Perfect for couples and families, the island of Langkawi has the beauty, activities, culture, sea and sun of its neighbouring Thai islands – minus the crowds.
Where am I looking?” I ask Ary, our jet-ski tour guide, as I pull down my sunglasses and squint into the middle distance.
I can see nothing but dazzling sunshine and the same deep-blue ocean that licks at my ankles.
“Between those two islands,” says Ary, pointing to a small gap on the horizon that is barely separating two rugged limestone karst formations.
They’re much the same as the ones featured in movies set in secret paradises, such as The Beach, or James Bond’s The Man With the Golden Gun: movies set before those Thai islands were overrun with the tourists seeking to escape to the idyllic scenes they’d seen on screen.
“That’s as far as you can take the jet-ski,” says Ary.
“They’re miles away,” I think to myself, but I just twist my throttle and turn my handlebars and shout “OK Ary” over the roar of my motor as I send an arc of foaming brine into the air (soaking my companions) and start gleefully speeding towards the horizon.
It’s not every day that a jet-ski guide allows guests to let rip like this, but on these calm seas, encircled by tide-breaking isles, with clear views and no other people in sight, Ary is happy to let us each tear off in different directions, certain that he can keep track of our three gleaming jet skis (and our bright orange lifejackets, of course) on this untouched cobalt canvas.
Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands just 18 miles from the coast of mainland Malaysia, which, being right next door, boasts the same climate, hotels, amenities and the same kind of geology and beauty as Thailand’s islands but without the crowds.
“Langkawi is less touristed than the nearby Thai islands due to a lack of direct connectivity and night entertainment,” says Mei Lan, director of marketing and communications for The Danna Langkawi, a stunning five-star property which also boasts luxury private villas.
“So if clients are looking for a more laid-back experience, then Langkawi is definitely the better option.”
While that means your clients will have the chance to get those waves, and these stunning, often-uninhabited white-sand beaches to themselves, that doesn’t mean there’s any lack of activities on offer.
As a home for seafaring peoples for millennia there is plenty of eclectic Asian cuisine and vibrant local culture to explore – such as cookery classes held inside 90-year-old Malay stilt houses set amid picturesque paddy fields – but there’s also plenty to keep kids and adventurers entertained too.
“The Danna Langkawi attracts a range of guests, notably couples, retirees and small families. We’re very near to Paradise 101 Langkawi, which is a [man-made], eco-friendly, private island that’s great for watersports or just for relaxation. We’re also located close to attractions such as the SkyBridge, Langkawi SkyCab cable car and Umgawa Zipline.”
Langkawi definitely isn’t short of thrilling, vertiginous experiences. Located 700 metres (2,300ft) above sea level, the SkyBridge is a 125-metre-long (410ft), curved pedestrian walkway, which offers stunning views across island and sea.
The bridge itself is accessed by taking the SkyCab cable car – reportedly the steepest cable car ride in the world – from the Oriental Village (an oriental garden and tourism centre, full of wacky attractions and souvenir shops, located near Pantai Kok) to the summit of Mount Mat Cincang – the second-highest peak in Langkawi.
Families could spend a whole day here, riding up and down the mountain and experiencing the theme-park-style amusements, from a 4D cinema to the Langkawi Art in Paradise 3D Museum – which is Malaysia’s biggest 3D art attraction, and the second largest in the world.
Featuring more than 200 painted optical illusions, it’s perfect for filling kids’ Instagram feeds with mind- bending photos.
Not that Langkawi is lacking in natural attractions. Nor are all boat trips guaranteed to leave your clients soaked with seawater.
On my languid, serene boat trip through the dense mangrove forests of Kilim Geoforest Park, we spot yellow and brown pit vipers, brown-wing kingfishers, water monitor lizards, kites, sea eagles and even a lone humpback dolphin resting in the brackish waters.
The mangrove trees form a nursery for newborn and small creatures, and they in turn attract predators, making all manner of wildlife easy to see.
Brown monkeys come here to prey instead on tourists’ backpacks, and several jump into our vessel in search of snacks as we glide between the trees, making an up-close monkey sighting practically inevitable.
When we enter the Gua Kelawar caves hunting for yet more wildlife, it’s a different story, however.
“Where am I looking?” I ask my guide, Dev, as I pull down my sunglasses and squint into the pitch-blackness, my voice echoing in the dark.
He shines a torch on the cave ceiling, revealing hundreds of horseshoe and tiny bumblebee bats dangling from the cave walls, which suddenly take flight and envelope us in a maelstrom of leathery wings.
Hayes & Jarvis offers a 15-day multi-centre holiday in Malaysia from £5,299pp including flights with Malaysia Airlines, three nights at Traders Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, four nights at the Shangri La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, and seven nights at Danna Langkawi.
For more info, visit: thedanna.com
Visas: British and Irish passport holders don’t need a visa to visit Malaysia but passports need to be valid for at least six months from date of entry.
Climate: In dry season (November-March), temperatures range from 30°-35°C and average 25°C in wet season (October- March on the east coast).
Currency: Malaysian ringgit. There are also ATMs around Langkawi.