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A Visit to the Butangs

Sailing from Phuket and Langkawi

The Butang's are a group of about 15 granite islands approximately 27 miles to the northwest of Langkawi and 95 miles south east of Phuket in the Andamand Sea. They are within the Tarutao National Marine Park which consists of a total of 51 islands. The Butang group includes Koh Lipe, Koh Adang, Koh Rawi, Koh Butang, Koh Sawang, Koh Kata Koh Bulu and Koh Bitsi which are cloaked with lush rainforest, fringed with coral reefs and dotted with bays adorned with white sand beaches. The deep clear waters around this group of islands provide exceptionally good snorkelling and diving on well preserved coral reefs.

 

One of the smaller islands, Koh Lipe has water available all year and is the home of the largest permanent settlement, of approximately 800. The native community is a mix of Chao Ley, Muslim and Buddhist and the population has grown very rapidly since the regular ferry services have increased and also started coming from Langkawi.

 

The Chao Ley or Urak Lawoi more commonly known as sea gypsies used to lead a nomadic lifestyle travelling from place to place but the community on Koh Lipe has been settled for decades. The recent growth of tourism industry has changed their life dramatically, and not always for the better. It has become much more crowded and expensive, locals must make the most of the high season to survive the low rainy season.

James Bond Island Phuket

Cruising around the Islands provides many quiet and secluded spots. The water is deep around the Islands until the sea bed rises rapidly up to around 20 meters. Anchorages can be found on sandy shelves between 10 and 20 meters close to the fringing reef and rocks. Once the depth reaches 10 meters it is usually very close to very shallow reef which shoals rapidly from around 10 meters. The Park authorities will fine vessels who anchor on reef. Be very careful when using mooring buoys for over night stops they are only constructed of polypropylene rope and are often very close to the reef.
 
Tie up or lock dinghy's carefully in Lipe as there have been reports of dinghy's disappearing and then being offered back for cash.

Access from the mainland is via Pak Bara which is 60 miles from Satun. Ferries run into Koh Adang, Koh Rawi and Koh Lipe, which offer basic accommodation. There is also a ferry service from Langkawi to Koh Lipe with customs immigration facilities at both ends.

The area is so remote that most of the archipelago does not even have mobile telephone network! In other words: The perfect place to relax and escape the crowds. So we chose our personal cove, threw anchor just of the reef and enjoyed a sundowner accompanied by the sounds of the jungle. We went for quiet walks on the beaches, snorkled for hours between the corals just of the beaches watching the giant lobsters. On Adang Island we explored the lagoon just behind the beach where we got all excited at a glimpse of monitor lizards. On Butang island the cheeky monkeys come down right to the beach, so one better takes good care of one’s belongings as otherwise the monkeys will make use of it! The diving was amazing, probably the best diving of the western coast of Thailand: Clear waters and a surprising biodiversity with soft and hard corals, countless shrimp species, more reef fish than you will ever learn the names of, plus cat sharks, turtles and blue spotted sting rays. The latter are so numerous you better take care not to step on them when wading along the beach. The cat sharks, however, are very shy animals, so we were lucky to havetaken an experienced dive master along showingus where to look for them.

Vincent, Simon, Ricarda and Michael on their 5th Family Liveaboard and RYA Learn to Sail Holiday on Meniscus - April 2012

Anthony, Simon, Ricarda and Michael - Learning to Sail on Holiday
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Anchorages in the Butangs

A - Kho Lipe North Bay - Sun Set Beach

N 06 29.67 E099 17.89

Anchor about 200 meters off Sun Set Beach in around 12 m taking care to avoid the shallow fringing reef. Shallower anchorages may be found to the east with care to avoid the coral.

B - Kho Lipe East Bay - Sun Rise Beach

N 06 29.47 E099 18.34

This is not an ideal anchorage as there is a long shallow reef which comes up steeply from 20 meters. The anchorage is quite far out in 15 - 20 meters and would be exposed in the NE Monsoon

C - Kho Lipe South Bay - Pattaya Beach

N 06 29.11 E099 18.10

Keep well clear of the shore and enter the bay in the centre keeping in deep water as there is a shallow reef around the bay and also drying rocks on the western side. Anchor in 15 meters plus as the reef comes up rapidly from around 20 meters and it is best to ensure that you have at least 10 meters depth when swinging towards the reef. There are a number of bouys which are used by the local ferries which load and unload from floating docks and more peaceful spots will be away from these.

James Bond Island Phuket

James Bond Island Phuket

D - Kho Adang West - Northern Anchorage

N 06 31.5 E099 16.7

There is an extensive white sand beach running down the west side of Kho Adang with fringing coral reef which rises sharply from 10 - 12 meters. Anchor in 12 - 15 meters on sand close to the reef or just further north of this position is a sandy shallower area where the river flows when in flood.

 

E - Kho Adang West - Southern Anchorage

N 06 31.39 E099 17.0

Further south along the white sand beach is another spot. Anchor in 12 - 15 meters with possibly shallower areas opposite the river mouth.

 

F - Kho Barat

In the vacinity of N 06 31.6 E099 16.1

A popular area for snorkelling, there are mooring buoys and snorkelling lines at this postion which could be used for a day time stop but would not be recommended for over night.

James Bond Island Phuket

James Bond Island Phuket

Kho Butang - Monkey Beach

 

Find a good spot along this long sandy beach with two bays. The forest drops down to white sand beaches in small bays here. Monkeys come down on the beach often in groups. Whilst they may seem to be friendly and unperturbed by humans, they are wild, do not feed them and treat them with caution.

G - N 06 32.44 E099 09.98

Anchor in 12 - 16 m on sand just off the beach and clear of the reef.

H - N 06 31.68 E099 10.5

There was a mooring buoy very close to the reef, at the above position, which would not be recommended for overnight but could be used to tie stern too with the main anchor dropped in deeper water.
Anchor in 12 - 16m on sand just off the beach and clear of the reef.

Kho Sawang and the far Away Islands

 

I - N 06 30.29 E099 11.2

There are mooring and snorkelling lines at this postion which could be used for a day time stop but would not be recommended for over night.

The area is subject to strong tides and any swell would make this an uncomfortable spot.

J - N 06 30.25 E099 10.93
A mooring buoy is positioned in approximately 25 m but not recommended for overnight use and the area is likely to be exposed in all but the calmest conditions.

Kho Rawi

K - N 06 32.4 E099 10.2

Good anchorages can be found in passage between Koh Rawi and Koh Butang but the  current can be very strong and it may be subject to ground swell from the west. Care should be taken when snorkelling.
There is a shallow patch shown on the charts which makes a useful anchorage in 4 - 7 meters in the narrow passage between Koh Rawi and Koh Butang. Anchor closer to Koh Rawi.

Kho Rawi

L - N 06 32.4 E099 10.5

Anchor in 12 m just off the reef.

James Bond Island Phuket

Kho Rawi

M - N 06 32.5 E099 11.5

The National Park Ranger Station is based here and the area is a good one to get ashore, explore and even top with water. There are walks into the hills and to a water fall. Follow the stream and a black pipe passing around some ruins to reach the waterfall in around 45 minutes walking. It is also possible to walk across to the beach on the other side of the island.
On approach keep to the centre of the bay and watch for shallow areas avoiding the extending reef to the east. Anchor in 5 - 8 meters on sand close to the mangroves or in deeper water further out.

Kho Rawi Northern Bay

N - 06 33.001     99 10.615

This is a picturesque bay with excellent snorkelling. Anchor in the centre of the bay in 10 - 14 meters. It would not be recommended for overnight and is probably exposed to ground swell and squalls.

 

James Bond Island Phuket

Kho Bitsi - South Side

O - N 06 33.9 E099 20.5

 

Koh Bitsi is a small island northeast of Koh Adang with good holding close to shore on either the north east or South west coast. This Island is an excellent spot for diving and snorkelling but is exposed and likely to be uncomfortable even in reasonably calm conditions due to strong tide and swells.

Anchor in 8 - 10 meters on sand and broken coral. They is another anchorage on the north east side.

James Bond Island Phuket

 

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