Travel + Leisure Readers’ 25 Favorite Islands in the World of 2023

Looking for an unforgettable island getaway? Here, the top 25 islands in the world, as part of our annual "World’s Best Awards" survey for 2023.

Laura La Monaca/Travel+Leisure

Island vacations can be a blissful combination of thrilling adventures, sun-kissed beaches, and vibrant cultures. Some islands offer adventure and water activities, others offer a tranquil escape. But the best islands are a marriage of the two.

How Voting Works

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Nearly 165,000 T+L readers completed the 2023 survey, an increase of nearly 25 percent over pre-pandemic voting levels. A total of more than 685,000 votes were cast across over 8,500 unique properties (hotels, cities, cruise lines, etc.).

Islands were specifically rated on the criteria below:

  • Natural attractions/beaches
  • Activities/sights
  • Restaurants/food
  • People/friendliness
  • Value

For each characteristic, respondents could choose a rating of excellent, above average, average, below average, or poor. The final scores are averages of these responses.

What Readers Loved

The top three favorites are iconic island getaways: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Islands, The Maldives, and Indonesia’s Bali. Greece, which has more than 6,000 islands and islets, has three winners on the list: Paros (No. 11); Rhodes and the Dodecanese (No. 19); and Santorini (No. 25). Portugal had two (Madeira at No. 4 and the Azores at No. 17) and Thailand had two in the top 10 (No. 5 Phuket and No. 7 Koh Samui.)

Read on to discover why Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Islands claimed the No. 1 spot and which other islands were crowned the world’s best.

The Full List

  1. Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia

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The Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stretches for 1,400 miles off Australia’s northeastern coast, is home to the world’s largest collection of coral reefs – almost 3,000 in all. It’s also home to a group of roughly 900 islands that T+L readers have voted their favorite in the world. A T+L reader who has more than once stayed on Hamilton Island said, “The physical beauty of the area is without equal. Just love the island and the people of Australia.

Reader Score: 96.11

The physical beauty of the area is without equal.

— T+L Reader

  1. Maldives

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The Maldives is made up of 1,192 islands — and only 200 of those are currently inhabited. Home to about 3 percent of the planet’s reefs, the Maldives is also known for its clear emerald waters, luxurious overwater bungalows, and providing travelers with an isolated retreat. According to a T+L reader, it’s “heaven on Earth.” The best time to visit is the dry season, which typically runs from November through April.

Reader Score: 95.68

  1. Bali, Indonesia

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From the bustling streets of Ubud and the trendy beach clubs of Seminyak to the serene retreats of the north shore, there’s something for everyone on Bali. Also called the "Island of the Gods,” Bali is renowned for its world-class resorts, luxury spas, and wellness retreats. The island is deeply rooted in spirituality and tradition, so visitors can also immerse themselves in the island's culture, whether it be exploring ancient Hindu temples, participating in a melukat ceremony, or witnessing a traditional dance performance.

Reader Score: 94.40

  1. Madeira, Portugal

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Travelers are treated to idyllic scenery at every turn on the Portuguese island of Madeira, whether they’re hiking alongside the famous levadas (irrigation channels), exploring the enchanting Laurissilva Forest, or simply taking in the panoramic vistas from Pico do Areeiro. One T+L reader said, “The diversity of the island, from rocky beaches to fogged-in mountains, has something for everyone.” And no visit would be complete without indulging in the fortified wine and the fresh seafood for which the island is famous.

Reader Score: 94.33

  1. Phuket, Thailand

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Known as the “Pearl of the Andaman Sea,” this tropical paradise offers stunning white-sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and boundless adventures. Travelers can relax and soak up the sun on its world-famous beaches or do more outdoorsy things like snorkeling around vibrant coral reefs and exploring the hidden coves. Phuket, known for its nightlife, is a two-hour boat ride from the nearby Phi Phi Islands. Among the many hotels, an honorable mention goes to Amanpuri, which readers voted their third favorite resort in Southeast Asia this year.

Reader Score: 94.21

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  1. Skye and the Hebrides, Scotland

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The archipelago, off the western coast of Scotland, offers white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and ancient ruins. Skye, known as the "Misty Isle," boasts dramatic cliffs, majestic mountains, and picturesque lochs. One T+L reader said the islands are “nature at its best.” Whisky enthusiasts can embark on a distillery tour to savor the renowned Scottish spirits, while music lovers can sit in on a cèilidh — a sort of Gaelic jam session – at one of the local pubs

Reader Score: 94.13

  1. Koh Samui, Thailand

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Tucked away in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui has it all: idyllic beaches, culture, and luxurious retreats. You can unwind on popular beaches like Chaweng and Lamai, or explore the island’s spiritual traditions at Wat Plai Laem or the Big Buddha Temple. And for a glimpse into the local lifestyle, there’s no better place than the bustling night markets. According to one T+L reader, Koh Samui is “the most beautiful and paradisiacal island on the planet.” As for where to stay, Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort readers favorite resorts in Southeast Asia.

Reader Score: 93.89

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  1. Dominica

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When it comes to untouched landscapes in the Caribbean, Dominica — nicknamed the “Nature Island” — stands apart from other islands. Its lush landscape includes volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, and black sand beaches. Where to stay? Secret Bay in Portsmouth secured the No. 1 spot for Best Hotel in the Caribbean this year, too.

ReaderScore: 93.66

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  1. Langkawi, Malaysia

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One of Malaysia’s most popular islands, Langkawi has something for everyone: beaches, a great food scene, diving spots, and vibey nightlife. Visitors can take the SkyCab to the top of Gunung Machinchang, where they’ll be rewarded with dramatic 360-degree views; visit Pantai Pasir Hitam, the island’s black sand beach; or experience the impressive Seven Wells Waterfall.

Reader Score: 93.65

  1. Boracay, Philippines

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More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, and Boracay still manages to stand apart from the rest. The tiny island — just 4.5 miles long — is known as “the island that never sleeps” for its parties and nightlife. One T+L reader called the island “the best leisure vacation destination.”

Reader Score: 92.94

  1. Paros, Greece

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Nestled in the heart of the Cyclades, Paros offers a perfect blend of picturesque landscapes, idyllic beaches, enchanting whitewashed villages, and rich cultural heritage. It’s also a hit with history buffs, as it has ancient ruins like the Sanctuary of Apollo and the Venetian Castle. Mix in pristine sandy shores, delicious Greek cuisine, and vibrant nightlife, and it’s easy to see why it’s one of the best islands to visit.

Reader Score: 92.47

  1. Fiji Islands, Fiji

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Tucked away in the crystal-clear waters of the South Pacific, these islands boast lush tropical landscapes and vibrant coral reefs. Fiji is a slice of paradise for all, but especially so for those who enjoy cliff jumping, zip lining, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Beyond its beaches, travelers can immerse themselves in the local culture by visiting crafts markets and participating in traditional kava ceremonies.

Reader Score: 92.29

  1. Golden Isles, Georgia

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The Golden Isles in Georgia — encompassing Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Sea Island — is a captivating destination with pristine beaches, natural beauty, and rich history. Jekyll Island, once a private retreat for America's wealthiest families, offers a glimpse into the opulent Gilded Age with its historic mansions. Little St. Simons Island is a secluded paradise, providing an exclusive escape for nature enthusiasts, with its diverse ecosystems and unspoiled beaches. Meanwhile, Sea Island is known for its luxurious resorts and offers world-class amenities, including golf courses, spas, and fine dining experiences. St. Simons Island is home to a charming coastal village with a stunning lighthouse and a vibrant arts scene.

Reader Score: 92.15

  1. Moorea, French Polynesia

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Known as the “Magical Island,” Moorea is an unforgettable tropical getaway. It has hiking trails through its tropical forests with panoramic viewpoints, like Mount Rotui, and secluded waterfalls. The island's rich Polynesian culture can be experienced through traditional dance performances and visits to local markets. One T+L reader raved that it’s one of their favorite islands of all time.

Reader Score: 92.15

  1. Zanzibar, Tanzania


Pristine beaches and picturesque sunsets are a guarantee in Zanzibar. Travelers can also visit one of the many local spice farms to learn about the role that cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon played in the island's history. Whether you’re walking through the historic Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, or trying to spot the Zanzibar red colobus monkeys at the Jozani Forest Reserve, Zanzibar offers travelers an experience that merges relaxation, adventure, and history.

Reader Score: 91.53

  1. The Seychelles

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The Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, is known for its powdery white-sand beaches. The islands also boast lush tropical forests and nature reserves, such as Vallée de Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where rare Coco de Mer palms can be found. Hikers can follow trails to breathtaking viewpoints, cascading waterfalls, and hidden coves. Seychelles is also home to unique flora and fauna, including giant tortoises, rare birds, and exotic plant species.

Reader Score: 91.47

  1. The Azores, Portugal


The Azores are a hidden gem in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that some call the “Hawaii of Europe.” The archipelago comprises nine lush volcanic islands, each offering a unique experience. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy São Miguel's picturesque lakes, waterfalls, and forests. Hiking trails lead to breathtaking viewpoints, such as the Sete Cidades crater, where visitors can marvel at the contrasting colors of the twin lakes. The local cuisine is also a highlight, with fresh seafood like rockfish and barracuda, São Jorge cheese, and sweet pastries like filhóses to tantalize the taste buds.

Reader Score: 90.92

  1. Bora-Bora, French Polynesia

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Known as the "Pearl of the Pacific," Bora Bora is a dreamy destination with turquoise lagoons and iconic overwater bungalows. It comes as no surprise that the island's crystal-clear waters offer world-class snorkeling and diving experiences, but there’s a variety of other thrilling activities, like Jet Skiing, parasailing, and helicopter tours. Local guides can arrange workshops that teach visitors about Polynesian traditions, dance, and cuisine. A T+L reader called the island "otherworldly," while another said it's an "amazing location for anyone."

Reader Score: 90.80

  1. Rhodes and the Dodecanese, Greece

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Rhodes, known as the "Island of the Knights," is steeped in history, with its medieval city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcasing ancient ruins, fortified walls, and grandiose architecture. Beyond history, Rhodes offers stunning beaches, like those in Faliraki and Lindos. Travelers can also venture to the other Dodecanese islands, each with its own unique charm.

Reader Score: 90.67

  1. Mackinac Island, Michigan

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Mackinac Island is unique in that cars and trucks are banned, so residents and visitors rely on horse-drawn carriages and bicycles for transportation. Its historic downtown has cozy cafes, quaint shops, and plenty of well-preserved Colonial, Georgian, and Greek Revival architecture. One T+L reader sums up the destination perfectly: “there’s no place like it.” (Mackinac is home to three of T+L readers' 10 favorite midwest resorts: Hotel Iroquois, Island House Hotel, and Grand Hotel.)

Reader Score: 90.67

  1. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

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The Galápagos Islands, in the Pacific Ocean, are famed for their extraordinary biodiversity. Exploring the islands offers up-close encounters with remarkable creatures (think giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies) in their natural habitats. Visiting the Galápagos also gives travelers a chance to gain a deeper understanding of evolution and the fragility of ecosystems through educational programs and guided tours.

Reader Score. 90.60

  1. Hvar and the Dalmatian Islands, Croatia

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Hvar and the Dalmatian Islands in Croatia offer travelers a unique Mediterranean experience. Hvar, known as the "Queen of the Dalmatian Islands," has lavender fields, vineyards, and magnificently clear waters. Visitors can explore the charming old town of Hvar, which has picturesque squares, historic buildings, and a medieval fortress offering panoramic views of the harbor and the Adriatic Sea. Hvar's vibrant nightlife scene is also a draw, with trendy beach clubs and bars energizing the evenings.

Reader Score: 90.20

  1. Sicily, Italy

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Steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty, Sicily is a must-visit destination. Not only is it home to rich historical sites (like the Greek Theatre of Syracuse, the Villa Romana del Casale, and the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento), but it also has stunning nature, between Mount Etna and the beaches overlooking the crystal-clear Mediterranean. The island’s culinary scene is equally exciting: visitors can sample delicious street food like panelle and crocchè, and indulge in local dishes like pasta alla Norma.

Reader Score: 90.13

  1. Anguilla

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Anguilla, a British territory in the Caribbean, is a secluded getaway with 33 beaches. Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla and Frangipani Beach Resort both ranked as two of the best resorts in the region. Hike to the top of Crocus Hill for views, go on a self-guided walking tour of the Anguilla Heritage Trail, and don’t forget to try a Johnny Cake — a staple in Anguilla's local cuisine.

Reader Score: 90.10

  1. Santorini, Greece

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Often touted as one of the most romantic islands in the world, Santorini is known for its whitewashed buildings with blue domes. Overlooking the Aegean Sea, the volcanic island is home to several picturesque villages like Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli. One T+L reader raved that the island has “beautiful sunsets” and “wonderful views,” plus excellent food and friendly locals.

Reader Score: 89.51


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Ten Instagrammable Spots In Langkawi

Published in TTR Weekly

Langkawi is encouraging domestic visitors to explore the island’s varied attractions, heritage and natural beauty logging the trip with 10 instagrammable moments; the high spots of a visit the northern Malaysian island.

1. Eagle Square/ Dataran Lang
This 12m tall eagle is the most iconic landmark of Langkawi, and of course, it is on the top of the list! The best time to take a picture with this majestic eagle is in the morning with the big blue sky as the background. Folklore has it that Langkawi got its name from two Malay words: ‘helang’ – eagle and ‘kawi’ – reddish-brown. This eagle, specifically Brahminy Kite, can be seen around Langkawi.

2. Langkawi SkyBridge
The perfect photo spot set against the Machinchang Mountain, Langkawi SkyBridge brings you to the best viewing point on Langkawi. The spectacular view of Langkawi is all at a glance. The suspended bridge challenges you to stride proudly 100m above ground and at 660m above sea level while still striking Instagram-worthy poses.

3. Underwater World Langkawi
It’s the amazing Underwater World! Walk beneath the underwater tunnel and take a breathtaking shot with the sharks. Or you can opt for the cuter and chicky penguins! With three different climatic themes – Tropical Rainforest, Temperate and Sub-Antarctic, you get to see all about marine lives around the world.

4. Dayang Bunting Lake
Vest up and take a dip! Dayang Bunting Lake or the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden is located on the second largest island in Langkawi. According to folklore, this is the bathing pool of Mambang Sari – a celestial princess. Happily married to the prince Mat Teja, their son died at the age of seven days. They decided to leave their son’s body in the lake to allow him to rest in peace. She then blessed women who bathe in this lake be endowed with a child. If you look for long enough, you’ll spot the pregnant lady figure from the shape of the hills!

5. Kilim Karst Geoforest Park
Explore the Kilim Geoforest Park while taking a picture with the signboard. This nature reserve guarantees you a good view of limestone cliffs, hunting eagles, various species of birds, bats in caves, lush mangrove trees and many more. Take a boat ride around, and you definitely won’t be disappointed!

6. Kubang BadakBiogeo Trail
Get closer to the geological creation that is unique to Langkawi! Kubang BadakBiogeo Trail features 13 locations that bring you through the river along mangrove forest, geological-diverse spots, and early settlement of the Thai community. You can even take pictures with nine elephants along the trail! Wait, what? There are elephants on Langkawi? It’s actually a part of the limestone formation at the cave entrance of Gua Pinang that resembles elephant trunks. It will be a fun-filled and eye-opening journey other than plenty of photo ops!

7. Seven Wells Waterfall/ TelagaTujuh
This is the most picturesque waterfall on the island. While it requires some hiking, the view is all worth it once you witness the grandeur of the waterfall. The name Seven Wells refers to the seven natural pools from the cascading waterfalls. You can even get up the red hanging bridge or viewing deck to look over the entire waterfall. That spot makes a great place for pictures too. Get your bathing suit ready and have a refreshing bath after the hike.

8. Lagenda Park
Situated next to the Eagle Square, Lagenda Park is a folklore park where you can learn and know more about all the mythical stories on Langkawi. The legend behind the split of GunungMachinchang and Gunung Raya – the battle of two giants, Mahsuri’s legend, story of birds and ogre, and many more myths await you to uncover. The arched pathway in the park is a perfect spot to snap symmetric photos.

9. Gunung Raya
Gunung Raya is the highest peak on Langkawi, standing at 881m above sea level. The myth has it that this mountain, together with Machinchang Mountain, is formed from a fight of two giants! Whether taking a shot of “I conquered Langkawi’s highest peak!” or just a leisure drive up the mountain, you will find your spot. A new proposal to enhance the space included a park, museum, resort and restaurants at the top of the hill. You can probably relax and enjoy the view while having a meal.

10. Beach shots at literally anywhere on the island!
What’s left? How can you leave Langkawi without a shot at the beach? Literally, all beaches on the island are worth getting a spot on your Instagram. TanjungRhu for the serenity and exclusiveness, Pantai Cenang for the lively and happening night scenes, Black Sand Beach for the mysterious and mythical black-coloured sand, Pantai Kok for the chill vibe and mouth- watering local food, Pantai Tengah for viewing the longest stretch of beach on Langkawi, and the list never stops. We recommend sunset shots so that you can glow in the golden hour!

About Langkawi Development Authority (LADA)
Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) was established by the federal government to plan, promote and implement development on the island of Langkawi. LADA was officially established on March 15, 1990 under the Langkawi Development Authority Act 1990 (Act 423) and placed under the authority of the Ministry of Finance.

For further details, please visit or visit

Langkawi Development Authority, LADA
Tel : 04-9600600
Faks : 04-9661019
Email : [email protected]

Land of Legends: Discover myths and Malaysian wildlife in the archipelago of Langkawi

Published in National Geographics

An hour’s flight from Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi's cluster of paradise islands feels blissfully remote, with palm-swaying shores, towering mountain ranges and lush rainforests teeming with wildlife.

Nicknamed the 'Jewel of Kedah’, Langkawi is renowned for its unique topography, such as the steep limestone cliffs, sprawling mangrove forests and jungle-tangled mountains of Kilim Geoforest Park. 

Nature has been abundantly kind to Langkawi. Adorning the cerulean Andaman Sea, 18 miles from mainland Malaysia, this 99-island archipelago is blanketed in rainforest, brimming with exotic wildlife and home to picturesque paddy fields and jungle-clad hills. Once a haven for pirates, the largest island of Pulau Langkawi (commonly referred to as Langkawi) is now a sought-after location for its wildlife adventures and relaxing beachside stays.

Why should you visit the archipelago?

Langkawi is home to a vast assortment of white-sand beaches — Pantai Cenang is an idyllic spot on the main island's west cost, while Tanjung Rhu on the northern tip is a quaint, more secluded bay. Yet, it’s the sheer diversity of landscapes, from limestone cliffs to mangrove swamps and jungle-tangled mountains, that garnered the entire archipelago UNESCO Global Geopark status in 2007 — the first in the whole of Southeast Asia.

Astonishing wildlife and plant species inhabit all corners of the islands, including 226 species of birds and over 500 types of butterflies. Travellers should keep their eyes peeled for Langkawi’s fabulous ‘flying five’ — the red giant flying squirrel, the paradise tree snake, the twin-spotted flying frog, the flying lizard and the fascinating colugo, the world’s only flying primate.

Langkawi is also known as the ‘Land of Legends’ due to the myths attached to various sites and monuments. Mahsuri Museum, located at the southeastern tip of the main island, is worth a visit for its assortment of Malay arts and artefacts. It's also home to the tomb of Mahsuri, a local woman said to have cursed the island for seven generations. As the legend goes, when the curse lifted, Langkawi’s tourism began to thrive.

A panoramic view of the Langkawi Sky Bridge and the Langkawi SkyCab cable cars on the Gunung Machinchang mountain range. PHOTOGRAPH BY SONATALI, GETTY IMAGES

What are the best outdoor activities to try in Langkawi?

Langkawi has four designated ‘geosites’ — protected areas that have distinct natural wonders. The most striking is the Gunung Machinchang mountain range, Langkawi’s second-highest peak and geologically the oldest mountain in Southeast Asia. A steep cable-car, the Langkawi SkyCab, whisks visitors up to the summit in ultra-modern, glass-bottomed gondolas.

At the top, visitors can walk the 410ft-long SkyBridge, a majestic feat of engineering whose curved footbridge is suspended high above the jungle canopy. After taking in the vistas of the surrounding islands and ocean, stroll down the mountain following one of the Langkawi Sky Trail hiking paths.

On the east side of Langkawi, 38sq miles of colossal limestone cliffs, beaches and caves make up the Kilim Geoforest Park. Its meandering rivers and narrow channels are best explored by boat, where travellers can observe cheeky macaque monkeys, scuttling tree crabs and white-bellied sea eagles. Meanwhile, on the west side of Langkawi, the Bio-Geo Trail in Kubang Badak gives a fascinating insight into the island’s 500-million-year old geology, rich mangrove habitat and 18th century settlements.

Another popular excursion is the 15-minute boat ride from Kuah Jetty, Langkawi’s main ferry terminal, to Pulau Dayang Bunting, the archipelago’s second-largest island. Its name translates to ‘Isle of the Pregnant Maiden’, as its shape resembles an expectant mother, and, legend has it, its freshwater lake has magical properties to help women’s fertility and replenish body and mind. After a refreshing dip, be sure to explore the various other wonders of Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park, including Gua Langsir and Gua Kelawar, two remarkable limestone caves, and the surrounding mangrove forest which is accessible via a boardwalk.

What is there to eat and drink?

The stalls across Langkawi’s various night markets are a great place to sample the local fare, which is seafood-rich and infused with herbs and spices. Try the gulai panas, a fragrant, spicy curry, or the kerabu bronok, a seafood salad with an unusual marine creature, similar to a sea cucumber, used as the main ingredient.

Who should visit?

Life is lived outdoors in Langkawi, making it ideal for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. The main island makes a great destination for families, too, with its laid-back beachside stays and its small size allowing for easy travel between attractions.

When’s the best time to go?

High season runs from November to April, when Langkawi enjoys clear skies and warm temperatures (between 30°C to 35°C). Showers and storms can be more frequent from May to August, while September to October is rainy season.

Plan your trip Flights between London and Langkawi take around 16 hours and include one stop via Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Once on the island, hire cars and taxis are the best way to get around — the main roads are well maintained for driving. Boat operators are readily available and offer tours to neighbouring islands. For more information, visit

About Langkawi Development Authority (LADA)
Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) was established by the federal government to plan, promote and implement development on the island of Langkawi. LADA was officially established on March 15, 1990 under the Langkawi Development Authority Act 1990 (Act 423) and placed under the authority of the Ministry of Finance.

For further details, please visit or visit

Langkawi Development Authority, LADA
Tel : 04-9600600
Faks : 04-9661019
Email : [email protected]

A Glimpse at Langkawi’s Sisters: Pulau Tuba and Pulau Dayang Bunting

Bestowed with nature’s marvel, Malaysia is often in travellers’ bucket list. While the manufacturing sector is the main driver of its’ economy, tourism is the third-largest contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A developing nation that is growing fast and catching up to the pace of other Asian peers. With a low poverty rate of 0.4%, the Gini index that measures economic inequality still stands at 41.0, a considerably high number. Inequality persists and this will become more apparent as we dive into the two gems we are discovering soon. While the economic focus has always been at the heart of Peninsular Malaysia, the northern states are growing strong.

One of the states, Kedah, has always been the rice bowl of Malaysia, producing the largest volume of Malaysian staple food. Over the Malacca straits, an archipelago shines like a jewel and harbours a wealth of heritage. Destined to sparkle, the archipelago – Langkawi sprout as a tourist destination decades ago. The main island, eponymously named, Langkawi Island, is surrounded by many other smaller islands and two of the islands are our focus as we understand the context better.

Before this Jewel of Kedah state became tourism-oriented, its’ economy depends on agriculture – paddy and rubber cultivation as well as fisheries. This underwent an overhaul back in the ’80s with mega- infrastructure projects erecting on the main Langkawi Island. After years of efforts, the Langkawi archipelago of 99 islands was awarded UNESCO Global Geopark status in 2007. What entails is the aspiration to becoming a sustainable tourism hotspot. Yet the word hotspot brings along a certain degree of destruction due to the fragility of the island environment.

The massive influx of tourists has brought income to the locals, yet this destroys the beauty and balance in nature which in turn makes the islands a less favourable place to visit. Currently, 70% of employment relies on tourism and this information is crucial when prioritising sustainability in tourism. Finding a solution to address this nature vs. socioeconomic challenge is direly needed.

While the main island of Langkawi gets all the spotlight, there are other islands that worth the shine too. Separated by a strait, Pulau Dayang Bunting and Pulau Tuba are the second and third largest islands in the Langkawi archipelago. Only a 10 to 15 minutes boat ride away from the Langkawi island, these two islands give off different charm. On Pulau Dayang Bunting, the Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park, one of the three geoforest parks in Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark, spans across 8,261 ha – the spectacular scenery on the island speaks for itself, attracting tourists to adore its beauty from land, the lake to the sea. Lives on Pulau Tuba, on the other hand, feel like fishing villages from decades ago adorned with lush nature.

Like gems waiting to be discovered, the slower-paced lives on the two islands are in the midst of catching up. Yet, how can both the islands grow sustainably in the process? How to ensure that socio-economic development aligns with conservation and sustainable use of natural resources? How to preserve the intrinsic value unique to the people residing on the islands? How accepting are the island communities with embracing changes moving forward? These are some of the questions worth pondering when making geopark tourism in the entire archipelago a success.

Making a living on the islands
There are around 414 residents on Pulau Dayang Bunting and 1472 residents on Pulau Tuba. Together, there are less than two thousand locals on both islands. There are slightly more men are than women. A study in 2019, sampled from 100 respondents, shows that 82% of the families on the island earn less than RM1500 per month. A total of 40% of the household earn below RM999 – around the poverty line income for Peninsular Malaysia which is RM980. Even compared to Kedah state’s average of RM4778 for a household of two, the income level of the people on the island is still very much lower than that.

On average, men earn more than women. This is also owing to the fact that most women are housewives. Many of these housewives also follow their husbands to fishing or have side hustle such as looking after children of working parents or selling food items. There has yet to be a more holistic and exact census on the income level of the islands’ inhabitants. However, the numbers mentioned earlier paints a rough picture of how lives are like on the islands. With these numbers in mind, we can better gauge where will sustainable development leads to the livelihood of the people there.

Despite below poverty level, most of them are living in good conditions or are happy with the conditions of their homes. One of the context worth noting is that the cost of living in villages is way lower than the average urban living. Also, the level of happiness and living condition satisfaction is subjective to individuals. The idea of content living might not be associated with income level for some. Locals have the skills to build houses and do carpentry works. Some of them can even build temporary rafts and floating houses. This skillset nevertheless makes living comfortable. From a physical perspective, they are contented with what they currently own. Having the ability to enhance their homes significantly helps with that.

Yet, this is not the only way to look at poverty. The physical aspects are not a safety net to cushion them from any monetary stress. How the residents view survival tells a slightly different story. More secure cash flow is something anticipated among communities. Conversation with them reveals that most of them could survive less than a week in the event of income loss. In some instances, the state and welfare providing agencies identify those who needed financial assistance and help them through hardships while monitoring their progress.

Langkawi has an agro-centric economic structure before the tourism boost in the ‘80s. Fisheries still play a crucial role in the employment of the locals on Pulau Tuba. The scene of tenacious fishers who are still out at sea even way beyond the national retirement age is still very prevalent. Although coined as fishing villages, the residents pick up a lot of other jobs as well. The diversification of livelihoods seems to be inevitable when they see more opportunities arise. Manual jobs, including professional cleaning companies, security firms, contract gardener, ship’s crew, are some of the more common occupations among the community. Some of them have their businesses done on a smaller scale such as trading snacks or deserts, apparels, cosmetics, salted fish or providing tailoring services.

The rising numbers of tourists to the two islands also means that the residents are taking up the part of the pie by providing boat or van services to tourists. With their knowledge of the local landscape, some of the Tuba residents also bring tourists on guided sightseeing trips around the island. These touring deals are usually done at the jetties of the islands – a hotspot for the booming industry.

Another component that comes along with the growing tourism scene is the fast-expanding homestay programme. Started in late 1990, after going through a shrink at the beginning years, the programme is now very well received and revived to involve at least 30 families since 2018. The homestays were popular among educational institutions such as high schools and universities. The experience they get from the tranquillity of the islands, as well as the diverse natural environment, makes hands-on learning much more interesting and memorable. The interaction with the hosts also enhances their experience. Along with that, some locals also provide educational tours to mangroves and snorkelling sites.

This programme is something that the locals want to do. This enthusiasm will definitely fuel the programme much further. The potential of the homestay programme can be refined and elevated to a greater scale. However, before coming to that point, several fundamental issues are still yet to be looked into especially from a holistic point of view. Sustainable expansion of homestay in terms of infrastructure, human resources and management needs to be addressed. This includes repairing and maintenance of houses and training of locals with hospitality skills and tourism knowledge. The entire improvement comes in a package – from creating extrinsic value in terms of job opportunities and infrastructure to intrinsic value that includes a sense of belonging to the place and heritage knowledge.

On a similar note, the issue of land use comes into the picture. Some plots of land were bought by people from Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur. This land transfers open to the possibility of elite capture of land distribution, where certain public areas such as beaches can only be privately accessed by the landowner. Land use and planning need to align with the sustainable development goal of not leaving anyone behind. While that include the local communities, zoning for conservation and other needs should also be involved in the conversation. Ultimately, a land-use plan that benefits all stakeholders of the island is the most important element.

Use of Natural Resources
Seafood is one of the main sources of food and income for the people on Pulau Tuba. Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia estimated the fish landing from 2016 to 2018 to be close to RM1.1 million – a significant contributor to seafood production in Langkawi. Pulau Tuba is also one of the biggest producers of cuttlefish in Langkawi. All these production credits to the hard work of around 308 fishers, who are the registered members of the Fisherman’s Association of Langkawi – Tuba and Selat.

Moving onwards to land, forests provided the community with traditional medicine. The use of traditional medicine has become an important aspect of life for them. A plethora of plants are used for maintaining health and curing diseases. Every part of the plant is useful for traditional treatment - leaves, shoots, bark, roots, flowers and branches. Traditional healers use only forest produce for treatments even when marine resources are readily available in the vicinity. The healers are using these traditional medicines to mostly cure fever, skin conditions and internal diseases.

The use of wells is also prevalent on the islands even though clean pipe water is available. Some of the wells on Pulau Tuba might be used for rice irrigation. However, these wells were abandoned as the growth of organic rice could not gain enough local interest and support. Otherwise, wells are kept mainly for drinking. Having the misunderstanding that treated water is mixed with chemicals, the villagers use piped water for bathing and washing instead, even though the water supply system is supposed to provide clean and safe drinking water in replace of well water. The monitoring and assessing of well water quality are still not in place and when left unchecked, well water brings potential health risks to the people.

Knowledge within and beyond classrooms
Formal education for people on the islands is the institutionalised learning that follows Malaysia’s education system with primary school education made compulsory. Focusing on secondary education, there is only one high school in Pulau Tuba – SMK Langkawi. Compared to the university entrance exam, STPM, students on the islands prefer to build their skills in a certain field by attending vocational colleges. In a way, they can enter the workforce faster with relevant techniques and knowledge.

As for the parents, most of them express disappointment with the schools. The dissatisfaction comes from poor grades, high drop-out rates and overall low level of achievements of students. The lack of extracurricular activities also means that students missed the opportunity to build their soft skills and explore their interests. From the students’ point of view, there are still quality and enthusiastic teachers who truly motivate them. The low percentage of students who managed to pass SPM, the secondary school national exam, is a worrying trend for parents as well.

Noticing the small improvement in grades between years, the teachers are still hopeful to aim for better overall performance. On the other hand, parental role in guiding their children’s progress is also important but they lack the capacity even if they want the best for their children. A bridging programme at promoting networking among parents, between parents and teachers, as well as linking students with other schools will be able to provide students with a different kind of exposure and eventually brings to better performance.

Community knowledge about Geopark is still rudimentary, ranging from complete incomprehension to listing some of the tourism aspects of the geopark. The award of UNESCO Global Geopark status to the Langkawi archipelago in 2007 has yet to ingrain stewardship in people on these two islands. This status is exclusively granted to sites and landscapes with significant geological values, in Langkawi’s case, the abundance of Palaeozoic (540 million to 250 million years ago) geological record in the region. The concept of the geopark is holistic, with the inclusion of nature protection, education and sustainable development. Utilizing a bottom-up approach, public consultation is often taken place to encourage local participation in the geopark. A more robust effort to consult communities on the rest of the satellite islands is equally important. Thus, there is a need to inspire local communities to involve in creating heritage values through the dissemination of information and knowledge about history. Only with the sense of ownership of this heritage, the geopark can be a successful tourism driver for the villagers.

There is a high potential to develop tourism sustainably as the residents are aware of the need to manage resources locally. They prefer to manage the packaged tours to the island on their own, which include tours around mangroves, caves, forests and swimming spots. Coupling this willingness with better knowledge about the heritage of the islands is crucial to promoting the place from the lens of the locals.

Catching sight of the future
The residents prefer a bottom-up approach when it comes to development. In this case, the opinion of the community needs to be taken seriously into consideration – a truly community- based project development. Previous top-down development has attracted little support from the community and was brought to a halt, such as organic rice farming. This type of decision process often neglects local voices. Some programmes do gain support from residents, especially the young entrepreneur’s programme that provides youth with grants to start up their businesses. The monitoring system and support also helped businesses thrive and grow. The local group is also supportive of the idea of community-based management of natural resources. The community cooperative had initiated three livelihood projects to grow green lip mussel, seaweed and mussels. The cooperative also helped with the administrative and management side of the homestay programme. Any future development should always include residents’ opinion into the picture.

Tourism proved to kindle diversification of livelihood among youths and certain degree, the middle-aged. Yet, the exact nature and extent of underemployment despite increased job opportunities needs to be investigated. This issue is also linked to the little upward mobility among the community. A better model for community participation that involves appropriate economic concepts and activities should be considered as well. Concerning geotourism, the geological and cultural heritage of the islands is important. Through substantial participation in community-based resource management, local communities can be better equipped with such knowledge and have a sense of ownership towards the heritage. Similarly, formal and informal education, when planned properly, could create intrinsic value and add more dimension to the development of the islands.

Putting everything together, the future of Pulau Tuba and Pulau Dayang Bunting should leave no one behind. This principle resonates with the emphasis on sustainability in geopark tourism. Socioeconomic development that is more participatory, inclusive and economically productive will be the next theme for the two gems. This step forward should also consider the protection of geological resources. By cultivating a sense of pride in the land and sea they live through innovative entrepreneurship, job creation and excellent training courses, sustainable geotourism will reinforce their identification with the area. With the breath-taking landscape of limestones, mangroves and the rest of the wonders, the development should be on par with the beauty of the two islands and complements the growth on the entire Langkawi archipelago.

About Langkawi Development Authority (LADA)
Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) was established by the federal government to plan, promote and implement development on the island of Langkawi. LADA was officially established on March 15, 1990 under the Langkawi Development Authority Act 1990 (Act 423) and placed under the authority of the Ministry of Finance.

For further details, please visit or visit

Langkawi Development Authority, LADA
Tel : 04-9600600
Faks : 04-9661019
Email : [email protected]

Langkawi : Striking An Equilibrium Between Nature And Environment

We are now in the anthropause, and this is unprecedented. A group of researchers recently coined the term anthropause, referring to the slow-down in human activities around the world. The Covid-19 pandemic pulled us backwards - with its pros and cons. Where are we going next after this pandemic? What does this mean for the tourism industry?

Across the world, governments are implementing lockdown to curtail the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. People mostly stayed indoors. We are also experiencing the slowing down of economic activities.

The reduction of the use of vehicles, air transport, and halted factories have brought down carbon footprint across the world. Most directly, what this means is cleaner air. In India, residents in northern Punjab are finally seeing the view of the Himalayan mountain range for the first time in 30 years.

Tanjung Rhu Beach, Langkawi

With the lack of human activities, water quality has also improved in some places. The once busy water canals in Venice appear to have clear water during the strict Italy lockdown.

There are a lot more wildlife sightings in the urban areas, probably due to lowered levels of human interference. The reduction in noise and pollution in the city is less likely to stress wildlife out. Even mountain lions are taking a stroll in downtown Santiago, Chile. The once crowded Koh Samui in Thailand finally saw turtles laying eggs on its beach for the first time in decades.

However, the flipside happened for wildlife that is heavily dependent on human food provision or rubbish scavenging. Hungry monkeys were running amok and fighting for food in Lopburi, Thailand. Tourists usually feed these monkeys near the temple.

At a glance, less human interference is good for the environment. In reality, this issue is complicated. Overtourism is a problem, but how much is too much?

Tourism is one of the most affected sectors during this pandemic. The dimmed tourism industry also affected sustainable tourism that supports conservation and preservation of nature.

Pasir Tengkorak Beach, Langkawi.

Striking a balance between the livelihood of the local community and the environment is paramount, Responsible tourism is what we need to embrace from now onwards. We need to balance development and environment.

Langkawi’s latest economic blueprint was drawn based on this current challenge. The priority for the tourism industry is to highlight Langkawi as a destination that is safe, clean and sustainable. This will also be a constant effort to stay true to its UNESCO Global Geopark status that emphasizes protection, education and sustainable development.

Sky Cab at Mat Chinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park, Langkawi

There are three main conservation areas under Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark: Kilim Karst Geoforest Park that is surrounded by mangrove forests; the mountainous Mat Chinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park; and Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park with an impressive lake.

Bat Cave, Langkawi.

These locations serve as pivotal points for educational ecotourism and geotourism areas that also benefited the locals on top of preserving the unique environment. The constant cultivation about the ethnic, cultural, archaeological, geological and biological treasures and harmonies, the geopark serves as a reminder about the crucial ecosystem and our role to protect it.

Batik painting at Craft Complex, Langkawi

The middle ground has always been there - sustainable development. It is time we rethink our relationship with the environment and adapt for long-term resilience through sustainability.

About Langkawi Development Authority (LADA)
Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) was established by the federal government to plan, promote and implement development on the island of Langkawi. LADA was officially established on March 15, 1990 under the Langkawi Development Authority Act 1990 (Act 423) and placed under the authority of the Ministry of Finance.

For further details, please visit or visit

Langkawi Development Authority, LADA
Tel : 04-9600600
Faks : 04-9661019
Email : [email protected]

Exciting Adventures in Langkawi

Published in TTR Weekly

Langkawi is the place to go if you are seeking adventures. Everything from under the sea to up above the sky is ready to give you that thrilling adrenaline rush. What’s there to explore? Let’s dive in!

1. Scuba diving or snorkelling at Pulau Payar Marine Park
Just 30km off Langkawi island, Pulau Payar Marine Park is the spot to go if you’re looking for scuba diving trips! To get there, you can take a catamaran or a speedboat from Kuah jetty. Famous for the Coral Garden where colourful coral adorns the seafloor and teeming with marine life, you will enjoy both the scuba diving and snorkelling experience. Be sure not to touch any marine life and do not feed them to protect this pristine habitat and ecology.

2. Explore the Kubang Badak biogeotrail
One of Langkawi Geopark’s four wonders, Kubang Badak biogeotrail features 13 spots for you to explore and enjoy. Taking a boat off the Kampung Kubang Badak jetty, you will stop by mangroves, early settlement of the Thai community, interesting geological features, geosites full with trilobite fossils and the oldest rock in Malaysia - Machinchang Formation rocks. This trail is very eye-opening, and that is not just physically adventurous, mentally too!

Book your boat tour today:

3. Take a dip in the Dayang Bunting Lake
Another Langkawi Geopark wonder, Pulau Dayang Bunting is the second-largest island among the Langkawi archipelago. You can take a 15-minute boat ride from Kuah Jetty. This mythical island has a mountain range that akin to the silhouette of a pregnant lady - as the name suggests. The freshwater lake on the island is an excellent place to take a dip. So get your swimsuit ready for that refreshing swim!

4. Horse riding around the island
What if there’s a better way to explore Langkawi other than vehicles? Giddy up! Choose between riding on the sandy beach, lush rainforest or local villages. The ride through kampung is a one-of-a-kind experience where you meander through traditional Malay houses and experience the kampung life. This ride is suitable even for inexperienced beginners as staff will guide you along.

Book your ride now:

5. Challenge yourself with Skytrex adventure
Arms up and swoosh! Fancy an arboreal experience at Langkawi? Skytrex Langkawi is located at Burau Bay. With safe set-up, you can fly, swing, glide and dangle in the forest with Machinchang mountain range as the backdrop. Flying fox, cable walk, hanging bridge and more activities are waiting to drive your adrenaline levels up. Lists of challenges are waiting for you to conquer.

Book your trip today:

6. Trek and sweat to Telaga Tujuh waterfalls
Departing from the base at Pantai Kok, you can start climbing up the stairway towards the waterfall on top. Over 600 steps of the staircase is a cardio exercise that will make you sweat! But fret not, you can take a break and chill out in the seven pools on top of the waterfall. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, continue trekking to the top of Langkawi highest peak - Mount Machinchang peak at over 700 metres. So boots up and hike!

7. Up the sky and down we go - Skydiving
This activity will be the most adrenaline-pumping item on this list. Fly up to 14,000ft and jump down the plane. Scream your lungs away for a bit, and then you can enjoy the scenery of Langkawi from a bird’s eye view in awe. First-timer? Not an issue. The instructors will guide you along the process and give you a safety briefing. The last part of it is to land on the beach! You can even opt for a photo or video package to record this thrilling experience.

Book your fly now:

About Langkawi Development Authority (LADA)
Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) was established by the federal government to plan, promote and implement development on the island of Langkawi. LADA was officially established on March 15, 1990 under the Langkawi Development Authority Act 1990 (Act 423) and placed under the authority of the Ministry of Finance.

For further details, please visit or visit

Langkawi Development Authority, LADA
Tel : 04-9600600
Faks : 04-9661019
Email : [email protected]

Shining The Spotlight On Disappearing Heritage Of Langkawi

Published in TTR Weekly

Langkawi is not shy of cultural heritage to show the world. It is well known for its myths and folklore, yet there are more to discover in Langkawi. Skills and art from the older generation are what formed the present-day glory. Sadly, not all cultural heritage is preserved due to the lack of interests from the younger generation.

Jikey - Langkawi Folk Theatre
When it comes to having a good laugh at a wedding, shows and feasts, villagers would always turn to jikey troupes. Jikey is a form of multicultural folk theatre centred around comedy, following the beats of kompang (drum), gong and cerek (bamboo stick). The upbeat and lively jikey is contagious, combining both singing as well as theatrical performance. The stage was still energetic even at the wee hours. The spectators always wanted more! Back then, villagers would go home with an aching stomach from all the laughter.

That was the golden memories from those days. Not many youngsters know about this theatre nowadays. This 200-year-old tradition is at its dawn with only one surviving troupe - Ayer Hangat Jikey Troupe led by Tok Bibon (85), Tok Chan (78) and Tok Cho (94). All of them have been playing jikey since they were kids. As the last three elders that hold the knowledge of jikey, they are now passing the art to the coming generations. They hope that this remains a form of entertainment for the community.

Watch the micro-documentary here:

Pandai Kayu who made living spaces a craft
Pandai Kayu, or the wood expert, is a Malay term that describes a carpenter with great woodcraft. Pak Dun is one Pandai Kayu who has learned how to build traditional Malay stilt houses since young.

Learning from his relative and bit by bit, from sharpening chisels and saws to woodcutting, Pak Dun was diligent and slowly got the hang of it. He only got to hold a pencil and try-square - a sign that you can finally figure out the architecture of the house - after nailing all the basic skills.

Back then building houses is a community effort. Even the architecture of the houses is made for the feasts-loving villagers. The houses are roomy and with wide verandahs - all so that they can serve good food to the community in a lively gathering.

Pak Dun is passionate about the attentiveness in crafting every single wood that goes into building a house. In the olden days, houses were built using wedges and pegs only where no nails are needed. Each wood measurement must be precise, and accuracy is the key to a long-lasting house. Because of this craft, the house can be dismantled, moved and reassembled at a new location.

The traditional Malay stilt house is also facing a dead end with the younger generation preferring modern houses. This construction knowledge also finds no successor. Reviving this cultural identity of Langkawi must become a new way forward.

Watch the micro-documentary here:

This cultural heritage can become future attractions by highlighting cultural products as part of tourism. A series of micro-documentary videos now showcases various kinds of cultural experience in Langkawi through authentic storytelling.

Check out the rest of the micro-documentary below:
Pandai Kayu:
Gua Pinang:
Beras Terbakar:
Jungle Herbs:
Jungle Herbs 2:
Laktud (Green algae):
Jikey (folk theatre):
Kebuk Arang:
Horse Riding:

About Langkawi Development Authority (LADA)
Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) was established by the federal government to plan, promote and implement development on the island of Langkawi. LADA was officially established on March 15, 1990 under the Langkawi Development Authority Act 1990 (Act 423) and placed under the authority of the Ministry of Finance.

For further details, please visit or visit

Langkawi Development Authority, LADA
Tel : 04-9600600
Faks : 04-9661019
Email : [email protected]

7 Travel Safety Tips in Langkawi

1. Stay safe!
Adopt the new travel norm. While having a fun time in Langkawi, remember to practise 3W:
● Wash your hands frequently.
● Wear your mask at all times except when you’re eating or drinking.
● Warn self and others to follow guidelines such as physical distancing.

We can make travelling at this time safe but don’t let travelling keep your guard down.

2. Be careful during your road trip.
Going on a road trip is a must in Langkawi. However, you wouldn’t want to pull a fast- and-furious car stunt during a relaxing trip, don’t you? Drive slow and look out for wildlife, pedestrians and other drivers. Also, remember to keep your steering steady even when you’re enjoying the scenery.

3. Keep your belongings safe.
Langkawi is one of the safest cities in Malaysia. You can pretty much travel worry- free here. Still, be aware of your surroundings. Keep valuable close to you and never leave your belongings unattended.

4. Go cashless.
Many places in Langkawi are now open for payment without cash. Just tap your credit or debit card, and you can consider various types of e-wallets as well. Paying cashless can also reduce contact and protect you and others better, especially during this time.

5. Prepare insect repellent.
Mosquitoes and sandflies can be a bummer for your holiday, especially during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are especially active. Spraying insect repellent from time to time will help you keep mosquitoes away.

6. Do not feed wildlife.
There is plenty of wildlife in Langkawi, but the Long-tailed macaque can get aggressive if you are feeding them and they want more food. Avoid the conflict and keep everything in your bag. On the same note, do not feed any wildlife on the island as this act will disrupt the food chain and animal behaviour.

7. Drink plenty of water and apply sunscreen.
Sunshine Langkawi welcomes you with all its warmth, including the big hot sun! Remember to hydrate all the time and get enough water during your trip. Protect your skin with sunscreen, wear a big hat, get as touristy as you can but don’t compromise your wellbeing.

About Langkawi Development Authority (LADA)
Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) was established by the federal government to plan, promote and implement development on the island of Langkawi. LADA was officially established on March 15, 1990 under the Langkawi Development Authority Act 1990 (Act 423) and placed under the authority of the Ministry of Finance.

For further details, please visit or visit

Langkawi Development Authority, LADA
Tel : 04-9600600
Faks : 04-9661019
Email : [email protected]

How the Life Cycle of Butterflies are Connected to Us Now

Published in TTR Weekly

Amid this unfamiliar time of pandemic, many of us are facing challenges in life that is uncertain. Our way of living has changed when we have to adapt to a “new normal”, a way of living that most of us are still figuring out and adjusting into. Normal now is about having a space to stay safe and using alternative ways to establish a human connection. We need to rethink about our health, leisure activities and work and home settings. Whether or not, this transition is comfortable, it is a move that we have to make in order to survive.

Looking at the bright side, this new normal is also about humans allowing nature to take its course and live freely. While we are on this “break”, we let the trees grow, the sea creatures to swim and the birds to fly. An insect that we could all relate to at this moment would be the majestic butterflies. Every stage of its life cycle, takes its body into a different shape and size. A fascinating phenomenon to watch as they break from their eggs into caterpillars that feed and moults up to seven times until they are ready to become their adult form. The outer skin hardens forming a protective shell for the caterpillar to develop its body and wings.

Once ready, the new butterfly will come out of its shell and spread its wings. One of the best places for butterfly watching in Malaysia is Langkawi, a place better known for its recreational and duty free attractions. Nevertheless, Langkawi is a home to more than 500 butterfly species. For those who are new to or are interested in butterfly watching, mark Gunung Raya and Telaga Tujuh on your map and plan for a trip in the near future.

Many new butterfly watchers would ask: how do you differentiate a butterfly and a moth? Generally, butterflies are active during the day while moths are active at night. The best way to identify a butterfly is with its club-like antenna that looks like a matchstick. Moths however, are heavy-bodied with antennas that are usually hairy.

Butterfly watching can be interesting if you know what to look out for. You could start off with identifying the six families of the insect. Ranging from small to large, they are Lycaenidae, Pieridae, Nymphalidae and Papilionidae. And if you are lucky, you’d be able to find some rare ones like the Riodinidae. These families are called the “true” butterfly families.

The Lycaenidaes are the smallest ones among the 6 families with measurements between 20mm to 35mm for each butterfly. A common name for this family is the Blues as most of them are blue in colour. You could find the Blue family members, Cycad Blue and Grass Blue fluttering by the roadsides or in gardens. The other non-Blue butterfly family are Coppers, obviously for its copper-orange wings and Common Pierrot with black and white pattern wings. That is just the very few Lycaenidaes among the 140 species documented in Langkawi.

Moving on to the Pieridae family, the medium sized Whites and Yellows. Out of 24 species, the little white butterflies flying close to ground are called Psyche. They are about 30mm to 40mm in size with all white wings. As for the Yellows, look out for the pale Tree Yellow with a dark tip on the upper side and the Banded Yellow with dark ring around the edge of its forewings. The Great Orange Tip is the largest of the Whites and Yellows family in Asia. Approximately 80mm to 100mm in size, its wings are white with bright orange tips on the forewings.

The Nymphlidae family has so many different shapes and colour wings. They are also known as the four-footed butterfly because their front pair of legs is non-functional. Common Tiger is one of the Nymphalidae that stands out for its bright orange forewings and white hindwings wrapped with dark veins. The checkerboard black and white Tree Nymph is known as surat, which means letter in Bahasa Malaysia. The nickname might have come about from the way it ‘floats’ in the air, flapping its wings slowly like a piece of paper.

The dark and mysterious Papilionade usually has black wings with markings of various colours. If you take the road up to Gunung Raya, you may spot the black and yellow Golden Birdwing flying high in the air. The Great Mormon has a soft metallic grey or blue sheen on its velvety wings. But they are pretty rare and can only be found in thick forests.

The Hesperiidae on the other hand, is known as the Skippers. The Skippers are usually small or medium sized with antennas tapered at the end. It might be a bit hard to spot a Skipper due to their fast flying style and the dull earthy coloured wings.

Let these butterflies remind us of the metamorphosis of life. We need to stay hopeful and endure this journey together, and not forget the importance of finding joy in the simplest of creatures.

Author: Dr. Hezri bin Adnan (Former CEO of LADA)

About Langkawi Development Authority (LADA)
Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) was established by the federal government to plan, promote and implement development on the island of Langkawi. LADA was officially established on March 15, 1990 under the Langkawi Development Authority Act 1990 (Act 423) and placed under the authority of the Ministry of Finance.

For further details, please visit or visit

Langkawi Development Authority, LADA
Tel : 04-9600600
Faks : 04-9661019
Email : [email protected]