There is absolutely no escape from island hopping while visiting Langkawi on a leisure trip
Island hopping when in Langkawi is like Desert Safari when in Dubai or having a chair-lift and cable car ride when in Patriata or Ayubia. There is absolutely no escape from this activity when visiting Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah on a leisure trip. The island is a part of the 99 islands archipelago off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. These are in close proximity to the border of Thailand and hence the characteristic flora and fauna and matching landscapes of Langkawi can easily be confused with those of Thailand.
Langkawi is, indeed, tourist-friendly and welcoming to its core. The dwellers, here, are not only helpful but may even guide and support you with your photographs, suggesting angles for selfies, waiting for results and are all groomed enough to ensure that they are always in a tourist-friendly mode. If you are visiting the city from Kuala Lumpur, you may come across fellow passengers mostly clad in their shorts and bermudas, in a party mode even before the touch-down of the plane or even before the ferry or cruise touches the shores. While there is hardly any checking of your luggage, as is the case with other international destinations especially for green passport holders; lack of security personnel, overall relaxed attitude, visible proximity to the city and colourful dresses all around; it all makes you wonder if you have landed on an airport or in a theme park.
The word Langkawi usually denotes to a reddish-brown eagle, a look-alike of what we have in Pakistan. The city is a collection of resorts but one may think of the entire city as a huge resort on its own. You may just relax in almost any resort, or on the beach or may explore the city which has many things to offer. While the Langkawi Cable Car and Sky Bridge are two of the most popular tourist attractions here; some people also opt for a walk in the local market or spending a few hours at the local aquarium, the Underwater World. They can also select from different half-day tours to explore the islands where they can witness the most beautiful rainbows, flora in the brightest of green, sea the coolest blue and whitest of the sand they may have ever seen. The Eagle Square is one of the most iconic locations of Langkawi where a symbolic eagle sculpture, with stretched wings ready for a flight, has been erected.
Declared as World Geopark by the UNESCO in 2007, Langkawi Islands proudly boast three constituting conservation areas namely Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park, Kilim Karst Geoforest Park and Machincang Cambrin Geoforest Park. Half-day tours are both already prepared and customised, depending upon moods and choices of the visitors, which is somewhat close to the Galliyat tours in Pakistan and combination of different lakes options from Naran valley.
To avoid extra expenditure, it is recommended to bring in your own refreshments especially water and juices, swimwear and shorts, slippers, sun-shade glasses and caps. All of the required stuff is also available at the departure point but at a considerably steep rate. You might likely be needed to pay and borrow life-jackets at the start of the island-hopping as well. Just as in the case with the numerous 4-wheelers of Dubai’s Desert Safari, all the boats in Langkawi more or less go to same locations, while choosing different routes. Mostly the activity begins with boats departing from Teluk Baru Jetty in the Andaman Sea.
While enjoying the speed-boat ride within the crystal clear waters and mangroves forestation; Dayang Bunting Island (literal meaning Island of Pregnant Maiden) is the first stop where most of the boats stay for an hour or so. The island is surrounded by mangrove-covered mountains while engulfing a freshwater lake within. Once on the island, you have to hike for at least 15 minutes on the concrete stairs pathway towards the lake where one can swim, hire paddle-boats or just enjoy with children and family. While on the stairs pathway, beware of the aggressive monkeys who may force you to give up your refreshments. The lake is known as Pregnant Maiden Lake because the mountains of this island, from a specific distance in the open sea, resemble the silhouette of a reclining pregnant woman.
During the ride, the boats are stopped so that awestruck tourists can have ample opportunity to witness and capture the Mountain of Pregnant Maiden in their cameras. After spending around more than an hour, the boat heads to the next destination, Beras Basah Island (meaning Wet Rice Island) due to the texture and colour of the sand. The pristine white, sandy beaches perfectly complement the blue of the sky above and the sea below. This island is more commercial as it has a number of snack shops and refreshment outlets. More colourful flora and accessible fauna are on offer, while children can have a ball with games and shallow swimming. Many travellers hire or rent jet-skis, parasails and banana boats while others prefer to have a sun-bath or limited jungle trekking, if allowed.
The third and the final island in this island-hopping activity is Singa Besar Island (literal meaning Giant Lion Island). This quick stop is a wildlife sanctuary of eagles, peacocks, monkeys, snakes and hornbills which are mostly wandering freely. The boats stop in the open waters, instead of heading to the island. Over here another popular activity, The Eagle Feeding session, takes place which is orchestrated by the tour guides. The feeding session is of prime interest to European tourists. Somehow, Pakistani and Indians tourists are less interested in it, maybe because back home they witness such feeding sessions quite regularly. Despite its name, the island has no lions.
The amazing experience is also captured by the locals who, along with Langkawi- related souvenirs, can be found selling showpieces with one of your selected photographs from the trip.
The writer is a physician, a health care leader, and a traveller. He tweets @Ali_Shahid82