Mahsuri's Legendary Island Is Also A Bird Paradise

Last update: 24/12/2014

From Sakini Mohd Said

LANGKAWI (Bernama) -- The day was getting hotter, yet no one lamented of the heat or the lethargy and continued with the journey along Sungai Kilim, the river located northeast of Langkawi.

Some of them came from as far as China or the Philippines and were there for the weekend to admire Langkawi's avian heritage.

"Who has got a handphone? Can you call the Brown-winged Kingfisher?," interrupted in jest Chaton Chokpattara (HE), the editor-in-chief of from Thailand who broke the silence as the others in the group giggled.

However, the group made up of members from various parts of Asia were rewarded for their patience within less than half an hour when they started seeing numerous birds in the wild.

"Most beautiful. I have never photographed this species. Thank you friend," said Chokpattara who clearly appeared emotional after photographing the Brown-winged Kingfisher, a bird that he had waited for so long to add to his records.


The group was at the island at the end of November in conjunction with the Asian Bird Fair (ABF), the first to be held in Malaysia since the event was introduced in 2010.

A great sense of euphoria could he seen in the faces of the participants who were made up of bird watchers and the international media members who were there to take a closer look at Langkawi's avian heritage.

Interestingly, the Kilim river which is part of Langkawi Geopark provided participants with a rich natural heritage experience.

"This is a remarkable place. There is a lot to learn of the nature here," said Chokpattara with his finger continuously clicking on the shutter with his lenses pointed at the birds in the wild. He was also rewarded with the sight of a snake grappling with its victim, a crab.

The view of the limestone walls and mangrove forest at the Kilim Geoforest Park itself will mesmerise anyone visiting the place and the avian heritage there adds to the beauty of the nature there.


"Langkawi boasts for 42 mangrove species. And, Kilim is among the unique mangrove ecosystems of the region as the mangrove trees grow on limestone.

"The beauty of Langkawi's landscape is its geological diversity, that include the limestone mangrove forest that is the home of the eagles and kingfishers," said Othman Ayeb.

Othman, a tour guide with 19 years of experience, who led the group said the best time to watch the birds in the mangrove is during the rising tide when the water flows into the river taking with it the food sought by the birds," he explained.

The most sought after birds at Langkawi's mangrove forest is the Brown-winged Kingfisher and brown eagle (Brahminy Kite).


Interestingly, Langkawi is also located within the bird migration route from South Thailand, thus there are endless number of birds that make a transit on the island.

"When speaking of Langkawi, the first thing that comes to the mind of most people is the brown eagle but there are many other species that are lesser known. There are so many birds here that even bird watchers from Japan come here annually.

"This is because, Langkawi has 230 bird species including resident and migratory birds. They migrate based on seasons, as for example from December to March birds from winter regions arrive here," he explained.

Among the migratory birds that make a stop over here include the Brown Shriek and Chinese Ponds Heron.

There are also some resident species that are difficult to see elsewhere. Among them the Black-hooded Oriole, Mountain Hawk Eagle and the Brown-winged Kingfisher.


Langkawi is synonymous with the avian heritage with the island's name itself is believed to have originated from the word eagle in Malay, Helang.

Even the beach stretch of Pantai Kok located at the Western part of the island, located about 12 kilometers to the north of Pantai Chenang, has its origins from the sound 'kok kok kok' created by the Great Hornbill.

About 104 of these hornbills known to exist in Pantai Kok.

Apart from this beach, the bird could also be seen on the way to Gunung Raya, at 880 metres the highest peak in Langkawi.

"At both locations - Pantai Kok and Gunung Raya - there are the fig trees, an important food source for the Great Hornbill. In fact, it can said that throughout the 13 kilometer journey right up to the peak, there are good chances of seeing this bird.

"This is because the Gunung Raya landscape is rich with plants that serve as a good food source for the bird that lives on fruits and insects," he said.

Apart from the Great Hornbill, Langkawi is also the home for the Wreathed Hornbill and the Oriental Pied-hornbill both found in Sarawak as well.


Langkawi provides a unique experience even for the novice bird watchers as they need not venture far into the jungles to see the birds and the fact that most bird watching locations have good road access.

"Langkawi is the heaven for bird watchers. Langkawi as ABF's venue is the best choice," said Othman.

Themed 'Flying High Island Style', the two-day fifth ABF in Langkawi that began on Nov 29 is jointly organised by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and the Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) with the support of Tourism Malaysia.

Lada's chief executive officer Tan Sri Khalid Ramli noted that the avian tourism holds big potential for the island.

Apart from the added value to tourism activities it also generates economic opportunities for the locals, he said to reporters recently.

"We will hold other bird fests with MNS. We will make bird watching as an annual event," he said.

ABF is an annual event started by six organisations from Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia to highlight the different bird heritage in Asia. The event is also promote the protection of bird species and bird watching activities. ABF 2015 will be held in Singapore.