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Published: March 18th 2009
...and speed boat wake
Luscious Langkawi and Irresponsible Tourism Wednesday 18th March 2009
The Langkawi group of islands should be one of the jewels of the Andaman Sea. The islands are mostly covered by lush jungle where large groups of monkeys chatter and play and tropical flowers abound. The beaches are white-sand coral and the sea is turquoise, blue and green, dotted with limestone stacks, craggy cliffs and numerous small islands. However, the Malaysian Government wants Langkawi to be Malaysia’s Phuket and they are succeeding fast. As a result, in many parts of Langkawi, jet skis and speed boats chase through the channels between the stacks and islands, leaving grey-smeared sand and dead coral in their wake. It is a travesty.
Today we went island-hopping. Unfortunately, so did many local and foreign tourists, mostly local (Malaysian school holidays this week) who think that beaches are a suitable place to dispose of plastic bottles, plastic bags and soiled disposable nappies. Speed boats whisk the punters from large hotel resorts to converge on these little pockets of Paradise in droves, dump them off, telling them that they have an hour before getting back on the boats without any instruction or guidance whatsoever, i.e. why it
Mother and baby
isn’t a good idea to torment and feed monkeys, rush around screaming and shouting on trails through the jungle and throwing plastic everywhere. One begins to wish that plastic and polystyrene had never been invented. Here and there one sees the odd poster saying “Keep Langkawi Clean”, written in Malay and English, but the message is treated with contempt. We’ve also seen tee-shirts with the slogan “Keep Malaysia clean, dump your rubbish in Singapore”. Amusing but unhelpful!
We went to three islands, the first, Pulau Dayang Bunting, has a beautiful green freshwater lake surrounded by craggy limestone cliffs and dense jungle. We were looking forward to swimming in this lake with the catfish, but it was so crowded that we didn‘t bother. The third island, Pulau Beras Basah, with its outstandingly beautiful beach was .also a disappointment for snorkelling because the coral is either dead or dying and there are speed boats everywhere. We walked down the beach away from the hoards and had a quick dip; snorkelled about a bit (whilst we were doing so a monkey stole John’s cigarettes and lighter out of the pocket of his shorts that were left on the sand) and then got
Bigger Black Monkey
These are more timid and less aggressive
the boat back. The beach on Beras Basah was clean but the water was murky (too much diesel pumping in to it) and the jungle backing the beach was again littered with plastic and tin cans. At least where we are staying, in Pantai Tengah we don’t have this litter problem. Why? Because it is a quiet little place with very few people using the beach.
Despite the two sad experiences above, the second island, Pulau Singa Besar was a highlight! This island is the home to large colonies of kites and sea eagles and we were able to observe them swooping down in to the bay to feed; very hard to photograph, they fly so fast! To cruise between these islands is also something to remember; it is truly spectacular coastal scenery. We were just sad that we were on a super-fast speed boat. When we bought our tickets we assumed that we would chug along between the islands as we had done elsewhere e.g. in Fiji and Indonesia, and hated the thought of what havoc this boat (plus dozens of others) was wrecking on the marine environment. Pulau Langkawi is a marine national park!!!!
are heading back to Georgetown (Penang) and then on Friday we shall be in Thailand, the last country on our trip. We have loved Malaysia but recognise the fragility of its splendour, when the average tourist seems to be constantly demanding adrenaline kicks and all mod cons and the providers just want to make as much money as possible, regardless of the destructive impact on an environment that drew the punters to these shores in the first place. We have enjoyed the sunny weather, dramatic evening thunderstorms, cheeky boisterous noisy monkeys (on our bungalow roof) and also the food, which has been the best and most varied so far; good Malaysian dishes, Thai spicy fried chicken and Tom Yam and South Indian curries. It can only get better because we are off to Thailand!
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