10 Minutes with Irshad Mobarak

Written by SilverKris

Article by SilverKris

on August 1, 2014

Naturalist Irshad Mobarak has consulted for and appeared in international documentaries such as National Geographic Channel’s Mysteries of the Malaysian Rainforest. RACHEL AJ LEE chats with the passionate birder and conservationist.

1. You conduct nature walks for guests at The Datai Langkawi resort in Malaysia. Tell us about your most memorable nature experiences in Langkawi, and elsewhere.
Three come to mind. The first would be the first time I ever went snorkelling in Tioman, where the riot of colours in the marine world blew me away. After this experience, I felt that life was too short to spend behind an office desk, and so I quit my bank job to pursue my newly found passion – nature. The second was when I swam with five whale sharks just off the waters of Langkawi. Last but not least, I recall my visit to Sulawesi, where the birds and wildlife were incredibly amazing, especially the maleo bird and tarsier.

2. What are some places, in your opinion, that a nature lover should visit in their lifetime?
Langkawi, for its amazing geological and flora diversity and fauna. In particular, to see the island’s fabulous flying five – lemurs, frogs, dragons, squirrels and snakes. Wallacea, a group of Indonesian islands, is also a must visit. Costa Rica, South Africa, Australia and Antartica are on my must-visit list. 

3. Do you ever need a break from nature?
Strangely, I do need to get to a city now and then, like once every four months, just to keep up with the latest in reads (bookshops), movies and technology. My usual length of stay is three days, before I get bored and long for the country, forest and sea.

4. What do you think about travelling for work?
While I do travel more these days for ecotourism consultancy work and nature talks, I would like to add that I am the luckiest person in the world because my work is my passion. I live by the saying of poet and Sufi master Rumi Jalaluddin, “Let the beauty we love be what we do.” Nature is constantly around me, and every sound, scent and sight intrigues me. Even if I’m in a city, there is always nature trying to reveal itself.

5. What are your five must-have items in your luggage?
Binoculars, bird field guide, trekking shoes, flashlight and handphone (to speak to the family and for emergencies). Last but not least, a waterproof bag for all the above.

6. What do you usually do onboard a plane?
I read, watch movies and look out the window when I am flying over places like the Himalayas and islands. Rarely do I sleep on a flight, in case I miss something interesting outside and below.

7. What are some places you’d like to visit?
Wow! There are so many places but so little time. Top on my list would be Maluku Islands and Papua New Guinea to see Birds of Paradise. I would also like to visit all the other places that one of my heroes, Alfred Russel Wallace, co-founder of the theory of evolution, visited. I have already been to some – namely Malacca, Borneo and Sulawesi.

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