The Langkawi archipelago, 99 natural islands and two man-made creations sit in the warm Straits of Malacca seas, to the south of Thailand and just a short ferry journey west of the Malaysian mainland.
Starting at The Oriental Village puts Langkawi into perspective. Take the world’s steepest cable car up through the luxuriant rain forest to look out over aquamarine seas and towards the Thai border. Then, if you dare, step out on to the Sky Bridge, an arc of glass and steel, giving breath-taking views to the verdant valley way below.
Reassuringly, with your feet back on the ground, the SkyDome with its 12 projectors soars into space to give a 360-degree view of the planet, and Langkawi becomes the merest of dots in a vast universe. Travelling back in time, a 3D adventure at Skyrex recalls the days when dinosaurs roamed and ruled the planet.
Perhaps, Ambong Pool Villas, is the first peaceful place to stay, just 15 minutes from Langkawi’s airport, to discover the archipelago’s rich natural history. Nine villas are set into the steep rain forest at Teluk Baru, providing the sights and sounds of the jungle: chattering monkeys, humming insects and the huge flapping wings of three species of Hornbill. From your villa’s own infinity pool or day-bed lookout for creatures who have lived amongst the trees for millennia: flying lemur, slow loris and the rarely spotted civet cat.
Although few guests venture far from their light-filled and spacious contemporary villas with their stylish sense of tropical chic, a mangroves river cruise adds to a sense of getting to know Langkawi’s natural world. First stop is a walk through the stalactites and stalagmites of subterranean limestone caves with their thousands of bats, each eating around 400 mosquitoes per hour, giving a fascinating insight into Langkawi’s geology. Back on the boat, snakes slither through the mangrove branches and sea eagles soar above. Sometimes the boat stops at a sandbar so that you can swim, before enjoying a meal at a restaurant on stilts rising out of the river.
Another intimate and exhilarating way of getting to know the rain forest is through the Umgawa Legendary Adventures zip line so that visitors, Indiana Jones-style, fly through the UNESCO recognised geo-park which provides the most spectacular views of the Seven Wells waterfalls.
Staying at The Danna provides a taste of colonial living back in the days when Malaysia produced rubber for the British Empire. Merchant, Grand Merchant, Viceroy and Grand Viceroy rooms take up the colonial theme with dark wood furniture, deep baths, rainfall showers, both traditional fans and air-conditioning, as well as veranda-style balconies. Those spacious rooms provide a base to enjoy the spa, the three-tiered infinity pool framed by white-flowered frangipani trees and idyllic soft-sand beaches.
Champagne breakfast in the Planters Restaurant offers a vast range of both eastern and oriental specialities. Elegant dinner at Planters introduces Malaysia’s diverse culinary traditions, including influences from China, India and those travelling the age-old Spice Route. A Malaysian tasting platter of sea bass sambal, chicken percik, beef rendang, king prawn curry, papadum, Malay pickle and steamed rice is an ideal guide to future menu dilemmas.
To learn how to cook authentic Malaysian cuisine book the Langkawi Old Charm Experience, beginning at a traditional Malaysian house before a walk through the rice paddy field. Chop chicken, heat spices and design latticed roti to create a typically spiced local chicken curry.
Another evening take a catamaran cruise, through craggy limestone islands, towards the setting sun with drinks flowing and dinner served. A party vibe develops when the live music begins and the dancing starts.
A half-day jet-ski safari takes in more of the islands, including a swim in a fresh-water pool and a break on an uninhabited desert island straight out of Robinson Crusoe. There is no more exhilarating way to get to know the islands.
Finally, The Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa, within reach of the shops of bustling Cenang is the perfect base for buying souvenirs and relaxing on the resort’s one kilometre of beachfront on a sun-lounger under casuarina trees shaped into sun umbrellas.
Although the Spice Market restaurant, built in the style of a vast Malaysian house, provides an astounding variety of Malaysian and Western dishes, CBa is probably the best place for a farewell meal, romantic dining on the beach as the sun sets over the Langkawi archipelago
Tell Me More About Langkawi
Visit http://langkawi-nature.com/ for both the Mangroves Tour and the Langkawi Old Charm experience
Research the zipwire
Book the jet-ski safari