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Two Tropical Tours on Langkawi


From the edge of the ocean to the roof of the jungle, these two tours offer front-row seats to the theater of natural wonders on the lush island of Langkawi. By MARCO FERRARESE.

Published on May 25, 2017

 

AS I FLOAT ON MY BACK, the setting sun drips shades of deep red over the horizon. It isn't the backdrop to chattering tourists or the banter of a bartender pouring drinks—it is the main act, the sun's soliloquy, the day's denouement. There are only six of us present, and we look on in respectful silence.

Great Hornbill
A great hornbill overlooks a remote corner of the island. Courtesy of Umgawa.

On an island that seems to get more popular by the day—the powdery shores of Langkawi welcomed a St. Regis in 2016 and there is a Ritz-Carlton opening in summer 2017—it can be difficult to find these precious moments of solitude. Luckily, as enthusiasm grows, so does the diversity of offerings, and this blissful stop is the climax of Sea Safari, an eco-tour launched by Dev's Adventure Tours (RM200 per person including snacks) late 2016. This dramatic sunset at Chawi Bay—an ocher crescent hidden amid Langkawi's southwestern islets—is a different side of the island from what tourists who bounce between the packed sundecks and cocktail bars of always-buzzing Pantai Cengang beach get to see. This is nature, pure and simple.

"We did a lot of research to offer this package," says Claudia Mueller, Dev's managing director. "The concept is to take guests where nobody else has gone before. It took us a while to find the right places, an expert boat man and spots where the wildlife regularly dwells." Guided by expert naturalists from mid-afternoon until sunset, Sea Safari takes a maximum of eight guests out to Langkawi's least visited south-western islets: Pregnant Maiden, Taja, Snake, Kentur Kecil and Kentur Besar. Besides gliding past limestone pinnacles on emerald waters, guests can enjoy a relaxing swim at secluded Chawi Bay, or follow their guides into the thicket, a rich ecosystem of giant old trees and endemic exotic plants.

Dev's Adventure
High above Langkawi's remote beaches. Courtesy of Dev's Adventure.

"I love to teach visitors about the local mangrove forest and how it slows the impact of currents, protecting the islets from the risk of tsunami," Jerome Canisius of Sea Safari tells me. "The tour is also a chance to gaze at Langkawi's beautiful rock formations, from marble to granite, that span from the Cambrian to the Permian periods." As the dinghy floats amidst the islets, the other stars of Langkawi's environment, the native animals, take center stage: Brahminy kites and white-bellied sea eagles soar high, while Pacific reef egrets circle the limestone, and cheeky monkeys play high in the green canopy.

Want a closer look at the jesters of the jungle? A ride on Umgawa (RM499 per person), an ambitious set of zip-lines crisscrossing Southeast Asia's first Geoforest Park, Machinchang Cambrian, will have you howling right along with the dusky leaf monkeys whose turf you're swinging through. Open since October 2016, it took an international team of experienced zip-course engineers, construction experts and safety-and-training professionals more than three years to set up Umgawa's 12 zip-lines, connected by 18 platforms and Malay-style sky bridges. The result is a two-hour-long floating adventure supervised by experienced rangers, who take pride in explaining Machinchang's geology and spotting elusive wildlife. "The Geo Park hosts hundreds of bird species, including the great hornbill," says Charles Farrel, Umgawa's chief executive officer. "From stingless bees to strangler figs, to exotic and rare orchids, we give visitors a healthy dose of expert Langkawi nature knowledge, besides the highly exciting airborne thrills."

Zip-lining
Zip-lining through Machinchang Cambrian. Courtesy of Umgawa.

This jungle canopy is crawling with unusual critters. On a lucky day, you might see a gliding colugo or a Sunda slow loris. When nature choreographs a multi-species group number, all you can do is sit back and enjoy the show.

 

 

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Zip-lining through Machinchang Cambrian. Courtesy of Umgawa.
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