Langkawi, officially known as Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah, is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea. It is separated from mainland Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca and used to be a haven for pirates until the British disbanded the pirate’s land bases in 1945. Transformed from a sleepy island into a major tourist resort in 1986 it continues to attract millions of visitors a year, many of whom for the duty-free status of the island.
We chose Langkawi for our penultimate destination to relax, enjoy the beautiful beaches and explore the geoparks that the island is famous for. Almost two thirds of the main island is dominated by forest covered mountain, hills and natural vegetation so it is a haven for wildlife. Our accommodation was in Pantai Cenang which has several beaches and a good selection of bars/restaurants. Having splurged out a little more for a “superior” room in a resort, we were disappointed with the first impressions of our room. It was clean, but the towels were ragged and stained. Also, on the wall they’d clearly tried to over up marks but had used paint that was about 5 shades darker than the original colour. Never the less, we’ve seen worse and the main thing was that it was clean and comfortable.
Arriving at the start of September, the start of their wettest month in the rainy season, days varied from hot and humid to hot, humid and wet. On one of our first few days we were woken early in the morning by a thunderous storm to find that the resort had flooded with water levels more than ankle deep. On another day I couldn’t resist taking a picture by a sign stating “more sun this way” in the middle of a massive rain storm! On the positive side, we were informed that the wet season is the best time to see some of the flora and fauna, with many migratory species arriving onto the island during this time.
During our first few days in Langkawi we explored the town, beaches and relaxed in the resort. We were surprised to find much wildlife only a short walk from our resort in the evenings; families of long tailed macaques and hornbills roosting in the trees. Sunsets were also very pleasant with the storm clouds creating interesting patterns in the sky.
On the Tuesday evening we decided to partake in the local pub quiz in Bam Boo Ba, which was run by a fellow Scot. Our plan had been to have a few drinks at the quiz then return to our chalet but that’s not quite how it turned out! We came second in the quiz, winning a crate of beer, so not bad for a team of 2! Sharing our winnings, we got chatting to other people in the bar then continued with the crowd to another 2 bars before finally calling it a night after 4am! Needless to say, the following day was a right off and we’ve once again vowed never to drink again!
A few days later, when we’d recovered from our hangover, we arranged a tour to Kilim Geopark with Junglewalla Tours. It started with a 45-minute ride to Kilim Jetty where we took a 2.5-hour boat ride through the park. Langkawi was granted World Geopark status by UNESCO in 2007 but in 2014 it was issued with a yellow card. I have searched for further information but after finding lots of links I have been unable to open any of them here in Malaysia so one can only wonder. However, knowing what UNESCO stands for I can only assume that the yellow card was given due to failure to conserve the local flora and fauna.
When we visited we saw lots of tour groups feeding the white bellied sea eagles and the Brahminy Kites with chicken skin encouraging the birds, that normally live alone or in pairs, to flock to the river. We also saw the tour groups feeding the macaques later too. I was appalled but when I questioned it with our guide she confirmed that whilst her company refused to partake in such practices, approximately 70% of the tour operators in this region were feeding animals. She said that laws were being passed by the government this year to deter this behaviour but didn’t seem overly confident that it would resolve the issues.
The tour through the mangrove area was interesting and we were surprised to learn that since the tsunami in 2004 no crocodiles have been spotted in any of the 3 river estuaries within Kilim Geoforest Park, when before they were very prevalent. At one point a naughty macaque joined us on the boat searching for food and we were intrigued to hear that they become aggressive when humans feed them, not because they want to food but because in their hierarchy the food giver is the lower rank, therefore by feeding a macaque a human is basically admitting to being of a lower rank. Despite its small size the macaque’s ego tells them that they are the superior species. I can’t disagree with the reasoning! Those who choose to feed wild animals most definitely deserve to be of a lower rank in this world as they are too stupid and arrogant to understand the consequences to of their actions!
Having enjoyed our Geopark Tour with Junglewalla we arranged a further tour later in the week to visit the rainforest after dark. This started with a 45-minute drive to the base of Gunung Raya, the highest peak on Langkawi Island. From here, we drove up the mountain slowly looking for wildlife using binoculars. We saw more long tailed macaques, the shy Dusky Leafed Monkeys, Hornbills and various other bird species. Our guide informed us that the numbers of Hornbills in this area have decreased by more than half over the last few years due to poachers killing the animals to sell for Chinese medicines on the black market. Once again, we learn of yet more devastation to the wildlife populations and a pure disregard for nature. We finished our tour with a night walk through Lubuk Semilang where we watched the spectacular flight of the Giant Red Flying Squirrels.