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Langkawi Geopark – The Jewel of Kedah
By Sara Lemos
In 2007 UNESCO declared Langkawi and its surrounds, one of 64 globally recognised Geoparks.
What is a Geopark I hear you say?
Well you could stab a guess and break down the word to something like geological park. But as per UNESCO’s definition it is so much more. They define it as
‘A territory encompassing one or more sites of scientific importance, not only for geological reasons but also by virtue of its archaeological, ecological or cultural value.’ ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geopark )
Essentially, this means that as well as geological heritage, a Geopark also comprises recognised conservational efforts, local community support and ecotourism. Geoparks are nationally protected areas but, by and large, accessible for visitors to take in their wonder while still upholding the notion of sustainable development.
Langkawi’s branding as a Geopark is obvious in its array of impressive rock formations surrounded by ancient jungle, vast caves with stalactites and stalagmites, winding mangrove rivers, sea caves and tunnels, wildlife and waterfalls. As well as these impressive features, environmentally, eco-tourism is promoted in the community with areas such as Laman Padi in Cenang. Here you will find a rice garden museum with an 8.6 acres paddy field, educating visitors on the traditional and modern ways rice is harvested. The cable car ride up to the top of Machinchang Mountain, allows visitors the chance to explore the waterfalls and fauna in the pristine forest below whilst still preserving its natural beauty.
The 99 islands in this region, which cover 10,000 hectares, make Langkawi one of Malaysia’s top destinations to visit for natural beauty, ecological harmony and geological significance. You will also find here the most exposed and complete Palaeozoic sedimentary sequence in Malaysia.
Over 90 geosites have been found in the region but there are three distinct areas that form the Langkawi Geopark, each with its own unique geological makeup. The MaChinchang Mountain Ranges are renowned for their Cambrian (first geological period of the Paleozoic Era) rock formations; the Kilim Geopark for its Karst landscape; and the Dayang Bunting Geopark for its marble formations.
The MaChinchang Mountain Ranges
Geologically, the sandstone mountain range of MaChinchang, in the north western corner of Langkawi, and Gunung Raya, a granite mountain at the centre, are a great testament to its classification as a Geopark. Gunung Raya is the tallest mountain range on the island standing at 881m. Machinchang is the oldest rock formation on Langkawi, and stands 800m above sea level. It was created over half a billion years ago and was the first part of South East Asia to rise from the seabed during the Cambrian period. The oldest part of this mountain range is Teluk Datai. This is where the oldest grains of sand rest, its history displayed in the exposed surface of sandstone in the upper part and mudstone/shale in the lower part.
The Kilim Geoforest Park
The Kilim Geoforest Park in the north east corner, a rugged karstic limestone terrain, offers an array of winding mangrove rivers to explore. These are surrounded by pinnacles of various shapes, near vertical karstic hills and caves formed from millions of years of erosion. Within these caves you will see amazing limestone formations. Here you can find plenty of marine life in the emerald green waters below as well as spot birds, including the islands famous eagles, up high.
Dayang Bunting Geopark
South of Langkawi you will find the second largest island of the archipelago, Pulau Dayang Bunting. Famous for the fresh water lake found nestled amongst hills of rugged forest, it is also known as Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. The lake originated as a massive limestone cave which collapsed. There you will also find the finest Permian marble formations in the world.
As well as its geological beauty, Dayang Bunting also contains a deep spirituality. Legend tells of a heavenly maiden, married to an earthly prince, who loses a child shortly after the birth. She is said to have buried the child in the lake then blessed the waters with fertility before parting earth for heaven. Nowadays it is populated by tourists and locals who come to swim and admire the surrounding landscape. From a certain angle, the shape of the island resembles a pregnant maiden laying on her back. This magical quality as well as the area’s overall astounding beauty is what many believe make Langkawi the number one Geopark in the world.
Things to consider when visiting Langkawi Geopark:
• Don’t leave your rubbish behind, and be considerate if you see any laying around – pick it up and put it in the bin
• Please do not feed the wildlife. You are not only disrupting their ecological cycle but, especially the monkeys, they become accustomed to human contact and may become aggressive if approached with food.
• Be careful when swimming around the coral reefs. Standing on them is damaging and harmful to the ecology of marine wildlife.
Be considerate to Mother Nature; she was here long before you!
About the author: Sara Lemos
Sara first traveled SE Asia in 2001 and has since been back many times. She is now trying to make it her home.
For more information about her travels check out Sara's blog:- theninjatravels.com
Letter from Kamarulzaman, a former GM of LADA
Thank you for keeping in touch and still in mind about my views on Langkawi Global Geopark. It's been 3 short years since I left Langkawi as the LADA GM but I still feel very strongly on the importance of promoting Langkawi Geopark as THE single-most important tourism selling point for the whole tourism industry of Malaysia and, of course, for Langkawi in particular.
Langkawi really became a jewel to Kedah when it received the official UNESCO recognition of a global geopark on 1st Jun 2007. But I feel the jewel remained unpolished and the potential remained yet untapped . . .
There are now 78 global geoparks endorsed by UNESCO thus far, and the numbers are rising. But I can safely say that Langkawi Geopark, 52nd in the list, the first in SE-Asia, is the best global geopark in the world, It is a complete and most comprehensive geopark and very very accessible. It has variety in both geodiversity and biodiversity. The potential for knowledge-based tourism is just tremendous . . .
It may also be of interest to readers that big money is coming into Langkawi in next year's 2012 budget ie.RM420 mil. The Langkawi Blueprint will be launched by PM next week. If they carry the UNESCO global geopark brand, Langkawi tourism will go a long way in new value creation.
THE JUNGLE WALLA OF LANGKAWI
By Kamila Delart
Until quite recently, Langkawi was only a tiny dot on the map, completely unknown to the world.
That things have changed and people from all across the globe come to admire the island’s breathtaking nature is not a coincidence. Let’s pay homage to the very first naturalist of Langkawi, Irshad Mobarak, who spent the last 26 years sharing this amazing gift with travelers and locals alike.
A nature kid, Irshad spent his childhood exploring with his dad the wilderness, running with Orang Asli children through the jungle and picking up the skills of indigenous tribes when crossing hidden rainforest lakes in a dugout canoe, trying to catch a fish.
Surrounded by nature, he was completely in his element. So much so, that when asked at the age of nine about his dream job, there was only one answer that felt right: A game warden!
GEOPARK INSIDER TIPS
By Kamila Delart
Langkawians cherish a slow pace of life so you will barely ever encounter a speeding car or hear the impatient sound of a horn. Adapt this leisurely mode to enjoy the magnificent vistas along the roads and to make sure reptiles and baby monkeys that choose to cross over are safe.
To truly appreciate the breathtaking beauty of Langkawi, you have to explore the ten million years old rainforests! Best you join an experienced Nature Guide who is familiar with the hiding spots of sleeping colugos and fruit bats and who knows where to point at night a torch so that you spot a flying squirrel. Led to secluded places, you will be able to admire wild orchids, and learn about rare medicinal rainforest plants and other jungle secrets.