Last updated on 23rd September 2019
The Jewel of Kedah
Langkawi is an archipelago made up of 99 islands on Malaysia’s west coast. Surrounded by turquoise sea, the interior of the main island is a mixture of paddy fields and jungle-covered hills.
The island is one of Malaysia’s premier tourist destinations with Pantai Cenang as the busiest but still a beautiful white-sanded beach with a wide variety of activities, especially water sports, as well as shops, restaurants, hotels and attractions like the big Underwater World Langkawi, Museums, clubs and Spa.
The island is especially known for its excellent diving spots. Apart from that, it offers a lot of other excitements. There is the soaring cable car to the mountain tops, and the SkyBridge connecting two of them. There is the Geoforest Park with its expansive Mangrove forests, and picturesque waterfalls and many islands. Langkawi is an electrifying place that made me wish to stay longer.
Certainly, all activities are inviting and I would have loved to do them all. But eventually there has to be a decision due to the limits set by time and money. Especially cost-intensive activities like island hopping with a Jetski (500 MYR) I have skipped in favour of other great things I really enjoyed doing. Even snorkelling I left aside because I found something much better: diving!
The Ugly Side
Unfortunately, not all is wonderful. Also Langkawi suffers an extensive rubbish problem and people’s current behaviour makes no change for the better. I have seen carpets of floating rubbish on that beautiful turquoise water, along the roads, in the forest and on the beaches.
The second problem is the burning of rubbish leading to hazy days and smoky evenings. That happens all over the island and also in the remote village where my hotel was. Often fires are left alone to burn down which makes it dangerous. I stayed for two nights in Pantai Cenang tourist area and right next to the door of my room two fires were burning. It is hard to go for jogging when the air is full of smoke.
Not ugly but very inconvenient is the lack of any public transport on the island. There are no buses. Tourists must take a taxi or rent a scooter or car. There is no other option.
The 10 activities I enjoyed the most
1. Eagle Square
Langkawi means “Island of the reddish-brown eagle”. And so, in the town of Kuah, just a five-minute walk from Kuah Jetty, where I arrived with the ferry from Penang, a remarkable 12 metre-tall sculpture of an eagle poised to take flight is displayed atop an elevated platform. That is Eagle Square. The square also houses beautiful miniature fountains, terraces and bridges, shops and restaurants. Its close proximity to the harbour makes it a perfect spot for watching all sorts of boats moving around the harbour: ferries and yachts, sailing boats, catamarans and sport boats.
2. Langkawi Legend Park
Beside Eagle Square and Kuah jetty is a beautifully landscaped folklore-themed park which I found worth being explored: the Taman Lagenda Langkawi or Langkawi Legend Park. The garden-like grounds face the Kuah waterfront with a walkway and a little beach. The park has colourful sculptures (with signboards in English) depicting Langkawi legends. Unfortunately, maintenance is needed at many places. Entrance is free when I was there, making it a perfect spot for jogging and family picnics.
3. SkyCab & SkyBridge
The most famous landmark on the island I believe is the SkyBridge and a MUST go for me! It is a curved pedestrian bridge that is built atop Mt. Machinchang at a height of about 708m above sea level. It is accessible from the top station of the SkyCab cable car. The bridge is suspended from an 82m high single pylon that is slightly slanted and hangs at about 100m above the ground. It swings out over the landscape and gives a unique view of the surrounding area.
SkyCab cable car advertises to be the steepest cable car ride on earth! Indeed it is very steep, especially on the last hundred meters the cabin goes nearly vertically upwards. On the top are two platforms both offering a breathtaking 360° view at the surrounding islands, the hillside flora and the waterfall. The access from the SkyCab to the SkyBridge is either by SkyGlide, a short train ride of maybe 2 min down to the bridge, ticket 10 MYR, or by walk, so called SkyTrail, a 250m walk of 5- 10 min down some stairs through the vegetation around the platforms. Of course I chose the short walk, there is a fee of 5 MYR for it.
Around SkyCab and SkyBridge are a lot of other attractions. At the entrance is the Oriental Village for shopping and food. There is a 3D Museum which is rather an Instagram-temple than a museum. Its walls are painted all over with colourful scenes of exotic places or from fairy tales or adventures and people can position themselves in front of them to take pictures of each other. Every other hour there is a laser show. For me being solo I could not be bothered to ask someone to take pictures of me all the time, so I quickly escaped. Isn’t it better to really be at those places instead of taking “pictures of pictures” with you in it? Other activities like SkyDome or SkyRex are plentiful but I skipped them for the waterfalls!
4. The Seven Wells Waterfalls
The Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls, or Seven Wells, are all natural and just beautiful. From the SkyCab it’s a 1km walk (or drive) to a little village with parking and restaurants, and there is also the entrance for the Umgava zipline adventure. From there a looong staircase will lead to the middle and the top pools of the waterfall.
The name Seven Wells Waterfalls refers to a series of seven connected natural pools fed by seven separate waterfalls in Gunung Mat Cincang. A dip in the cool water is absolutely enjoyable, especially after the steep climb to the top of the waterfalls. I was surprised by the power of the flowing water, it looks so peaceful but could have easily swept me you over the edge of a pool. There are toilets and changing rooms, even a shower. On the top level of the falls, a half-bridge bends over the rushing water allowing one’s eyes to follow the falling water over huge rocks.
5. Durian Perangin Waterfalls
The Durian Perangin Waterfall is located on the northern slope of Gunung Raya, the highest mountain of Langkawi. I discovered this waterfall rather by accident as my hotel was nearby. There is not much else to see in this area . The water cascading from the mountain forms several pools at least on two levels where swimming is possible. Especially locals enjoy the falls. The water feels fresh and cool. The path that leads up the waterfall can be further hiked up the entire mountain. I have not done it myself but people from the hotel tried the hike and found it not only achievable but also wonderful.
6. Island Hopping inkl. Pregnant Maiden Island
The Island hopping was recommended to me as very interesting adventure, and priced only with 35MYR. So I went at 9am to Kuah jettie from where the boat took us in about 20 min to the uninhabited Beras Basah Island. A nice white beach invited for swimming and so I did. I was the only one doing so. We left 40 min later to visit a fish farm. OMG this was dirty. And they asked for another 15 MYR entrance fee. But in the end, I think farming, if done in the right way, is still better than mass fishing in the ocean. From the farm we went to feed the eagles. This is an interesting spectacular. They throw food in the water and the eagles come and fetch it from the surface. It is incredible to see eagles as many as others have pigeons!
The last island and highlight of the tour was Pulau Dayang Bunting. Langkawi’s second largest uninhabited island resembles the silhouette of a reclined pregnant lady from afar. That’s what they say but I found it difficult to see. Anyway, they call it ‘Isle of the Pregnant Maiden’. Inside the island is a big freshwater lake, formed from a large underwater cave, which collapsed and got filled with water. This wonderful large lake (known as Lake Guillemard) is surrounded by hills having dense rainforests. and is part of the Langkawi Geoforest Park initiative (Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park).
The lake is reachable after a 15-minute hike via a concrete stairway built through the forest. Surrounded by steep limestone formations, the freshwater lake is great for swimming and lounging on the rubber platforms. There is also a small shop nearby selling drinks, snacks, and souvenirs as well as renting paddleboats, solarboats (!) and life jackets. I did the swimming, without the life jacket of course, and again was the only one doing so at the time. It is such an amazing feeling to swim in that lake of fresh cool water surrounded by those massive mountains. The water is clear and refreshing. I have spent all the time in the water swimming around, even outside the marked area, just so delightful!
7. Sunset at Tanjung Rhu Beach
Located in the far north corner of the island, one of the most beautiful beaches of the entire island can be found: Tanjung Rhu Beach. This beach has one of Langkawi’s best shorelines, a few islands are dotted along the horizon, the waters are as clear as crystal, the sand is powder-fine and during low tide the ocean reveals its sandy bottom on which one can walk some distance into the ocean. I had once more a scooter rented and found the beach not far from my hotel. Driving towards this beach I passed a dense corridor of jungle and mangrove forest; both parts of the Kilim Geoforest Park. Consequently near the beach is a small marina with boats and tours for mangrove cruising. The area is absolutely secluded and the atmosphere is silent and peaceful. Tanjung Rhu is gorgeously breathtaking. A few roadside stalls selling food and beach accessories. The beach is home to the wonderful Tanjung Rhu Resort. But other than that the area is quiet. I have spent the time until sunset here, which was also the time of low tide. It’s a dream-like experience of beauty and freedom.
8. Kilim Geoforest Park Boat Tour
Kilim Karst Geoforest Park Langkawi was conveniently close to my remote hotel in the northern part of the island promised a unique nature experience. Spanning almost 100 square kilometres, the park is known for its vast mangrove swamps, lovely beaches, and vertical karstic hills flanking Kilim River until it reaches the Andaman Sea. There’s a good variety of wildlife ranging from otters and monitor lizards to macaques and tree crabs hiding amongst the thick mangroves as well as birdlife of varying species, including kingfishers, white-bellied fish eagles and kite eagles. At the entrance of the park there is a short wooden walkway through the mangroves nearby for a first enticing experience.
The boat tours here are quite expensive, if I remember correctly, a 2-hours tour was 250 MYR. Hence I joined a shared boat for 70MYR. And it was worth it, cruising the river through the mangroves was a really nice adventure. They took us to Crocodile Cave, carved into the karst in a way that it looks like a crocodile. And we went into the bat cave and saw plenty of bats hanging from the ceiling and sleeping. We went to a floating fish farm again. This one was clean but was keeping stingrays, which they handfed for tourist amusement. I believe that most types of stingray are listed as endangered species and protected, hence they should not be there. We also did some Eagle feeding again. But the best was the cruise through the unique landscape along Kilim River until we reached the ocean, and back. It was a feeling of peace, untouchedness and beauty. As if nature would still be in balance here.
9. Parasailing at Pantai Cenang
I always got excited seeing the parachutes in the sky at beaches like Pantai Cenang. I found it hard to resist the temptation of taking a flight. And this time, during the off-season, prices are down to a minimum and I took the chance. I paid 120MYR (25€) and off I went. What can I say, the bird’s eye view of the emerald green water, the coconut fringed beaches and the islands jungle-covered hills from the sky is a thrilling experience. It lasts maybe 5 minutes or so but I enjoyed every second of it. From above and afar all looks so beautiful!
Just 30km south of Langkawi Island is Pulau Payar Marine Park, a prominent spot for snorkelling and diving. With a boat, it takes about 45 to get there from Kuah Jetty. I wanted to do just one or two dives. But diving is expensive and I was already thinking to do some dives at the world famous Sipadan Island near Borneo and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Hence I asked for the divers license. The training includes five lessons of theory, one practical lesson in a swimming pool and four dives at Pulau Payar. The price for it was 1500 MYR (or 300€) and I think it was much better than paying for the two dives. After successful certification I could dive anywhere in the world.
I mastered the theory and the pool lessons fast and without any problems. The dives in the open water were just amazing! The world underwater is so different and so fragile and at the same time so enchanting! Gliding weightless through the Coral Garden of Pulau Payar Marine Park, a secluded section filled with colourful corals, left me speechless. But underwater no one speaks anyway, divers have a language of signs.
I leave Langkawi and fly via Kuala Lumpur to Borneo where I hope to develop my diving experience at the famous diving spot at Sipadan Island.