Island hopping advertisements are everywhere on Langkawi. It’s a cut-throat business and prices have slowly decreased in the past few years to the low price of 35 ringgit per person for a three-hour, three-island tour. This low across-the-board price doesn’t reflect on customer service, condition of the boats or licensed versus “freelance”. In addition to the serious bang for the ringgit factor you get on one of these trips, this Langkawi sightseeing activity is simply a must-do.
Although some tour purveyors have newer signs or perhaps a more stable non-mobile office, don’t necessarily judge a tour operator by their cover. A mobile unit can provide professional service just as well as high-end hotel travel agents. If however you meet a ‘salesperson’ wandering the beach with a raggedy visual aid brochure and a ‘just for you’ supersaver, be careful; your new friend may forget to show up the next day even if you did leave a deposit. Give no one money without getting a receipt and you’ll also probably receive a coloured sticker to help identify your particular group from other boat’s groups.
The twice-daily group tours (generally 09:30 and 14:00) have a general meeting spot, post pick-up from hotels and guesthouses, and then you should be blasting seaward within the hour. Unless it’s a private tour, you’ll likely first head to Tasik Dayang Bunting, or the lake of the pregnant maiden. The legendary lake and its magical fertility powers are a blessed sight after climbing the extensive stairway from the boat dock through the surrounding ‘jungle’ park.
You’ll get about an hour to wander the immediate grounds of the island, take a dip in the magical lake or even rent a solar powered paddleboat for 30 ringgit an hour. The surrounding geological rock formations and plant life show nature at her relatively untouched best, worthy of a longer visit.
The next stop is Pulau Singa Besar (Big Lion Island), which was declared a forest reserve and animal sanctuary in 1988. Due to the abundance of birds, this is the choice location for eagle feeding. Although there’s no actual landfall, guests get a chance to observe brahminy kites and sea eagles diving for food. There are some concerns from naturalists regarding the practice of tossing chicken bits to the birds — this is not their natural diet. Several tour operators have ceased this practice and now just eagle watch; you may want to check what yours does in advance and encourage the latter.
Last stop on the three-hour tour is Pulau Beras Besar. This white-sand beach is blindingly beautiful, especially on a sunny day, so be sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses. The water is quite clear in areas not stirred up by arriving boats and the tropical palms dotting the beach are a postcard perfect reminder of your vacation. There’s a small shop to rent a mask and snorkel or get a cold drink, but other than that your hour is yours to explore the area, before returning to Langkawi.
Group tours usually consist of up to 12 to 14 people per boat. The guides will do their best to meet that number, but it’s worth clarifying with the agent ahead of time what the maximum number of people his particular company allows in one boat. If you’re told the equivalent of “The more the merrier!”, you might want to source another operator with a set number. Private island hopping tours are also available, but at a much higher price — this information can be sought from any travel agency or mobile unit. A mobile unit hotspot in Pantai Cenang would be the parking lot next to Langguru Baron Resort, between Underwater World and Cenang Mall.