A long tail boat decorated with colourful flags and full to the brim with passengers, luggage and even the odd motorbike, leaves the pier at Hat Yao and heads towards the largest of the Trang islands in the Andaman Sea. Koh Libong gazes at us from the distance, covered with lush vegetation and – from where we sit – looks uninhabited. If it weren’t for the local people travelling with us on the boat, we might fantasize about being the first to set foot on it. All the ladies on the boat wear head-scarves and long sleeves in the scorching heat. It makes me self-conscious in my breezier clothes and I carefully pull my skirt over the knees and make sure my shirt covers the shoulders. Koh Libong is home to a small Muslim community. The people look more exotic here, it feels we are really travelling away from what we know and find familiar.

Koh Libong

As the boat reaches the halfway point between the mainland and the island, it suddenly stops. The men operating it start moving around and re-arranging things. Finally one of them appears with what we identify as a bilge pump (we lived on a boat for a while) and starts pumping the water from the hull of the boat. We are sinking! No-one seems too alarmed, just smiling and waiting patiently. So we feel re-assured, although I consider putting our passports in the dry bag. The men seem well versed in what they are doing (probably not the first time this has happened), and after a 15 minute stop, we slowly continue towards Koh Libong, still a foot nearer the water than when we started.

We reach the wooden pier and a row of canal houses greets us. A motorbike driver with a homemade trailer attached to his vehicle, offers to take us to the western side of the island where the resorts are. Koh Libong is the least visited of the Trang Islands, and on top of that it’s low season now, so until October a lot of the places stay closed. This works to our advantage as the resort where we end up staying offers us an amazing discount for a beautiful, luxurious bungalow on the beach. The call of the muezzin from the nearby mosque drifts through the palm trees. On reaching us it flushes us with a deep sense of peace. How I love that call when I travel in Muslim parts of the world! Well, unless our accommodation happens to be a few metres from the mosque, in which case I’m not enthusiastic about the 5AM call.

We travelled to the island to see the last of the magnificent and gentle dugongs, or sea cows, the mascot of this region. How despicable that people first make the animals almost extinct, then turn them into tourist attractions, as they are so hard to spot. There are about 40 dugongs still swimming around the island and grazing on the sea-grass that flourishes in the bay. So let’s see if we manage to glimpse one of these beautiful creatures while on the island.
Koh Libong Dugong Thailand