Monday, December 19, 2016

Langkawi - Island Hopping

Tour date: 23rd January 2016

I must say that Island hopping when in Langkawi is a must do activity. With Langkawi surrounded by the sea and the islet, there are various water-based activities to indulge in. You may opted for yachting, I mean for those that love cruises, there are various cruises that can accommodate for individuals that love the morning sun or individuals that would like to have dinner on a yacht while circling the islets of Langkawi. As for island hopping, tourists can choose a different options of hopping, i.e. fast or slow trip. A slow trip means traveling and spending time on selective private islands/beaches longer, whilst a fast trip is sitting on a speedboat for a quick spin around the various islands available in Langkawi and a quick stopover like what we chose that day.

The starting point
Beach sandals at the boat jetty for last minute shopper

Island Hopping is probably the most popular boat tour in Langkawi and also one of the cheapest ones. Hanum, being a local girl had arranged an exclusive speed boat for our group of 8 people. Apparently that is a standard tour that being offers by other tour companies too which usually starts at 9.00 in the morning and lasts for 3.5 to 4 hours. Because of its popularity, this tour is offered by virtually all tour operators, travel stalls and hotels in the island. It covers 3 spots that includes wonderful scenic islands to the south of the main island of Langkawi and eagle feeding where you can watch the marvelous spectacle of many eagles swooping down from the sky to catch their prey on the water.

Speed boat for 8 to 10 peoples

The other 2 islands offer plenty of activities including swimming in scenic fresh water lake, paddle boating, snorkeling from soft sandy beach, lounging and sunbathing, or just relaxing and enjoying the stunning scenery all around. The boat tours usually start from Teluk Baru Jetty located at the southern part of Pantai Tengah and before Resorts World or Star Cruise Jetty. So if you are staying at Pantai Tengah or Pantai Cenang areas, the tours would be very convenient. Most importantly, please bring along your swimming attire with you as to only dig your feet onto the soft sandy beaches and touches the coolest water ever would not justify a visit to Langkawi. You must swim and swim for the moments and the feelings to stays there, for a lifetime in your heart.  

On the way to the first stop

There are large and small boats. The larger ones can accommodate up to 20 persons whilst the smaller ones are for 8 to10 peoples. The tour operators usually choose and decides on sizes of the boats according to the demand and/or crowds that came to book. During high tourist season, you may find hundreds of tourists waiting at the jetty for their boats since all the Island Hopping tours mostly begin around the same time. Another important things to note is to not leave your sunblock away as you should apply and carry enough sun block lotion to avoid sun burns and also carry bottles of drinking water. We brought a little extra thing that day. The hotel has allowed us a packed breakfast that we stored away in a bag and had a wonderful break at Pulau Beras Basah, which was on our 3rd and last stop. 

Pulau Dayang Bunting Jetty

The first stop, Pulau Dayang Bunting

Pulau Dayang Bunting was the first stop that the speedboat operator drop us that day, the first island that we visited. It takes about 20 minutes to reach this fascinating island from Teluk Baru jetty. A total of 1 hour was given to us to spend there. This includes 10 to 12 minutes one-way walk up the long flight of stairs up the mountain and down from the other side to reach the wonderful Lake of the Pregnant Woman, and same way back. The boys and the 2 girls spent more than the allowed time playing with a wonderful scenic fresh water lake surrounded by mountains that are covered with dense forests. The lake was formed when a large underwater cave collapsed many years back. You will also see large limestone formations. I will made a separate entry about the lake of the Pregnant Woman.

Some activities at the Lake of the Pregnant Women

The boats that awaits their passengers at Lake of the Pregnant Women jetty

At the onset, Pulau Dayang Bunting is part of UNESCO World Heritage Geoparks. Tourist are most welcome to indulge into several activities like swimming at the lake, solar paddle boating (at extra charge), natural catfish spa at designated areas to clean up dead cells from your feet, walk through the forest and see the Miracle Border where the lake is separated from the sea by a thin rocky ridge, or just lounge on the wooden planks next to the lake. From the lake if you look at the mountains at the fringes, you can clearly see an outline of a woman lying on her back who is 6-7 months pregnant, and thus the name of the lake.

After nearly an hour, we walked back to the island jetty to get back to our boat for the next destination island, Pulau Singa Besar. We came to the island (without having to set a foot in the island, only at nearby water front) to watch a fantastic natural show, the Eagle Feeding. The name of the island means "Island of Big Lions", although there are no lions there. The name was probably given  due to the shape of the island. The water over in this area is surrounded by a lush forests. Not only us, other tourist actually do not get off and remain seated at the boat while watching the eagle feeding. So unfortunate that we arrived a little bit too late. Should we come earlier in the morning, we probably could see about 300 to 350 golden brown eagles swooping down from the sky and feeding on fish from the water area said to be present there.

Upon arrival, the boatman stop the engine and usually will throw some chicken pieces out into the water to invite the eagles. And in no time you will see eagles diving down just next to you and clawing up the chicken pieces and eating them as they soar into the sky. It's not happened to our boat. The boatman did not feed the eagles at all, hence what we saw basically some 50 to 60 eagles hovering around and diving for food. We gave signal to the boatman to proceed to the next stop, after 10 minutes.

Pulau Beras Basah is the last stop in the tour. The name literally means "Island of wet rice". This is a picture perfect island with far reaching views of the sea and wonderful soft white sands. It's a great place for the beach lovers and swimmers. There is a stall that offers banana boating, jet skis, and also beer and some snacks. We were overly excited seeing the clear bluest pastel beautiful colors of the cool seawater. The best ever place for swimming and photography. It was hot too as the sun was at its height. I couldn't stand too much sun, hence spending myself away from the beach and look after the food that easily get stolen by the island monkeys. We enjoyed the hotel food at this place, all 8 of us finished everything that we packed in the morning.

Tourist are advised to get or arrange your snorkel gears if you love snorkeling. This is an excellent snorkeling spot. I was overly excited being able to touch the softest sands and the cool water that welcome me to the island. Mostly people swam closer to the snorkeling spot as they get to see lots of fish and colorful marine life. Sometimes due to the passing boats the water gets murky and the water visibility could drop to a meter or so. The island is an excellent place to relax. We spent about an hour here where the boys all swam happily. As for me, after a tiring day under the scorching sun, I just want to lounge and relax at the spot that I found under the many shady trees and was enjoying the views as the gentle breeze flows. Before we depart, I took a stroll along the old pier at the island.

Just look at the clear water and the soft sands, you will definitely in love with this beach

I would suggest that you bring your own food and beach blanket if you plan to make a picnic here. Note that there are plenty of monkeys around who will be constantly targeting your food. So be careful and do not go near them or instigate them in any way. The monkeys often pull the rubbish out of the beans and make the area quite dirty. Due to heavy tourist flow, the island and the beach can get quite crowded at times. After about an hour at Pulau Beras Basah, you will head back to the Teluk Baru Jetty and then back to the hotel, feeling exhausted.

Please take note that per person rate for the Island Hopping tour varies from RM35 to RM50 depending on the season and also depending on the tour operator. If you book through your hotel, the rates are likely to be higher. The travel stalls in Pantai Cenang area are the cheapest. You will find plenty of them along the road Jalan Pantai Cenang. Usually hotel transfers in a mini van are included as part of the rate, provided you are put up in a nearby hotel like in Pantai Tengah or Cenang. But do verify this before booking. Or alternatively you can directly go down to Teluk Baru Jetty at the southern end of Pantai Tengah and book the tour with a boat operator directly. If you are in a group of 8 or more, you can book a full boat and the per person rate would turn out to be cheaper, like we did.

Remarks: Source of reference from local tour websites.
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