Meet Mother Nature At Langkawi Geopark

26 July 2016
Read Time: 2.5 mins

It has duty-free status across its islands, a vast array of incredible resorts, famously delicious seafood and some of Malaysia's best and most relaxed nightlife.

Langkawi's real attraction though is its nature-blessed environment. From the crests of jungle-draped peaks you can see translucent ocean water lapping at pristine beaches, wild mangrove forests where exotic animals frolic and dozens of islands home to rare birds and sea life.

Travel Inspiration Langkawi is the only UNESCO Geopark in Southeast Asia

It is these extraordinary gifts from Mother Nature that have seen Langkawi declared as a UNESCO Geopark – the only one in the whole of Southeast Asia. This status is intended to safeguard Langkawi and its stunning environment against excessive development, ensuring that it will maintain its perfect blend of tourist infrastructure and untamed landscapes.

Declared a Geopark in 2007, Langkawi is one of 120 such areas across 33 countries awarded by UNESCO. To be granted such status, an area must meet four criteria. It must have geological heritage of international value, be well managed by local and national authorities, promote local economic development through tourism and have cooperative relationships with other Geoparks.

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Few people who ever have visited Langkawi would doubt its credentials as a location of world-class natural splendor and biodiversity. An archipelago of more than 100 islands in the Andaman Sea, just off the north-west coast of Malaysia, it is one of the best preserved major tropical resort areas in Asia and a major tourist drawcard.

Travel Inspiration The jungle of Langkawi teems with wildlife

Many visitors are lured by the opportunity to head out into its crystalline ocean waters. Swimming, snorkeling, sea kayaking, deep sea diving, jet skiing and boat tours are among the myriad activities made available and enhanced by Langkawi’s gorgeous tropical setting.

Many of these boat tours head to Dayang Bunting, an incredible island which is one of the three main geoforest parks that have been developed in Langkawi, along with Kilim Karst and Machinchang Cambrian. A huge island just off the south coast of Langkawi mainland, it also is known as Pregnant Maiden Island due to a local legend that infertile women who bathe in its lake will be able to have children.

Travel Inspiration Dayang Buntin's lake is ringed by karst peaks

This breathtaking lake is enclosed by lofty karst peaks, which are carpeted in jungle where monkeys and exotic birds frolic. Visitor numbers to the island are controlled by tourism authorities, but visitors have free reign to swim or kayak in the emerald waters of its lake or follow trekking paths into its dense forests.

Not far from Dayang Bunting is the much smaller island of Beras Besah, which is one of the main homes of Langkawi’s iconic Brahminy Kite Eagles. Their white heads contrasting against their brown bodies and wings, the Brahminys are distinctive and statues of them can be found all across the island. Some boat tours pause in the main cove of Beras Besah to give tourists the chance to see the giant birds up close as they swoop down to the ocean surface to scoop up fish tossed into the water by the boat operators.

Travel Inspiration Brahminy Kite Eagles are an icon of Lakgkawi

On the opposite side of the mainland, in Langkawi’s north, Kilim Geoforest Park is equally as beguiling as Dayang Bunting and Beras Berah. At about 100sqkm in size, Kilim stretches along the coastline and includes a range of striking Karst limestone cliffs towering above the water. It is most famous, however, for its thick mangrove forests which abut the coast.

Tour boats glide down the many small creeks that pierce the mangrove forest, giving visitors a wonderful, close-up view of this lush area. It is teeming with wildlife, from eagles to kingfisher, macaques and otters, while dolphins are routinely spotted in the ocean waters just near the mangrove’s edge.

Travel Inspiration The ocean waters surrounding Langkawi are wonderfully clear

The third of Langkawi’s geoforest parks, Machinchang Cambrian, is a wild, mountainous area in the northwest of the mainland.

This mountain range is considered the oldest in Malaysia and its rainforest is among the most ancient on the planet. Its valleys are embellished by pristine rivers and colourful wildflowers, while its jagged peaks are cloaked in green and afford sweeping vistas of the archipelago. It is from such lofty vantage points that one is able to appreciate the seemingly endless natural glory of Langkawi.

Ronan O'Connell

Ronan has been a journalist for 12 years, including nine years at daily newspapers in Australia, and now is a freelance travel photojournalist. As a freelancer he has contributed to almost 20 different magazines and newspapers across Europe, Australia, Asia and New Zealand, including The BBC, The Guardian, Travel Talk Magazine, For the Love of Travel Magazine, The Australian Financial Review and The South East Asia Globe.