Irshad Mobarak doesn’t look quite like what an “evangelist” should. Tall, tanned and hunky, he would probably be more at home in a Steven Seagal type movie than waxing lyrical about the lush greenery which surrounds The Datai.
But evangelise he does, telling people who will listen about how they should tread softly on the earth and be gentle with the nature that he so loves. In charge of the recreational activities at the resort, Irshad has a deep and obvious devotion for the greenery and wildlife that surround him. “There, see the swift flying,” he interrupts softly, pointing to a speck in the sapphire blue sky. I see nothing except the delight which lights up the gentle brown eyes. (A storehouse of information, in less than a couple of minutes he has furnished me with characteristics and figures about the bird, including the fact that the swift is capable of sustained flying for two years, being able to feed, sleep and bathe on the wing.).
Living in Langkawi for the last 6 years, Irshad has discovered a paradise that very few people know about. The Datai, surrounded by virgin jungle, is like a dream come true for the young man.
A trained physical therapist, Irshad works with the resort’s Health Club offering aromatherapy, reflexology and holistic therapy to its guests. When not clad in the pristine whites that he dons for the occasion, you will see him in his “jungle fatigued” khaki shorts and white tee shirt, taking guests on early morning walks or late evening strolls through the jungle.
It is during these trips, conducted three times a week, that he imparts both his knowledge and passion for the wildlife that surrounds the area. In the cool, salt aired morning, surrounded by the delicate golden rays of a newly awakened sun, Irshad points out flowers, plants, birds and insects which his trained eyes spot almost immediately. Conscientious as always, he sticks to existing roads, reluctant to allow new paths to be trampled in the unspoilt undergrowth of the jungle. “I can go for these walks all the time and I still never cease to be amazed by what we find.”Every day is a new discovery … there are a wealth of plants and herbs which surround this area, eaves which can be used to stop bleeding, keep bugs away, those which stop diarrhoea and which have antiseptic qualities … ”
At dusk, under a night time of stars, the experience becomes a sensual one. Ears strain to hear strange cries of birds or try to identify the screech of insects; feet pick their way slowly through foreign paths while the heady scent of wild jasmine sweetly fills the night air. The wonderment is contagious and simply listening to Irshad speaks, gesturing frequently with large capable hands, makes me want to run out and bond with nature!
When pressed to confess what he misses, Irshad reluctantly does. It is not the bright lights or the fast pace; instead it is the intellectual stimulation which he finds during trips to the library at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang once a month. Otherwise long solitary walks, with carpets of dry leaf litter that rustle and crunch underfoot, keep Irshad happy and help him understand further the role of each species within the earth’s eco system.
It is on these wanderings that Irshad discovered the spot where the wind blows against the wood and produces a thin wailing noise and the mountain top which provides a breathtaking view of the island and many other little secrets. “The ecology here is so bizarre and wonderful” There was one night when I discovered a place where there were stars in the sky, stars m the air (the fireflies) and stars in the water ( the luminous plankton) so fabulous”.
Simply seeing these things through his eyes is wonderment enough, and you can readily believe Irshad when he tells you how receptive the hotel guests are to these little excursions. As we speak, two specks come into the air, joined by two more and two more until six Branminy Kites are flying in gorgeous swoops and arcs in the diamond blue sky. “They’ve come out to see you,” he says with a smile.
20 March 1994.
Bond With Nature.