Some 30 kilometers off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia lies the 99-island archipelago of Langkawi, a jungle-covered paradise in the Andaman Sea. The eponymous Pulau Langkawi is the largest of the islands and a getaway for everyone from backpackers to those in search of some of the nicest hotels in the world. With its untouched beaches and thick rainforest canopy, the north side of the island is the setting for many of the high-end accommodations. One such treasure is undoubtedly the Four Seasons, a resort where I recently had the pleasure to rest my head.
Set back from the island’s single road – so unpopulated is Langkawi that you rarely pass another car as you drive down its one route—the hotel exists on some 2.5 miles of beachfront nature preserve. Accommodations are breathtaking. Each villa is crafted from local trees that yield a durable dark wood, a material that has traditionally been used in local construction because of its durability despite water exposure. Soaring 20-foot ceilings are built from the same material, as are the elegantly suspended ceiling fans that whir gently overhead, making air conditioning unnecessary.
When we checked into our room, we were warned that the macaque monkeys who populate Langkawi’s rainforest know how to open doors – and know how to get into the mini bar. I couldn’t help but picture coming home to find monkeys jumping on the bed, airplane-sized bottles strewn about.
Inebriated or not, the animals would not be welcome to “monkey around” in the pool area: Adults only and cell-phone free, the “quiet pool” (one of two, the other is geared toward families) features private cabanas and an Olympic length infinity pool that overlooks the ocean.
With all that the lush resort has to offer, you’d be forgiven for not wanting to leave property at all. One thing, however, is a must: A trip through the UNESCO-protected mangrove forest. Led by the incredibly knowledgeable Naturalist Aidi Abdullah, our group set out right from the beach in front of the hotel and enjoyed a scenic open water ride before getting to the mouth of the mangroves. At that point we slowed down to take in the scenery.
The dense ecosystem is home to more macaques, rare orchids, monitor lizards, fiddler crabs, snakes and, I’m sure, plenty more we didn’t see. Under the cool shade of the dense forest, we meandered through narrow passages and came back out to open water to see monkeys gathered on the banks. Further along, there were eagles flying overhead, huge and majestic.
After three or so languid hours, we made our way back to the Four Seasons. We were ready to return to the creature comforts of the quiet pool and our villa, but thankful to experience a tiny part of the vast world that lies just beyond.