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Langkawi, Malaysia: Things to do on this beautiful island for a weekend

Lying to the north of Malaysia and host to the annual International Water Festival, Langkawi prides itself on everything aquatic. From pristine beaches and sea life to winding rivers and lush mangroves, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice for adventure, be it a romantic escape with the beau or a family affair. Leanda Rathmell shares her top tips for a fun-filled weekend away.

For most city-dwellers, our daily fix of nature typically comes in the form of a manicured lawn or a potted plant from Ikea (guests often tragically mistake mine for an ash tray). Apart from Sentosa’s manmade glory, those of us residing in Singapore are blessed to be within reach of some of Asia’s finest beaches where the choice of weekend escapades is endless. Yet, too often we limit ourselves to the deckchairs and infinity pools whilst the kids are hooked to their iPad’s latest Facebook feeds.

This thought dawned on me as we descended to the Langkawi airstrip and I recalled my first journey to this humble Eagle Island: a long-overdue reunion of girlfriends. I have only a vague recollection of the weekend apart from a hefty bar bill and sunburn-tender skin. Though our walk down memory lane was priceless, I am ashamed to admit I had taken no more than two steps outside the confines of our luxury resort. This trip, I vowed, would be different.

Checking into the Casa Del Mar late on a Friday morning set the perfect tone for round two. It’s perched right on Pantai Cenang Beach and a mere 10 minutes from the airport, so we were off the plane and having an ocean dip within the hour.

Meaning “Home by the Sea”, this Mediterranean-style resort is warm and welcoming. The terracotta shades and timber decking create a romantic bohemian vibe and our spacious sea-view suite and courtyard by the water’s edge allowed the sea breeze to fill the room. I certainly did feel at home.

Two delicious lamb and avocado baguettes and a couple of berry caipirinhas later, we were sifting through our bundle of brochures and loosely planning the weekend’s itinerary. The options were endless – from cable cars and snake sanctuaries to ancient tombs – but as our last holiday had been spent enjoying the historical delights of Ho Chi Minh City, we were eager to get back in the water.

Day Cruise

An archipelago of 99 islands waiting to be discovered, there’s no better way to explore Langkawi than aboard Casa del Mar’s Capricorn II. This charming 42-foot Grand Banks cruiser comes equipped with a refreshing buffet, a free flow of bubbly and wine and two wonderfully charismatic gentleman to attend to your every need.

The deciding factor for me was the 11am departure – enough time for a sleep in and beachside pancakes for breakfast. The scenery is flawless: limestone cliffs, sculpted islands and coves and endless strips of white sand. The tour guide shared mythical tales, such as that of Lake of the Pregnant Maiden (a swim in these waters is said to help women who are having difficulty conceiving). As the sun reached its peak, the crew dropped the anchor for everyone to cool off in the Andaman Sea.

We returned to the Casa Del Mar at 5pm sun-kissed and starving, showered and were back on the beach just in time for the sunset. Though I’m big believer in venturing outside the hotel for local culinary gems, La Sal restaurant is not to be missed for a candlelit dinner right on the beach.

Mangrove Kayak Tour

Langkawi is lushly green, containing a web of coastal rivers and intricate mangroves that are teeming with wildlife. Boat tours are available, but for a more eco-friendly option and a bit of exercise, the kayak tour allows you to navigate the narrow river branches that are inaccessible to larger boats.

Gliding through these channels without the raucous coughing of an engine is far more rewarding and doesn’t scare off the wildlife. In between stopping off to check out the bat caves and eagle feeding, we were able to spot several snakes, monkeys and even a monitor lizard, and a stingray swam by (come to think of it, I’m surprised I had the courage to jump in!). Drip dry while enjoying a well-earned lunch at Langkawi’s floating fish farm restaurant – delicious!

Telaga Tujuh or “Seven Wells”
It’s a testing hike up to this natural wonder with never-ending steps and steep roads, but well worth the effort. We recommend a big breakfast (did I mention the pancakes?) and an early start to avoid the scorching midday sun.

Located on the northwestern corner of the island in Mount Mat Cincang, Telaga Tujuh consists of intertwined pools fed by seven separate waterfalls, with the final stream cascading 90 metres to the seventh well. Taking a dip in these jungle Jacuzzis was a cooling reward. I’d be keen to see them during the rainy season, when the falls are said to be at their best and you can slip and slide from one well to the next. Though legend has it they were once frequented by fanciful fairies, mischievous monkeys are what you are more likely to encounter. Keep an eye on your belongings and be mindful of the slippery algae; I doubt I’m the first to return with black and blue knees!

Still thirsty? Here are a few more recommendations.

Sailing
Casa del Mar has a 16-foot and a 13-foot Hobbie Cat available for hire. If you have never sailed before, the staff will be happy to accompany you while you learn the ropes.

Snorkelling and Scuba Diving
Take in the underwater marvels of Palau Payar Marine Park, located some 19 nautical miles off Langkawi. If possible, aim for a weekday booking as this area is popular with both Langkawi and Penang guests and is known to get crowded. The southern Thai island of Koh Lipe is also recommended from November through to April.

Underwater World
One for the kids or a rainy day. See 500 species of animals and sea creatures including harbour seals, penguins, sharks, giant stingrays and the mammoth Amazonian arapaima – one of the world’s largest freshwater fish.

Deep Sea Fishing
Why not try your luck with the rod in the warm waters of the Andaman? Blue marlin, tuna, king fish, wahoo, shark or barracuda and narrow-barred mackerel are some of the catches you can look forward to.

Water Sports
Book ahead of time or do as we did and trail the beach for a spontaneous adrenaline-rush. Jet skis, banana boats, parasailing and windsurfers are all available for rent. Remember to haggle if it’s a beachside vendor.

Bathe
Sun-kissed and worn out, end your journey with a final plunge into Casa del Mar’s infused flower bath. The 120-minute Soul of Casa del Mar treatment includes a honey, turmeric, tamarind and sesame seed scrub, followed by a Malaysian massage and a relaxing floral bath.

Getting there
Air Asia offers daily flights to and from Langkawi. A two-night stay at Casa del Mar (+60 4 955 2388) starts from MYR724 (about S$290) and includes breakfast for two people.

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