Malaysia: City v beach

irshad-mobarak-13

“It’s more scared of us than we are of it; it won’t come near us,” said an optimistic travel agent before a cheeky little macaque monkey – complete with suckling baby – readied itself to hop on to our boat as we cruised through the mangroves in the Unesco-registered geopark that is Langkawi.

This was not my only encounter with all creatures great and small during a Malaysia Airlines fam trip to the island and to capital Kuala Lumpur.

A stay in the depths of the lush rainforest would see a timid, dusky leaf monkey regard me from a nearby tree as I unwound outdoors post-spa treatment; frogs shared the bathroom and there were butterflies galore – all within walking distance of a pristine beach.

This sat in stark but delicious contrast to the Malaysian capital, with culinary influences spanning China and India, busy maze-like markets, and skyscrapers worthy of any cosmopolitan city.

Langkawi

“It’s very green and tropical,” says Jemma Allerton, personal travel expert at Kuoni in John Lewis, Cardiff, “but the rainforest leads to pristine beach with clear blue water and that’s a special combination”.

We arrived at our island accommodation, the Datai Langkawi, after a seamless transfer at Kuala Lumpur on to a 55-minute flight. I was immediately struck by how the luxury resort complemented its surroundings, with monkeys wandering near the beach, and exceedingly rare flying mammal the colugo spotted up a tree outside reception on our first day.

We were led on a nature walk through the resort and neighbouring forest by renowned naturalist Irshad Mobarak who pointed out that, despite its diminutive size, the small island has 530 species of butterfly compared to the UK’s 66. Resting on a rock next to a trickling stream with nothing but the sound of cicadas for distraction, I could practically feel my blood pressure falling.

A stay at the Datai includes some complimentary nature walks and beach walks for children, but Mobarak’s company, JungleWalla, can organise rainforest walks with hotel transfers for around £28 per person. Other day tours include a kayaking and swimming adventure and a mangrove cruise, with beautiful views over the ocean, which costs around £34.

Outside the resort, the Langkawi SkyBridge and SkyCab – one of the steepest cable cars in the world – deliver stunning panoramic views over the forest and ocean (from about £8.50).

The island’s sweeping white-sand beaches also rank among Malaysia’s best. The trendy Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah make up the most developed stretch, while the sandy strips of Tanjung Rhu and Datai Bay – which also houses the Andaman resort – are more upscale.

Bobbing around in the water with the mountains in view and a cocktail in hand, I couldn’t think of a better place to unwind.

Travel Weekly UK: Malaysia: City v beach