two that go from Lipe to the Trang Islands pass way outside the rocks and aren’t a problem, but the one that just goes from Bulon to Pak Bara (around 2pm) shoots between the main island and Morning/Evening Rocks – just where you might be making the journey out to the rocks.

Mostly, there wasn’t too much current around, but on a couple of days it was running parallel to the coast of Ko Bulon Lay and you could hardly swim against it (with fins). Diving down 6 metres through turbid waters to find the same spot you saw a minute ago was a non-starter. Safety-wise it wasn’t much of a problem as you can find a rock-hopping way back home even if you get blown off-course when returning to Bulon Lay.

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3 That rock with the lighthouse on it

I get intrigued by rocks on the horizon. You can see this one from all the Northern and Eastern beaches on Ko Bulon Lay.
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I decided to swim out there to take a look. It is over an hour each way, so is not recommended.

Actually, it is generally not recommended. There isn’t that much to see.

At the East end, there is some OK coral and a few reef fish:
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And, at the West end, it is all rugged-rocks:
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The highlight was some good fun-and-games with some pelagic fish who were hanging around the upwells and currents at the West end:
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We played tag and ‘Dances with Trevallys’ for quite a while.

I’m not sure if they thought they were going to eat me or eat the scraps of whatever else I was going to be eating.

Poor fools – they went hungry either way.

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That’s it for now – here’s the main Bulon Lay page, with details of logistics, etc.

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Originally Written: Nov 2012          .    Last updated: Nov 2012

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