A tour of the mangroves at the Kilim Geoforest Park is a must for wildlife lovers visiting Langkawi.
The nature reserve is said to be approximately 500 million years old and is home to a wide variety of unique flora and fauna, and wonderful wildlife including eagles, bats and monkeys.
We organised our mangrove tour through one of the many agents operating in Cenang Beach and were picked up from the hotel at about 9am by minivan. The tour took approximately four hours.
After a short wait at the jetty, amid scores of other tourists and touts selling selfie sticks and waterproof phone cases, we were divided into small groups, given life jackets and climbed aboard the small motorboats which would take us down the river.
Although we were in convoy, the boats quickly separated and it was lovely to just relax, take in the spectacular scenery and listen to the sounds of life on the river.
Our first stop was a chance to watch white-bellied fish eagles as they swooped in and out of the water (main picture). This was my favourite part of the tour. It felt such a privilege to be so close to these majestic birds as they dived and soared just meters away from us.
As we moved along the river, macaque monkeys started to gather on the banks, obviously accustomed to being fed by tourists, and looking for their next meal. The boat came to a stop and the monkeys jumped on board, running up and down, snatching food from people’s hands. One of our tour group had brought some peanuts for them and they demolished them in seconds.
Macaque monkeys can be aggressive, particularly when you have food, and this wasn’t a pleasant experience for me. They also stole cans of pop from people, ripping them apart once back on shore and drinking the contents, which can’t be healthy for them.
The monkeys abandoned the boat as we set off again, passing a karst (limestone cliff) shaped like a gorilla (I didn’t get a good picture!), before heading out to sea where there were beautiful views of the coast of Thailand.
A stop at a fish farm gave us a chance to stretch our legs and learn more about the aquatic inhabitants of the river. The guides allowed people to hand feed and handle stingrays and huge horse shoe crabs.
The final stop was Gua Kelawar, a bat cave estimated to be 490 million years old. It’s pretty hard to get your head around that. The stalagmites are unique there because they grow towards the sunlight (as opposed to straight up). Shine your torch upwards and you will see thousands of bats on the roof. A wooden platform takes you on a short walk around the area to see the mangroves up close.
The half-day tour was a wonderful way to get close to the unique and wonderful nature of this beautiful Malaysian island.