Langkawi and its surrounding archipelago of 99 islands is smothered in lush rainforests, mangrove byways and towering limestone foundations. The area is your best chance for immersion into some of the world’s most diverse nature reserves.
A boat tour through the Langkawi Geopark, given a World Geopark status by UNESCO in 2007, is a great introduction to the area, consisting of three conservation areas: Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, Machincang Cambrian Geoforest Park, and Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest park.
A recent two hour boat tour through the Kilim Karst Geopark revealed biodiversity in all its splendor: looming limestone cliffs and pinnacles, dense mangrove forests, swimming macaque monkeys and sunning monitor lizards, among scores of other sightings.
I watched as magnificent brown winged kingfishers repeatedly dove into the river from my perch at the bow of the boat. Boat excursions can be rented from $80 to $160, depending on boat size and number of passengers.
Dense mangrove forests: the optimal defense against tsunamis
Cave systems, a fish hatchery and lagoons are also found along the area’s three river estuaries that travel about six miles.
The dense mangrove forests found in Langkawi Geopark are largely what saved the islands from the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged nearby Thai islands. The trees have extensive root systems that slow storm surges, partly by trapping sediment. No wonder mangrove forests top conservation effort lists.
At the Kilim Karst Geopark’s fish farm, visitors can view (and touch and handle) stingrays, horseshoe crabs, sea bass – and the famed archerfish.
The archerfish’s peculiar aim
The outre creature spits a concentrated stream of water (often curiously, straight in your eye), when approached or provoked. At the fish farm, archerfish often hurl their invective squirt straight through cracks in the dock – an hilarious wake-up call for sleepy tourists.
The Gua Kelawar bat cave is another popular attraction at Kilim Karst. The lengthy, tunnel-shaped cave system travels about 200 feet and is heavily populated by hanging fruit bats. Visitors walk along a wooden platform to view the creatures that hang in clusters above. Watch out for the dripping guano. In fact, bring an umbrella.
• Peruse more information on Langkawi tours, including cultural, fishing, hiking and walking, geoforest, kayaking and rafting tours.
Malaysia Airlines offers direct flights from LAX to Kuala Lumpur. Also, consider visiting Malaysia as part of a multi-country stop. Flights into Kuala Lumpur are fairly inexpensive from the nearby countries of Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.
Getting into Kuala Lumpur from the international airport is easy with the high-speed rail, KLIA Ekspres. The trip to central Kuala Lumpur takes 28 minutes with trains leaving every 15 to 20 minutes. Tickets are about $12.
Kula Lumpur’s hop on and hop off buses are a great way to see the city. They run from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cost: $12.50 for one day; $21 for two days.
Peruse Malaysia’s official tourism site for more information on the country.