Thetraveljunkie.org – When I stayed at World Resort Langkawi. I had expectations of grandeur myself as I travelled just off the northwest coast of Malaysia and prepared to embark on the Mangrove and Eagles Safari in Langkawi, Malaysia. But I soon discovered, amid mangroves and dense geoforests, that observing wildlife on a smaller scale can be just as exhilarating.
Langkawi’s labyrinth of mangroves house sea caves, millions-year-old rock formations and myriad wildlife.
The more modest specimens in question here include fish, birds, monkeys and those known by local guides as Langkawi’s Flying Five: airborne lemurs, lizards, frogs, tree snakes and squirrels. They’re just as alluring and elusive as megafauna, and certainly as impressive if you have the chance to see them up close.
Langkawi is the largest in an archipelago of 99 islands, most of them technically sea stacks born some 550 million years ago of tectonic plate movement. Upon these porous limestone rocks today, thick geoforests make for stunning scenery and, more importantly, host a unique ecosystem and range of wildlife. Brushing the Andaman Sea and nestled into the forest on the northern shore of Langkawi is the boat centre, the perfect access point to Langkawi’s Kilim Karst Geoforest Park (part of the UNESCO-protected Langkawi Geopark) and the place where our enlightening wildlife adventure begins.
We meet our guide. After a brief introduction to the park and we board our boat, a motorised Malay pinas, straight off the beach. Bouncing along the shoreline, we get a close-up view of one of the sea stacks, which looms over us as we glide by. It’s a curious sight: sheer walls, thick with foliage, sprouting from the sea.
Up ahead the mangroves come into view, and we slow to a crawl to prevent our wake from damaging the delicate shorelines. Still on open water, we edge up to the fringes of the forest, and on the muddy waterfront guide points out fiddler crabs, mudskippers and, in the water, needlefish. As we crane over the side of the boat to get photos, he explains how important the mangroves are to the archipelago; more than 60 percent of the area’s marine life depends on this habitat.
It’s not long before a group of macaques, curious about their new neighbours and likely on the hunt for a free feed, emerge from the branches. Our guide tells us the monkeys are, as one might expect, intelligent creatures unfazed by human contact, even known to board tour boats at times.
Look at the sky and you will see many eagles circling. ? And then they will start swooping down to catch their food floating on the water and take off in split seconds. The eagles have terrific eyesight and can actually pin point a target such as a fish from a distance of 1 – 3 kms. When they dive, they can move at a speed of 200 kms per hour and pick up a prey which may be up to 6 lbs, more than their own weight. While feeding, at any point of time you will see 30-40 eagles hovering in the sky and swooping down as soon as they identify their targets. Eagle population in the Kilim Geopark has been steadily in the rise. There are now over 500 wild eagles in this area ?
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Now fully surrounded by mangroves, our boat rounds a bend and enters a broad stretch of brackish water over which white-bellied sea eagles and Brahminy Kites, whose name in Malay gives Langkawi its name, swoop and dive to catch titbits from a feeder boat.
Our guide takes us farther up the river, where it narrows to such an extent that mangroves brush the sides of the boat. We’re in the thick of action here, the sun only dappling the water as we glide through. Someone spots a snake on a branch, but we’re assured it’s at a safe distance; later on a lizard, 2 feet long from nose to tail, breaks from the bank and swims out in front of our bow. We’re thoroughly immersed in this fascinating tropical environment.
Our guide has one more treat up his sleeve for us before we make our way home: We pass through a ravine and into a tunnel-like cave. Not until he switches his torch on and points it upwards do we see that the ceiling is crowded with sleeping bats.
As we skip over the sea back to the dock, I reflect on the creatures we’ve seen in this unique environment and those that have eluded us, that’s the chance you take when you look for animals in their natural habitat. I’m sure of one thing: I’ll have to return.
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Stay tuned for more adventures around Langkawi in Malaysia.
Happy Sustainable Travels!