Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Langkawi, Malaysia
Visited: July 2016
Langkawi has been on my weekend getaway list for a while now. There is a lot to do here. Tours of the sea and jungle can easily keep you busy for a weekend, and there are plenty of places to take advantage of the duty-free shopping.Travel time by plane is 90-minutes from Singapore and just 1-hour from Kuala Lumpur. For more information on traveling to Langkawi by ferry, please see the bottom of this post.
Pantai Cenang Beach is the busiest part of Langkawi and close to the airport, so it seemed like the right place for a first visit. Restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels line Pantai Cenang Beach for all those who find their way here. By June, high-season had passed, but there was still plenty of activity. Parasailers floated above waters teaming with jet skis, banana boats and all those brave enough to swim among them. The beach was populated with families and local tourists, many of whom are looking to “PAR-TAY!”
After we spent our first night listening to our neighbors drink, yell and violently puke outside our room, we decided to change hotels. Naturally, when we returned for our bags 9-hours later, the party was still going strong, and louder than ever.
For those not into the party scene at Pantai Cenang, there are other beaches and areas to explore. Here’s a link to more information on your options, as well as, all kinds of other helpful information https://www.langkawi-insight.com.
Nearly everyone we talked to on our way to dive told us not to get our hopes up. Perhaps it was just having our expectations smashed repeatedly, but we had fun and saw all kinds of cool creatures that day. It was great, especially considering we were so close to the end of the season and had originally not intended to dive at all. We came across a big, fat Moray eel that was about 10-feet/3-meters long, and about 1-meter around.
It was a little scary because that big boy wasn’t even trying to hide. He had spread himself out Jabba the Hutt style across the top of some soft coral, and I had no intention of disturbing him. We noticed that a lot of thelife we encountered here seemed massive in comparison with those we had seen on other dives. Including some monster-size groupers. Who knew giant groupers were so playful?
It was nearing the wet season in Malaysia so getting to the dive site was the real adventure. The tides were too big for the dive boat, so we had to take a ferry to calmer seas then board the smaller ship. It was a long day, but we saw much more above water than we often do when diving.
Between dives, we spent a couple of hours at Pulau Payar Marine Park for lunch. A hotspot where tourists swim and snorkel with fish and baby blacktip sharks. It’s a nice little spot, struggling to maintain its natural beauty but still accommodate tourism. Unfortunately, many visitors feed the fish for photo opportunities, leaving their garbage everywhere and destroying the coral by standing on it. If for some reason, you do these things when you travel, please stop.
Here’s a quick shout out to Scuba Club Langkawi, who took us scuba diving. They are friendly, organized, professional and knowledgeable. There was an inexperienced diver on our first dive who did not understand how quickly he was burning through his air until he was out and our guide had to share air with him. It was a little frightening, but the situation could not have been handled better, or more calmly. We did our safety stop and completed the dive. There was no drama. For the next dive, another guide joined us and worked directly with the less experienced diver. Monitoring his air and taking him up early when it got low, which allowed our guide to stay with us for the full dive.
We had a busy weekend trying to pack it all in. I do recommend contacting companies directly to book tours, transfers, etc. because when you book through a third-party company, you get the same thing and just pay more to the middle-man.
There is a lot of well-deserved positive feedback on the tours of the mangrove and bat caves at Kilim Karst Geoforest Park. Only a few companies that offer tours. I booked with Dev’s Adventure Tours, and I have nothing but good things to say about the experience. They were even kind enough to let us move our tour to Sunday when we decided we wanted to go diving on Saturday. Our guide, Shuhada, was fun, informative fun, and kept everyone smiling all day.
The first stop for our boat was the bat caves. Bats are fascinating creatures, but they scare me. I can deal with that, but the stench in a cave full of them is not for everyone. Not because I was afraid, but because the air was so thick with their stink. I couldn’t take it, but I was the only one. Next, we headed to the mangroves to see vipers, water monitors, eagles and, my favorite, the mangrove forest itself. Afterward, we made our way to a portion of the Andaman Sea where Malaysia and Thailand meet. We stopped to swim at a tiny island that disappears with high tide and pondered the global popularity of Kentucky Fried Chicken with our tour group.
What happened next was the best part of the day. The captain and Shuhada said it had been almost 3-years since they had such an encounter, so we were incredibly lucky to be there when suddenly, out of nowhere, we found ourselves surrounded by a pod of about 50 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. No matter where we turned there they were. Popping their heads up and breaching the water once they realized they had our attention. Here’s what I cut together from the video footage.
How to Get to Langkawi by Ferry
The Langkawi Ferry stops at Kuala Perlis, Kuala Kedah, Penang or Satun, Thailand. Travel time is between 30-minutes to 2-hours by ferry, depending on where you depart from. September-October is officially the wet season in Langkawi, but waters can get rough between July and October due to weather, so travel by boat can be problematic at this time. Here is a link to schedules and fares and book tickets http://www.langkawi-ferry.com.
There are also several options for travel by ferry from Thailand. More about boat transfers, taxi transfers, and ferries from Thailand http://amazinglanta.com.