It was strange, a chilly morning in Malaysia. The only temperature I know when in the country is hot, and hotter. The clouds were low, thinly blanketing the ridges of the karsts surrounding us, overgrown with hardy vegetation. Below, the water was almost green, its color muffled by the gray clouds overhead. Boats zigged and zagged along its placid surface, ferrying early tourists along the mangroves, their faces marveling at the scenery along the geopark.
|MANGROVES ALONG THE KARSTS OF KILIM GEOFOREST PARK|
Langkawi was the second stop for the Star Cruises SuperStar Gemini Singapore-Malaysia cruise. The day before, we explored the historic Georgetown for our Penang shore excursion, a UNESCO World Heritage City. This time, we’re checking out Langkawi’s Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|THE HOLLYWOOD-ESQUE GEOPARK SIGN|
As is the custom for cruise shore excursions, guests are presented with different options for exploring a cruise stop. Here in Langkawi, one can either go sightseeing, shopping, beaching around and even fishing, or combinations thereof. Rates start at SGD33.00 up to SGD193.00. All of these include transportation to and from the ship, an English-speaking guide, and on most of the tours, a complimentary meal.
|BOATS ARE DWARFED BY TOWERING KARSTS|
We booked for the Mangrove Cruise & Shopping Tour, which is at SGD98.00 per person and is set for about five hours. It doesn’t come with meals, but guests have the option of buying their own at the final stop of the mangrove tour.
|AT THE KILIM RIVER JETTY|
|WITH HIS SHADES ON, OUR COOL BOAT CAPTAIN|
I have been to the Langkawi Kilim Geopark a few months prior, but I was still quite excited to go back. The park, spread over a 100-square kilometer area, is a vast repository of towering karsts and lush mangroves. Last time, we took off from Tanjung Rhu Beach on a private speed boat, this time, we’re doing the usual tourist route, boarding from the Kilim River Jetty where motorized longboats are available.
|PATH OUTSIDE TH BAT CAVE|
|PHOTO OPS BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE|
Our first stop was just a few minutes away from the jetty, the Gua Kelawar, which literally means Bat Cave. Alighting on a floating platform, we passed through a scenic path at the foot of a karsts, the hulking sides of the mountain on our left, and mangroves filled with playful long-tailed macaque monkeys on our right.
|INTO THE BAT CAVE|
We then disappeared on a crack along a limestone wall and was swallowed by darkness. Our guide told us to be real quiet, so as not to disturb the nocturnal bats, before turning on her flashlight and aiming it at the low ceiling. Numerous Malaysian fruit bats came into view. Camera snaps soon followed sans flashes. Besides noisy tourists, camera flashes are also prohibited.
|AND OUT OF THE CAVE|
|AND INTO ANOTHER ONE|
Emerging at the other side, the cave is just a two-minute walk; we again entered another chamber for another brief bat-seeing tour. This isn’t really the hardcore spelunking you might imagine it to be, the smell of guano, or bat droppings, isn’t really that overpowering and the pathways inside and outside the cave are made of concrete, easy enough for any tourists.
|THE FLOATING FISH FARM|
The Fish Farm was our next stop. Situated on a floating wooden platform on one of the calmest part of Kilim Geoforest Park, it is home to a host of interesting sea creatures. Most of these are housed on small marine pens for tourists to gawk on.
|OUR JOLLY FISH FARM GUIDE|
We were shown a manta ray, some archer fishes—which uses their mouth to shoot water droplets to bring down a prey, or in our case, a piece of bread we stick on the sides of the pen—a strange Jurassic-looking crustacean, a horseshoe crab, plus a lot more swimming, errrr, things.
|LOOKS NASTY, BUT REALLY QUITE HARMLESS|
Guests are allowed to touch some of the animals, which I’m not too sure if is any good—especially for PETA people—but we fry and eat these guys on a daily basis, sooooooooo…. You decide. Entertainment versus slaughter.
|AT THE EAGLE FEEDING AREA|
And as if that wasn’t enough to bring out the animal activists in you, next on the itinerary was the eagle-feeding area. Langkawi is replete with brahminy kites and white-bellied sea eagles, it is no wonder the island itself is named after such.
|BRAHMINY KITES SOAR ABOVE|
|A COUPLE OF EAGLES ALONG THE MANGROVES|
The feeding area is situated on a placid part of the park surrounded by mangroves on all side. Boatmen used to haul chicken innards out into the water for eagles to dive for. I don’t know if they still practice this, as during the two times I’ve been here, the only thing our boats did was rev its engine and disturb the water for the eagles to come. And come they did. Like before, I haven’t seen as many wild eagles in a single place. It was just an amazing sight.
|LUNCH AT A FLOATING RESTAURANT|
|FRIED FISH, VEGGIES, CRISPY SHRIMP AND FRIED RICE FOR LUNCH|
Before going back, we docked on another floating platform just beside the Fish Farm for lunch. As plates of veggies, fried fishes and crispy shrimps were being served on our table, we were joking that those are the ones my companions were petting just an hour ago. Alright, bad joke aside, everything was really, really good, especially the crispy shrimp, which I was told to eat with its shells on.
|OFF TO GO SHOPPING!|
And you’d think we’re done after that? Not yet. It was finally time for shopping, and this time on a real mall! One of the best things about Langkawi, besides its UNESCO sites and white beaches, is that everything is duty free! You can buy a can of beer here for MYR2.00 compared to other parts of Malaysia which sells them about four times higher. Well, we didn’t bring no beer with us though, since it’s not allowed, but we did bring home bags and bags of white coffee, teh tarik (pulled tea) and noodles! Now that’s how you end an offshore excursion!
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