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GEOPARKS AT OUR DOORSTEP

The underrated Langkawi Island in fact took shape over half a billion years ago and was the first part of Southeast Asia to rise from the seabed during the Cambrian period.

Twenty years ago, a group of friends and I swam in a fresh water lake nestled amongst pristine forests in Langkawi. The surrounding area was fresh and the water clear and cool. We of course didn’t realise that the lake came about due to the collapse of a massive limestone cave. We only knew that the lake is associated with a legend – being the location where a dead infant was buried. The infant was the product of a union between a heavenly maiden and an earthly prince. Hence, its name – Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. The water was allegedly blessed by her before she departed for heaven.

Today, this area is named the Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park due to its unique marble formations. Tourists can take boat rides in the vicinity of the islands and observe the landscape of tropical karst influenced by the wave erosion such as sea-caves, sea-arches and sea-stacks.

GEO – WHAT?

Why call it a Geopark? It was only 11 years ago that UNESCO recognised Langkawi’s superb natural and geological heritage and declared it a UNESCO Global Geopark. Currently, there are 140 UNESCO Global Geoparks from 38 countries.

Langkawi’s branding as a Geopark is obvious in
its array of impressive rock formations surrounded by ancient jungle, vast caves with stalactites and stalagmites, winding mangrove rivers, sea caves and tunnels, wildlife and waterfalls.
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Under UNESCO’s definition, a Geopark is defined as:

“A territory encompassing one or more sites of scientific importance, not only for geological reasons but also by virtue of its archaeological, ecological or cultural value.”

Essentially, this means that as well as geological heritage, a Geopark also comprises recognised conservational efforts, local community support and ecotourism. Geoparks are nationally protected areas but, by and large, accessible for visitors to take in their wonders while still keep to its notion of sustainable development.

ECOTOURISM SITE

With so much natural beauty and many activities, ecotourism naturally evolved. An example is the Laman Padi in Cenang where you can find a rice garden museum with an 8.6 acres paddy field, educating visitors on the traditional and modern ways rice is harvested.
The cable car ride up to the top of Machinchang Mountain allows visitors the chance to explore the waterfalls and fauna in the pristine forest below whilst still preserving its natural beauty.

The 99 islands in this region, which cover 10,000 hectares, make Langkawi one of Malaysia’s top destinations to visit for natural beauty, ecological harmony and geological significance. You will also find here the most exposed and complete Palaeozoic sedimentary sequence in Malaysia.

Over 90 geosites have been found in the region but there are three distinct areas that form the Langkawi Geopark, each with its own unique geological makeup.

  1. The MaChinchang Mountain Ranges are renowned for their Cambrian (first geological period of the Paleozoic Era) rock formations;
  2. The Kilim Geopark for its Karst landscape; and
  3. Dayang Bunting Geopark for its marble formations.


THE MACHINCHANG MOUNTAIN RANGES

Gunung Raya is the tallest mountain range on the island standing at 881m. Machinchang is the oldest rock formation on Langkawi, and stands 800m above sea level. It was created over half a billion years ago and was the first part of Southeast Asia to rise from the seabed during the Cambrian period. The oldest part of this mountain range is Teluk Datai. This is where the oldest grains of sand rest; its history displayed in the exposed surface of sandstone in the upper part and mudstone/shale in the lower part.

THE KILIM GEOFOREST PARK

The Kilim Geoforest Park in the north east corner, a rugged karstic limestone terrain, offers an array of winding mangrove rivers to explore. These are surrounded by pinnacles of various shapes, near vertical karstic hills and caves formed from millions of years of erosion. Within these caves, you will see amazing limestone formations. You could find evidence of ancient fossils dating back 480 million years old and caves full of thousands of bats. You can also find plenty of marine life in the emerald green waters below as well as spot birds, including the island’s famous eagles.

Since the UNESCO’s declaration, Langkawi’s profile (very underrated thus far) has shot up with increasing numbers of tourists.

From Diagrams A and B, there is a noticeable increase in the number of tourist to Langkawi and also to the 3 Geoparks.

According to a spokesperson from Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) Geopark division, there are plans to set up another Geoforest park; 2012 897,452 159,338 namely Gunung Raya Granite Geoforest Park which is rich in biodiversity with some endemic fauna species found and also introducing new geosites at Kubang Badak BioGeotrail.

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