Feeling stressed out from working? You should get a group of friends and head towards Pulau Payar Marine Park, about 35km (19 nautical miles: 1nmi~1.85km) south of Pulau Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia, 28km (15 nautical miles: 1nmi~1.85km) west of Kuala Kedah or 59km (32 nautical miles: 1nmi~1.85km) north of Penang Island, Malaysia for a day out adventure to explore one of Asia’s most beautiful coral reefs. That was what a few of us Malaysian bloggers and friends did last Sunday by applying through the online “Kempen Cuti-cuti MyKad” special promotion package (RM180 per pax) and it was a fun-filling experience for all.
We started out by gathering at the newly constructed Swettenham Pier check-in building and by 8.30am, we were already on our way, leaving behind the scenic view of the Penang island. Some of us did recharge our energy during the journey by having some siesta to get the best out of the package. We finally arrived at Langkawi Coral Reef Platform (100m from the shore of Pulau Payar) about 2 hours later.
Pulau Payar, being the largest and 3 other smaller islands, namely Pulau Kaca (northeast of Pulau Payar), Pulau Lembu (northeast of Pulau Payar and just next to Pulau Kaca) and Pulau Segantang (southwest of Pulau Payar) and have been collectively gazetted as the Pulau Payar Marine Park. These islands are the sanctuary for extensive range of marine organisms and fishes. Stretching 1.75km x 500m with an area of 31.2 hectres, Pulau Payar is rich in flora and fauna on top of the magnificent coral reefs. The island has small stretches of white sandy beaches for those who love sunbathing and casual strolling. Don’t forget to bring more sun-block lotion if you intend to do so, unless you are those who would want to be as tan as the Africans… LOL! If you are lucky, you might even catch some live actions of creatures on the shore during daylight.
There are also a few trekking trails for those nature shutterbugs. You can expect to see endemic flying fox, monitor lizards, shore pit viper, white-bellied sea eagle, crested serpent eagle, imperial pigeon and many other feathered friends. You would also see some amenities which would include picnic tables, barbecue pits, gazebos and restrooms at strategic locations for your personal needs. Picnics and camping are allowed but cutting of trees and open burning would be strictly prohibited. How I wished I had more time to explore the other side of the island for more nature shots.
What impressed visitors most would be the availability of Langkawi Coral, Malaysia’s first and only reef platform located at the Pulau Payar Marine Park. The 49m x 15m well equipped floating platform (with numerous changing/wash rooms, snack bar and dining area) would facilitate activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, sunbathing, fish feeding to panoramic viewing of the marine kingdom. If that alone could not captivate your attention, glass bottom boat rides or diving can be arranged to various coral gardens to amaze you further.
If you do not intend to get yourself wet, there’s a tunnel-like Underwater Observation Chamber at the bottom of the platform (about 10 feet below sea level) to catch glimpses of the beautiful seabed filled with various seashells, shellfishes and slugs. With an average visibility of 9 to 15 meters of crystal clear blue water, I’m sure you would be impressed easily.
Do watch out for colorful soft corals and hard corals such as the deer antler like Staghorn, Boulder and Brain as well as fishes of all stripes, dots, spots and rainbow colors. It was a bonus in here for me as I caught shots of two main pelagic predators out there. One of them was the around 1m long Barracuda (locally known as alu-alu) which I would expect to be around 10kg or so, hiding under the platform awaiting its prey. The next was the Black Tipped Reef Shark of almost the same length as the Barracuda. Both were wonderful sights indeed.
While snorkeling deep in the crystal clear water, I managed to see some beautiful colored fishes such as the rock fish, yellow fin goatfish, schooling bannerfish, yellow boxfish (related to the pufferfish family), blue dot grouper, goldband fusiliers, horse-eyed jacks, tiera batfish, lawnmower blenny, sea goldie, raccoon/blackbacked butterflyfish, orange striped cardinalfish, percula clownfish (which did not have the lighter orange color as my favorite “Nemo”), yellowfin clownfish (of course I still missed my “Nemo”.. where did it hide itself this time? LOL!), tangaroan goby, yellow clown goby, arc eye hawkfish, large sized parrotfish, moon wrasse, juvenile trevally, black snapper, remora (suckerfish), mirror fish, needlefish and many more that I had lost track of their names. The more common ones that would invade the platform would be the four striped damselfish (sometimes known as sergeant major by some anglers), streaked spinefoot and queenfish (ikan talang/sampan thiao). There were quite a lot of sea urchins (locally known as sea rambutans) too on the seabed but be careful not to get poke or step on them as the only temporary cure to soothe the pain would be urine.
I was praying hard that I could get glimpses of some of the more unique sea creatures as those shown on National Geographic Channel such as the moray eel, giant grouper (long tan 龍旦), ghost pipe fish, lionfish, nurse shark, giant trevally (kam koay) or even lobsters but they were so hard to detect in such a vast area within the few hours we had. Moreover, I was not in any diving gears nor having any underwater camera. What a waste! Anybody want to sponsor me an underwater camera? LOL! Anyway, here are some of the underwater shots taken by Chan with his water-proofed Lumix camera:
There was to be a shark feeding session in the package but it had been cancelled until further notice by the management. I guessed this could be due to too many of their staff been bitten while feeding those aggressive predators. Maybe those sharks had gotten larger than before and thus one day they would be as large as those in the “Jaws” movie. Well, at least I was lucky to capture the shot of one earlier. 😛 Don’t be despair as you would still have the opportunity to feed other smaller fishes that would not bite. Errr… unless they are real hungry as I got my butts pinched quite a few times while feeding them in the water. How careless! Haha!
Buffet lines featuring international and local food would also be provided in this package deal. There was more than 25 items on the buffet spread which included appetizers such as over fresh buns, butter and cabbage & carrot soup, salads such as capsicums, onions, cucumber, tomatoes, Cameron lettuce with a choice of thousand island or spicy Italian dressings, mixed fruit salad, coleslaw, chicken sausage with corn salad and tuna with French bean salad, tempting entrée such as five spice chicken rolls, vegetable spring rolls, spicy potato wedges, fish fillet, Western, Malaysian & Oriental cuisine such as beef slices stew, sweet & sour prawns, braised mushroom with mixed vegetable, fried turmeric chicken, spaghetti bolognese, fried seafood vermicelli, oriental fried rice. Desserts included fruits such as watermelon, pineapple and oranges, pudding and jellies such as or raspberry mixed fruit jelly, orange mixed fruit jelly, mango pudding and honeydew pudding, local delicacies such as brown sugar steamed cake (malai ko) and kuih lompang pandan. Tea, coffee and cold water are free flow too. Overall, the food was reasonable enough to fill the tummy after the many hours of sea activities.
One of the main highlights of our trip was the photo shooting of our current Miss Malaysia World 2009 1st runner-up, Stefanie Chua. All eyes, especially from those male foreigners, were glued to her almost at all times. Stefanie Chua, who was no stranger to many beauty pageants, also held the Miss Schwarzenbach Beach Beauty during the recent competition and also countless of titles from other pageants. The photography was shot by none other than our Heritage Wedding Photography 2009 winner and founder of Studio Moonspell, Mr. Patrick Soon. Here are some glimpses of the photography session.
Let’s hope Stefanie recovered fast from a little mishap that happened during the photography session. We won’t want this expression in her photos right? Here’s a complimentary photo by Patrick Soon. Boy! If I were to be younger, I would surely get him to shoot my autobiography. What a beautiful shot… minus that candid expression of course. Haha!
Here’s a short video on my experience there in Pulau Payar. Let’s hope I can share many more of such trips with you in the near future. Do enjoy watching. 🙂
Hey! Why are you still gazing the photos and videos in here? By now you should have booked the package deals for your coming holiday. All you need to bring along would be yourself, a large towel, your swim wear and some cash for some extra hired excitements at Langkawi Coral Reef Platform. Our package deal included return boat fares, taxes, PA Insurance coverage, buffet lunch and fun-packed activities. There’s always something to do for everyone in Pulau Payar and getting bored would be the last thing you would hear. Please book early to avoid any disappointments. Have a nice holiday!
Important Not-To Do Note:
1. Pulau Payar Marine Park is a protected marine ecosystem area and no angling of any sort would be allowed under the Malaysian Fisheries Act 1991.
2. Collection of any coral and aquatic life would be prohibited.
3. Never vandalize or stand on any coral reef as it took thousands of years for them to form.
4. No shampoo or soap is allowed.
5. Do not litter. Pick up your rubbish when you leave the island.
Other Useful Information:
1. Do check out the Marine Park Centre, operated by the Fisheries Department for further information by means of brochures, maps and videos. Make sure you get more information on the do’s and don’ts while visiting the island.
2. There are no accommodation facilities on the island and camping permit would be required to stay on. Permit applications can be obtained at Pulau Langkawi’s Kuah Fisheries Office (604-966 6464), Kuala Kedah Fisheries Office (604-7621 6700), Kedah/Perlis State Fisheries Office (604-734 2137), Penang State Fisheries Office (604-626 1002), Department of Fisheries Malaysia (Ministry of Agriculture) in Kuala Lumpur (603-298 2011). Get enough of drinking water and food if you intend to stay back for more days.
It’s rather hard to show you how to get there as the islands are so small that even Google Map would not show up. Luckily, Chan brought had a GPS around. Here’s how’s the islands would look like if we were to blow up the scale.
LANGKAWI CORAL REEF PLATFORM
c/o Langkawi Saga Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd
16 Jalan Tanjung Bungah, Georgetown, 11200 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: 604-899 8822
Fax: 604-890 6068
Email: [email protected]
GPS: 6.0654, 100.0433
Ambience: 9/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 classy)
Food Choices: 8.5/10 (1-4 limited, 5-7 average, 8-10 many choices)
Taste: 7/10 (1-4 tasteless, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)
Pricing: 7.5/10 (1-4 cheap, 5-7 average, 8-10 expensive)
Service: 9/10 (1-4 bad, 5-7 average, 8-10 excellent)