Where the wild things are...
|Long-tailed crab-eating Macaques in the mangroves.|
While one would set off to Langkawi thinking it’s going to be all about soaking in the sun... on sand... by the sea, the island had very different plans for us. Our weekend getaway to this archipelago of some 100 odd islands turned out to be a breathtaking exploration of its flora and fauna, including monkeys that swam and crabs shaped like horseshoe.
The magnificent mangroves and more...
We were zooming past an expanse, which changed rapidly. Racing by some humongous limestone cliffs on one side and the vast sea spread on the other, our motorboat gradually became calmer, losing its speed as we entered the territory of the mangroves. We were along the Kilim river, sailing through a strait like passage surrounded by dense, lush green mangroves – the trees which grow in brackish water. Capturing the daunting beauty of cliffs forming the backdrop and mangroves filling up the route ahead, we were making our way to the Kilim Geoforest Park.
|Since the monkeys at the Kilim Geoforest Park survive on crabs, they are self-taught swimmers.|
Suddenly, they came swimming to our boats. For the longest time, I was in disbelief to see them swim. “These are the long-tailed crab-eating macaques. They survive on crabs and hence, they learn to swim,” our guide informed. It was at the monkey island, our first stop at the nature reserve! Although the long-tailed macaques had adapted to the available food of their region – crabs – they visibly seemed to be longing for their occasional grab of nuts as they approached us. Feeding them some, we moved on to the next feeding session. It was the turn of the birds of prey.
Supposedly named after the brahminy kite, Langkawi is home to a large number of these marvellous feathered species coloured in brown, white and black. During our next stop, we got the opportunity of watching the brahminy kites battle it out with the white-bellied sea eagles for their share of meal. It’s a thrilling sight how one outdoes another in snatching the pieces of dead fish and chicken thrown by the boatmen into the water. After two back-to-back feeding sessions, not mentioning feeding innumerable fishes along the way, it was time to feed our hungry tummies too. To ‘serve’ this purpose, there are a couple of floating restaurants right in the middle of the geoforest. Interestingly, these restaurants are also floating fish farms, where one can not just savour fresh sea bass for lunch but also feed gigantic stingrays and caress horseshoe crabs. Needless to say, there is a wide variety of seafood up for grabs. And if not that, there’s plenty of idle fish watching.
|A white-bellied sea eagle in flight.|
Although we did indulge in some sea bass fresh out of water and got to know what it feels like to hold a horseshoe crab in our hand, we stayed away from feeding the stingrays. I wasn’t convinced that putting my hand into the stingray’s mouth wasn’t life threatening and so, was happy watching others experience the adventure. Settling into our boats once again, we were now ready for the last leg of our mangrove tour.
The freaky finale
The agenda was a visit to two caves – Gua Buaya (Crocodile Cave) and Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave). The names were enough to freak out most of my fellow travellers and by the time we reached the crocodile cave, there was well spread panic in our boat. As we passed through the crocodile cave (apparently, this is only possible at low tide as the cave is completely submerged in water and the water level is quite high), I was very eager to spot some crocodiles. But alas! There were none. While everyone breathed a sigh of relief, I was a tad disappointed. “One can rarely find a crocodile in this cave anymore,” our guide said hinting at the decrease in the numbers of the reptile at the nature reserve.
Soon we were outside the bat cave. This visit required us to leave our boats behind and be on foot. A wooden walkway led us to the cave where countless bats and ancient rock formations awaited us. Without a sound or light, we walked through the cave, getting a glimpse of the bats every time our guide flashed some light on the ceilings with his torch. We were told to watch out for three things besides bats – the stalactites, stalagmites and bat shit! The bat cave was our last encounter with the wild. But we weren’t done yet.
Our motorboat speeded out from the Kilim river... right into the Andaman Sea. Immersing in the sight of huge rocks cropping out in the faraway waters as the wind threatened to blow us away, we reached our last destination of the tour – a beautiful white sand beach. It was finally time for some sea, sand and sun before calling it a day.