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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

17 January 2011

I like Langkawi

16th January 2011

We read about Langkawi online, and in the Lonely Planet for Malaysia. Sun, sea, sand, resorts, and a handful of desultory attractions to milk some money from those who tire of the beach; “come for the beaches, there’s nothing else here” was the verdict from pretty much everyone. That’s why our initial decision was to pass it by.

Personally, I found an island with an abundance of natural beauty, whether in the dark mangroves that stand on tangled tiptoes above the tides, the steep hills clad in verdant jungle and full of hornbills, or the wetlands and grass-green paddy fields in the flat interior. “ResortLand” seems to occupy just a few strips of beach here and there, and even that isn’t the eyesore found in parts of the Mediterranean.

I probably need to mention that we saw small-clawed otters this morning, crossing a stream a little way away from where we stood. That’s bound to colour my view of the island! We saw signs of them at three other places we tried, all fresh that morning. If we had a couple more days to spare I reckon we’d have had great sightings. We saw lots of other wildlife too, including a fantastic view of two oriental pied hornbills that for once were completely unfazed by our presence.

Perhaps Langkawi would struggle to entertain someone not interested in the beach and not privvy to the wildlife-watching locations Indera showed us. Many were down odd little side turnings that no-one would ever think to take. There’s even a fascinating area of mangrove with miles of concrete boardwalk all gradually getting overgrown, obviously created as a place for tourists to visit but abandoned as an attraction years ago.

Indera was a very enthusiastic guide, meeting us before dawn for a quick roti canai

(pancake bread topped with condensed milk, or curry sauce in Maureen’s case) and then taking us to half-a-dozen likely spots for otters. He is a bird-watcher these days, but used to work a lot with snakes. He was paralysed all down one side for six months from a king cobra bite, so I imagine his wife approves the change in focus.

A brief deviation into photo-geekery. Indera got a new 400mm prime lens for Christmas, and it was interesting to compare as we both tried photographing the same wildlife, me with my 70-300 telephoto with vibration reduction. When the bird or critter was at distance and the light good, he invariably got better results. But there were two or three occasions when I could grab a shot while he had to attempt backing off or perching elsewhere to get the whole subject in frame, and being wildlife it would move in the meantime. In low light, or on the boat, he had a lot of trouble with the lack of vibration reduction – if I ever invest in a big prime lens, I think that will be a must.

So I like Langkawi, and would like to return and spend a week looking for small-clawed otters and other wildlife on the island. If they took the trouble to put some trails through the rainforest and fields, like Taman Negara, there’s a chance of making Langkawi appeal to a broader range of visitors.

3 Responses to “I like Langkawi”

  1. Jane says:

    The Newport Aquarium has the Asian Small-Clawed otters, but I’ve also seen American River otters at the Tulsa zoo.

    • shortclaws says:

      Yep! I remember the delightful pictures of tiny small-clawed otters from Newport.

      There are a handful of places in England that have Eurasian otters too, but the small-clawed are definitely the easiest to keep and the most charming for visitors, so I guess that explains their popularity.

      Then again, as we’ve discovered the smooth-coated otter is quite tolerant of people and enjoys having fun.

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