Langkawi – Malaysia’s popular tourist island
One word that I believe is synonymous with kids is ‘explore’ and as a parent, it always offers me an opportunistic challenge to look for travel locations that my son can explore. When we decided our short 3-day leisure trip to the island Langkawi, it was easy. Because when on beach, kids spend hours exploring – the soft sand under their feet, splashing big and small waves, picking up shells and corals, waiting for hermit crabs and starfishes to wash ashore…and that’s exactly what happened in Langkawi. However, this little island gave us more than we expected — an abundance of options to explore.
Langkawi, Malaysia, is one of the busiest and most popular tourist islands in Southeast Asia. It is an archipelago of 99 islands tucked in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. The islands are a part of the state of Kedah, which is adjacent to the Thai border. Despite the rampant development on some beaches, Langkawi still is green, beautiful, and was declared a World Geopark by UNESCO in 2007—attracting plenty of ecotourism. The island lures in plenty of locals from Malaysia and international visitors with its incredible natural beauty and easy accessibility from the mainland. The picture above is clicked from a sky cable gives you a bird’s eye view of the island. The blue sea surrounded by world’s largest sandstone rainforest is a breathtaking sight.
Ride the cable car
Sky cable is a must visit in Langkawi. It takes visitors to the peak of Gunung Mat Chinchang – one of the three geoparks of Langkawi with a UNESCO status. The steep ride up Gunung Mat Chinchang stops at a midpoint then continues onward; both stops have cafes and platforms for enjoying the stunning views of the island. One glimpse down from the sky cable and you feel like gliding as a kite over the dense rainforest. “Looks like giant broccolis everywhere” describes my 8-year-old.
The sky cable ends at the suspended sky bridge. This curved, 410-foot-long viewing platform is suspended high enough (2,300 feet) is modern engineering marvel! Although comfortably wide, some people can’t bring themselves to cross it. On clear days, the views reach all the way to Thailand. While withstanding the windy weather, visitors enjoy the sunset over the massive expanse of the Andaman Sea. Simply magnificent! The Sky Bridge is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. (depending on the winds).
Get busy with animals
Exploring animals and their behavior and habitats, is a thrilling escapade for kids. Being surrounded by rainforest, there was no dearth of animals in Langkawi, especially monkeys. For the first time, we saw Dusky Leaf monkeys – slate grey in colour, with lovely white hair orbits around their eyes and white hair on their crown.
Dusky Leaf monkeys: These adorable and harmless species were filled with cuteness because of the magical orbits around their eyes. Strangely, their infants have golden hair! Picture courtesy: Fine Art America
Hornbills, sea gulls, colourful butterflies, otters, monitor lizards…can be spotted openly in nature and it added to our fascination. If you are a nature enthusiast then guided nature walks and hikes are the most recommended options to explore the geoparks. Mangroves are an extremely important part of Langkawi’s ecosystem; they serve as a habitat and refuge for many kinds of creatures. We missed visiting the mangroves, but will definitely cover it during our Langakwi 2.0 visit.
Langkawi Wildlife Park
To continue our animal exploration, we visited the Langkawi Wildlife Park. Here you can feed most of the animals, except those falling under the categories of endangered (some species of parakeets), harmful (crocodiles) or poisonous (python). It was a joy to feed exotic birds and animals of the likes of flamingo, South American parrot, ostrich, emu, raccoon and peacock. The concept of this park is fantastic – we have never been so close and friendly with these animal kinds. Also, the park is very clean, animals are healthy and at every spot you will see wash basins to wash your hands after feeding. Clear instructions on how to feed and which type of food to feed are displayed, while the park attendants keep guiding the visitors and also share interesting stories about the animals throughout.
The clean sea water will keep your kids busy…my son was astonished to find this sand dollar, which belongs to the sea urchins family. This was the first time we came across sand dollar. If you are lucky, you can definitely spot a jelly fish!
Go Island Hopping
Langkawi is a major tourist attraction and there are plenty of entertainment options available for all age groups. Water sport activities like scuba diving and snorkeling are the best. Traditional sports like jet skiing, parasailing, yacht, etc. continue to attract tourists.
Langkawi is the largest island in the archipelago. Very few of the islands are inhabited. Understandably, island-hopping excursions are the most popular thing to do on Langkawi. Neighboring islands in the marine park are mostly undeveloped; they host mangroves, caves, and enough rainforest canopy to keep birdwatchers very busy.
We also wore our adventure hats and went island hopping by Jet Ski. Amidst the choppy waves and salt water hitting our eyes, we managed to cover three islands – Echo Island, Lonely Island and the Island of pregnant lady. As the name suggests, the first two are easy to understand, but the last one is derived from the shape of the mountain surrounding the fresh water lake. It is very easy to see the shape of the face, breasts and a little baby bump of a lady in a sleeping position.
Visit Eagle Square
Dataran Lang or Eagle Square is one of Langkawi’s best known manmade attractions. It is a beautiful, humongous sculpture of an eagle poised to take flight. A sight that greets visitors to the island via ferry, the 12 metre-tall statue is one of the island’s most instantly recognizable monuments. For us, it was a great photo opportunity and to admire the sculpture and surrounding terraces and fountains.
We felt 3-days to be definitely short to explore Langkawi. There are so many other things that we missed. Snorkeling excursion, giant underwater acquarium, Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls are some of other attractions which we did not visit this time. That gives an opportunity to visit this nature’s nest again.
Things to know
- Money: Being a tourist destination, Langkawi is not cheap. However, all types of credit cards are accepted minimizing the need to carry ample cash. There are a few ATMs available on Langkawi. The most reliable ATMs are found in the airport and Pantai Cenang or Central Beach. Stock up on Malaysian ringgit before leaving the mainland or use the ATM at the airport upon arrival. If the ATM network isn’t working, you can exchange currency in many shops.
- Transport: Grab taxi service (Uber equivalent in South-East Asia) is excellent in Langkawi and it’s cheaper than the local taxis and hotel car services.
- Safety: Langkawi is very safe and people are very courteous as well. Most of the population can speak English.
- Stay options for families: Choose a resort that provides ample of entertainment options for kids. We stayed in Berjaya Resorts, a beautiful resort surrounded by the rainforests with swimming pool, play area and private beach. I highly recommend considering this hotel.
- What to carry: Be equipped with the typical beach travel checklist – sunscreens, swimming costume, sunglasses, beach toys, etc. Don’t worry if you miss to carry any of these items – Langkawi has plenty shopping options as well.
- Shopping: The cheapest duty-free shopping can be found in Kuah rather than at tourist beaches. Even with no tax, Langkawi is still a tourist island—many items for purchase can be found cheaper in Kuala Lumpur.
- Nearby places: Also, most tourists bundle Langkawi trip along with Kuala Lumpur – it makes sense from travel time perspective as well.
- Mosquitoes: Lots of green space and mangrove forests cause mosquitoes to be a real nuisance on Langkawi. Try to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
- Avoid Damaging the Ecosystem: Despite being a UNESCO World Geopark, many resorts and tourist activities aren’t as eco-friendly as they should be. Hence, do your bit and avoid encouraging damaging practices.