After the information of the sighting of the whale sharks in October a lot of boats have gone out to try to spot these amazing animals and there were only a few boats that came back with positive news and many others were not that lucky. As the whale sharks are migratory and might visit the Langkawi archipelago from December till March many more times we just have to be patient and wait for a next opportunity.
LIMA has just finished and many people have enjoyed looking at the various planes and boats that were exhibited during this show but we always wonder what the effect of the noise will be to the animals and especially the birds. As the dry seasons is almost there, more migratory birds have come in and bird watching will be a lot of fun during the next dry months. The Oriental Scops Owl is back in the mangroves and can be spotted during our mangrove boat trip and we are happy to see that the numbers of various raptors and Wreathed Hornbills are slowly increasing. I have also spotted last month a jungle owlet and a spotted owlet and both species are not common on Langkawi. One of them I could save out of my cats’ mouth so I had time enough to determine that it was a jungle owlet.
We know that a lot of people are afraid of snakes and they think that they might be chased after or bitten by a snake. There are more than 40 species of snakes on the island and many of them are nocturnal. Snakes are necessary in our eco-system and will keep the mice and rat population at an acceptable level. During the mangrove boat trip you will most probably see the mangrove pit viper, but the boat will always at a safe distance. During other trips you might see one of the other snakes, but the chance is very small. I recently spotted the kukri snake behind the jungle (photo is of former spotting last year) and I always feel lucky to spot one of them; this snake is not venomous and was less than 1 meter. Please always bear in mind that no animal will harm you as long as you are not harming the animal and that also counts for snakes.
The number of flying lemurs has increased fortunately but the numbers of flying squirrels are still not too great, and hopefully the dry season during the next months will see an increase for them too.
During the mangrove boat trip we always pass an area where the wild dogs can be found. The dingo is on Langkawi since the aborigine people were here and they have been brought from the mainland by the kensiu or kintaq, both different aborigine types of people. We hope the wild dogs will be totally protected and will not be interbreeding with local dogs. They should be recognized as a totally different breed and they are very healthy, strong and extremely well adapted to the circumstances of living in the jungle.
We are all preparing for the coming peak season and we are ready to welcome many guests on our different trips. We have also finished the renovation of our office in Pantai Cenang and you are more than welcome to visit this office during your stay on Langkawi. You can find us next to Underwater World, 2nd floor above Papadam Ria (Indian restaurant). Please always call first before your visit as we might be on the way and busy with one of the outdoor activities. You can reach us between 8am and 10pm at 019 4949193.
Hope to see you one day in our office or on one of our trips and will catch up with you next month.
October 2009 – extra
An extra column this month as we would like to share the experience of our good friend Naylene. We received the following mail including photos from her a couple of days ago:
I went fishing yesterday with some friends in front of the Berjaya and we spotted at least 5 Whale sharks at approx. 11:30 a.m.!! Amazing experience!!!! I imagine we spent about 2 hours with them - I'm still so excited and just had to share these (amateur!) photos with you - lucky I had my camera with me, or maybe no one would believe this experience! Don't ask me how big they were, but all I know is that we were in a 25ft. Explorer Speedboat, and the whale sharks were MUCH bigger than the boat!! They swam underneath the boat, swam all around us, and gave us a real show. After that, we really didn't care if we caught any fish!! We reckon we already had the catch of the day!
Whaleshark - by Naylene Vuurens - Smith
Whaleshark - by Naylene Vuurens - Smith
The whale shark is the largest living fish species and the largest confirmed individual has a length of 12.65 metres (41.50 ft) and a weight of more than 21.5 tonnes. The animal inhabits the world’s tropic and warm-temperate seas and can live for about 70 years possibly up to 100 years. It is a migratory shark, moving to different locations during different seasons for feeding and possibly to breed and it is capable of diving to depths of 700 metres. The whale shark is not an efficient swimmer as the entire body is used for swimming (unusual for fish) and this contributes to an average speed of about 5- kilometre per hour.
The body is mostly grey with a white belly and the skin is marked with a board of pale yellow spots and stripes; the skin can be up to 10 centimetres thick. Although they have a very big mouth the whale shark is an active and filter feeder and feeds mainly on macro-algae, plankton, krill, red crab larvae and small nektonic life such as small squid or vertebrates.
The whale sharks are ovoviviparous; the eggs remain in the body and the females give birth to live young which are 40 to 60 centimetres long. They will reach sexual maturity at around 30 years.
Whaleshark - by Naylene Vuurens - Smith
Whaleshark - by Naylene Vuurens - Smith
Although it is often seen offshore, it has also been found closer to shore, entering lagoons or coral atolls, and near the mouths of estuaries and rivers. So it was the case with this sighting. We have heard more sightings of the whale sharks over the last years, but they were all more offshore and that seemed to be during the first months of the year. This species does not pose any significant danger to humans; they are actually quite gentle and can be playful with divers and snorkelers who can swim with this giant fish without any risk apart from unintentionally begin struck by the shark’s large tail fin.
Thanks to Naylene for sharing this experience and the photos with us and our readers.
Hope to catch up with you with next month’s column.
While writing this we are in between the Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Deepavali break for our Asian guests and in between the summer break and autumn break for many other countries and this is always a period full of surprises for us. Some days all the trips are fully booked, some days we have 4 trips going out with only a few people per trip; we always try to accommodate as many guests as possible but we would like to stick to certain maximum numbers per trip. We always recommend advance bookings, especially for short stay guests who are not flexible in changing days due to their tight schedule. Check out our eco-packages elsewhere on this website where you will be rewarded with a discount by booking more than 1 trip with us during the same stay. The combinations of the eco-packages can be done on 1 day for certain combinations, but we usually recommend to spread the eco-package out over more days.
At the moment some orchids are flowering like Spathoglottis Alba and Habenaria, both to be seen in the mangroves. The weather has been good for the last weeks on the island; it was actually only the end of August and beginning of September that caused some troubles with extremely heavy rain and floods on different places on the island, but that was finally only for a couple of days. We are now slowly heading towards the dry season. The floods are partly caused by not having the right drain systems and partly by the illegal logging which seems to be the case not only on Langkawi, but in more places on the peninsular of Malaysia and Borneo too. It is a very frightening development. With the formation of the MNS (Malaysian Nature Society) on Langkawi recently we hope to be able to protect Langkawi for worse effects on the long term.
The bird watching is slow at this moment in terms of numbers but as mentioned in the former column migratory birds seems to come in earlier; we have already spotted the Grey Wagtail, Cattle Egrets, Little Egrets and Greater Painted Snipe just to mention a few. What is really worrying us is the number of hornbills that has dropped dramatically. It is very hard to spot them and there are no Wreathed Hornbills to be seen at all. Fortunately we still have enough beautiful and colourful birds to make a bird watching trip attractive. One of the never to be missed birds is the colourful White-throated Kingfisher that you can see all around the island.
Also the number of flying lemurs and flying squirrels (pygmy and red giant) in the area around Gunung Mat Chinchang has dropped. We are still trying to find out what the reason is in this area, so we hope that this is only a temporary drop due to other reasons than logging. Another problem in this same area is the stream which lies between two hotels and Oriental Village. In Malaysia streams and rivers are not private property which means that it is everybody’s responsibility to keep them clean and to keep them free of pollution and we are definitely facing here a big challenge.
We are very happy and proud to inform you that we have found a suitable office space along the stretch of Pantai Cenang. There needs to be done some renovation work and this has just started. The expectation is that we will be able to move in this office by the end of October or at least early November. The space is big enough to receive our guests, but will also become a presentation/meeting room in the future where we will be able to serve and inform our guests better. In the meantime we are also training new staff, both for office work and for outdoor activities. The new peak season is coming and we try to prepare ourselves to serve all our guests to the best quality level possible. Whenever you will have a suggestion for us we would appreciate your reaction; we highly appreciate your input and will improve where possible. Hope to see you in the next column.
We are in the middle of the summer break for parts of the world which means a lot of families with children on our trips. It is great to have children on the trips as they seem to be very interested in seeing animals, plants, flowers and trees that they will not see in their own country. Especially the trips in the mangroves are popular; by boat or by kayak and for a lot of children the jungle trekking / evening walk combination is a highlight with the flying lemurs and squirrels.
Oriental Pied Hornbill (Photo by Helen and Ben Brewster)
During some bird watching trips last month we have seen the first grey wagtail. It seems that the migratory birds are coming in a bit early. A very popular place for spotting some good birds is the area of and around the Bon Ton and of course the Gunung Raya is still a good place for spotting the three species of hornbills. In the Pantai Cenang area we have seen the Baillon's Crake, which we have listed as a passage migrant. It is very similar to White-browed Crake, but it is slightly smaller and does not have the brow; it also has a whitish throat and belly.
The work on a solid waste dump is ongoing. The current situation with bad garbage management in Langkawi is due to the fact that garbage disposal will eventually be privatized in the state's effort to be more cash efficient. This is taking some time as there have been certain issues like pay scheme and leave and transfer of equipment to the new company, which is based in Kuala Lumpur. The new garbage disposal system is a federal and state initiated effort to increase efficiency. We hope that they will be able to solve the garbage problems on the island.
The slipper orchid on the limestone in the Kilim mangrove area has stopped flowering but we have spotted the tiger orchid (agrastophyllum specieosum) as well as another orchid (a terrestrial species) i.e. Geodorum citrinum Jacks in bloom.
Bad side of tourism... (Photo by David and Caz Roberts)
We are unhappy about the fact that the rules and regulations within the Geopark, issued by the Forestry Department, are not being followed, even though the Kilim and Tanjung Rhu area are part of the Geopark. Rules have been laid out very clearly with notices and signage, for example regarding the monkey feeding, eagle feeding, noise and smoking in bat cave, the limits on number of people per guide and many more. Although we are of the opinion that everybody should take his own responsibility in this (boat operators, boat drivers, guides, tourists) it would be good in our opinion to assign some active park rangers to protect this beautiful mangrove area on the long term.
Another important issue that we have noticed is the increase of road kill numbers of various animals; the volume of traffic on the island has increased with the amount of tourists travelling back and forth. This is of course not because of more tourists but a general increased activity in vehicles and inconsiderate drivers. As Langkawi is still full of animals, a lot of animals will go to other places and they have to cross the roads. Driving slowly and carefully is the only solution and you will see the animals alive instead of dead along the road.
||Blue Whistling Thrush (Photo by Graeme Hall). This bird is often seen in and around the bat cave and can be spotted during our mangrove boat or mangrove kayak trip
The weather at the moment is how it should be: hot and very humid and once in a while a heavy and short rain shower. The island is beautifully green and we will definitely still have a lot of families on our trips during this August month.
Any nice photo or comment about our trips or any other Langkawi subject can always be sent to us: email@example.com
Your opinion and suggestions are highly appreciated by our team.
Hope to see you next time.
Dev / Anne-Marie
We have been busy outdoors and on trips the last weeks; the local school holidays brought a lot of people from other parts of Malaysia and Singapore to our beautiful island. Especially the well priced new direct flights from Singapore to Langkawi are used often and we have seen an increase of Singaporean guests. The weather has been good for the tourists, which means hot and dry, but we could do with some rain once in a while to keep it all nice and green.
I have finally spotted the not so common Nervilia calcicola, an orchid species. This personally gives me a lot of pleasure because I could not recognize this plant as an orchid and now, after finding it, it has been embedded in my brain. This hexagonally shaped leafy plant is found about 2 or 3 meters above the water line and I came across it at high tide on one of our kayaking trips. After carefully pulling it out of loose soil, I could clearly see the awkward looking bulb and confirm that it is indeed the mentioned species. After carefully placing it back and taking note of the surrounding area, one could see that the plant was growing in a horizontal crevice. Now it will be a matter of time to await the flowering to make some more records and photos. This orchid is endemic to Langkawi and not found anywhere else. Therefore mentioning this plant in other states could help us update a taxonomical list. Please do forward any information to us if you have.
Another related piece of information has been observed by my bird lover business partner Anne-Marie and that is the sighting of the not so often seen Rufous-winged Philentoma. After receiving confirmation by her friend Debora and collating this with 2 other bird watchers we would like to announce that this bird will stay on the bird list record that we have produced.
Another matter that was in my mind was the Orange-breasted Trogon with its incessantly repeated 4-5 noted calls at night!! This would be my first time observing this sort of behavior. The calls went on for about 2 hours and possibly there was a response from a female, but am not too sure about that. Please let us know if you know more about this behavior.
Our mangrove kayak trip is definitely the most popular trip and as we are getting a lot of the same questions we would like to give some information in this column. The kayaks are 2-seaters, sit on top (tri-hull and wide bodied) and extremely stable which makes them a perfect mean of transport to observe the nature in the mangroves. They can be used with 2 persons and are also suitable for single use. Life jackets are provided as well as good waterproof bags which are suitable to bring small cameras along; if you decide to bring your camera it will be your own responsibility. At the beginning of the trip the guide will give you safety instructions and information how to use the paddles and the kayak. For most of our guests it is the first time in a kayak, but please note that everybody with a normal level of fitness will be able to do this trip. For persons with (lower) back or leg problems we rather recommend to do the mangrove trip by boat.
Paradise Tree Snake - by Ian Roberts
Paradise Tree Snake - by Ian Roberts
There are quite some snakes on the island but the chance that you will see one will be extremely low, unless you really start looking for it. One of the beautiful snakes is definitely the Paradise Tree Snake. This is not an aggressive snake at all and it is mildly venomous with beautiful colors. This snake is almost all completely arboreal and is able to glide from tree to tree by extending skin flaps to increase surface area, then by making the familiar side-winder movement it is able to glide. It eats geckos, frogs and bats.
We were in contact through the mail with spider enthusiasts, Ben and Helen Brewster, and we found some interesting spiders and new things during some trips with them and we hope to get back to you on this issue in the next column.
Hope to meet you next month.
We are very happy to inform you that the Malaysian Nature
Society (MNS) has started a branch on Langkawi. The official
launch was on 21 April 2009. Having an own branch on the island
is definitely more effective than being part of the Kedah
branch on the mainland. This will give more punch and more
say to nature lovers and conservationists on the island and
hopefully a lot of environmental issues can be treated in
a different way and also from the nature and conservation
point of view. Our company is supporting the new branch wherever
At the moment a lot of dusky leaf langur babies are changing
their colour. The babies are born with a bright orange colour
and this will change after about six months.
Dusky Leaf Langur - photo by Tom
This monkey species is feeding mainly on leaves, buds and
fruits and you will spot them normally higher up in the trees.
The most exciting spotting during the mangrove trips was
definitely the group of about 50 dolphins that we could clearly
see from a not too far distance. It was the first time that
we saw such a big group in this area and we were very lucky
to spot the group several times that week. Other of our groups
saw an otter family of 6 members playing in the mangroves.
You need to be lucky to see dolphins and otters during a trip
as they are not that common. But nature is always a surprise
and that is exactly what we as guides like about it. Not one
single day is the same and it can depend on weather conditions,
tide levels and just luck.
At the bat cave we found a cluster of eggs of the common
cobra. Females lay up to 45 eggs in a clutch and in this case
we counted about 30 eggs. The most common snake to spot is
the mangrove pit viper and once in while we see a python.
The viper will always be laying on a branch using the whole
branch and the python can be recognised by the fact that they
curl themselves up. We always will treat all animals with
a lot of respect and from a safe distance and it is not necessary
to be afraid of them at all.
giant squirrel - photo by Ian Roberts
During the morning walks we see a lot of giant squirrels,
the Ratufa bicolour. They can grow up to 85cm and they have
a long tail. They are usually solitary and they feed on fruit,
seeds and some leaves. Their call is a loud chatter audible
for several hundred metres.
The slipper orchids are blooming as well and can be spotted
during the mangrove trips.
A lot of people used the Easter break to come to Langkawi
and to join one or more of our trips. We had many nationalities
and we had great trips. It is so nice for us to have real
nature lovers on our trips and people who are really interested
in the very rich flora and fauna of Langkawi. Besides that
it gives us the opportunity to learn about the nature of their
The weather conditions are perfect for the trips, mostly
a lot of sun, sometimes a bit cloudy and once a in while a
short and heavy shower. The island is back green again and
it looks beautiful.
Hope to meet you in the next column.
dry season is over and we have daily short and heavy rain
showers. As everywhere in the world the climate is changing
and we only had 2 full dry months this dry season instead
of 3 or 4 months. We always get a lot of questions about the
weather conditions in relation to our trips. Please realise
that the rain is mostly short and heavy and after that the
conditions are perfect to do a trip. Having rain in the area
of your resort does not automatically mean that it will be
raining at the starting point of your trip. We always recommend
you to come to the starting point of the trip, unless we foresee
no improvement. If you are at the starting point and you will
still decide not to join the trip with us, we will send you
back without any charge for trip or transfer. Let not your
day be spoilt by some rain; conditions can change very quickly
and you might be missing a wonderful day out.
Slow loris - photo
by Tom Reynolds
and wildlife photographer Tom Reynolds has managed to get
a photo of the slow loris, one of the four monkey species
on Langkawi. Lorises are mainly solitary, active at night
and you might be able to spot one by shining a light through
trees and looking for reflective eyeshine. They walk slowly
and deliberately through trees and on wires but can move quickly
when catching a prey. Diet comprises insects, birds, small
mammals and lizards, as well as fruit, nectar and pollen.
An adult weigh 1-2 kg and is 30-38cm.
paddy fields are getting greener the nature cycling trips
are becoming more popular. It is a real pleasure cycling through
the small paths in the paddy fields, looking at the beautiful
birds, the bathing buffalos or just enjoy the nice local village
houses with the always friendly people. The trip can be done
with early morning start or mid afternoon start to avoid the
possible heat during noon.
- photo by Tom Reynolds
a boat and kayak trip in the mangroves we were very happy
to spot a Merlin, a Common Kestrel and a Lesser Kestrel. Both
birds are migratory for Langkawi and are not spotted very
often. In the former column we mentioned that we are seeing
less Hornbills, so we were very happy to spot a big flock
of Hornbills (25-30) flying from the Gunung Raya in the Datai/Berjaya
direction. On a bird watching trip we spotted up to 50 Great
Hornbills at the lower end of Gunung Raya.
Raft building on the beach
the last month we had a great activity on the beach with an
amazing group of all ladies and 1 man: raft building. The
group was highly motivated to build a raft with bamboo, tubes
and strings as soon as possible. After that they had to put
the raft into the water and try to get from one point to another
with paddles. A lot of cooperation, team building and fun
were the ingredients and nobody stayed dry. We finished the
day with some nice indoor games and we were very happy to
hear that the group with people of various countries acted
more as one group after this event. So the satisfaction was
great for all the parties.
also like to report two dead dugongs; one at Langgun and the
other at Selat Tuba. Possibly the slow moving animals have
been hit by a speed boat.
try to write a monthly column to keep you updated. If there
are issues regarding nature or animals that you would like
to discuss with us please do not hesitate to contact us and
we will answer you directly and/or write about it in this
meet you in the next column.
We are in the middle of the dry season
and it is really dry at the moment. Is has also been very
hot on Langkawi the last weeks and we really welcomed the
short rain showers we had in the evenings the last few days.
It was a real refreshment for men and nature and the views
during the trips are so much clearer and brighter the following
day. The hot weather is turning the limestone vegetation dry
and brown like trees in autumn and falling leaves are everywhere.
The mangrove forests however are evergreen which provides
a nice contrast in the scenery and during one of the mangrove
trips you will hardly realise that we are in dry season.
of the drawbacks of the dry season are the bush fires and
we are definitely not happy with this at all. Local people
are torching bush to clear land which will finally have disastrous
consequences for the nature and environment in the future.
In my last
column we have introduced to you our naturalists Selva and
Hafizan. Unfortunately the photo of Hafizan was missing so
we introduce him here again as one of our very enthusiastic
happy to inform you that we have noticed an increased number
of porpoises. When we spot them it is mostly during one of
our mangrove boat trips. The porpoises are related to whales
and dolphins. The most obvious visible difference between
the two groups is that porpoises have flattened, spade-shaped
teeth distinct from the conical teeth of dolphins, and shorter
beaks. They hunt fish, squid, and crustaceans.
a bit of a worry to all bird lovers on Langkawi is the fact
that we are spotting less Hornbills, especially the Great
and Wreathed Hornbill. It becomes more and more difficult
to spot them and we really wonder what is happening with them.
The bird watching at this moment is very good and last week
we managed to spot 53 different bird species during a 5 hour
trip which was a record with some very exciting species. During
various trips we have spotted the Aberrant Bush Warbler at
the Gunung Raya, but before putting this on our list as a
new specie on Langkawi we would like to have a confirmation
from other bird watching groups, so if you are able to confirm
this specie, please let us know.
(Photo by Hans Overduin)
the beautiful birds is the Common Kingfisher, which is migratory
to Langkawi. You can spot this bird from November to April
in the mangroves but also near pond or rivers in the paddy
fields. We are of the opinion that this bird is more beautiful
than the name it has been given.
the colourful Purple Swamphen who is nesting at Bon Ton, this
resort has new inhabitants in their pond which are the otters.
This is the Smooth Otter and they are distinguished from other
large otters in South-east Asia by its smooth coat, naked
nose and more flattened tail. They eat fish, turtles, crustaceans
and shellfish and they are very cute to watch!
we have noticed a drop in tourism numbers on the island. Everybody
is talking about the recession and there is nothing much that
we can do about it except for continuing the way we are working
by giving you a good quality nature experience during your
stay on Langkawi. Please feel free to share your thoughts
and ideas with us and our team would be more than happy to
assist you with all your questions regarding the nature and
other things on Langkawi.
We hope to meet you in the next column.