Naturalist Par Excellence

Virtual Malaysia- July/august 2003
By Richard F. Dorall

Irshad Mobarak: Naturalist Par Excellence

Built like an American football player, Irshad Mobarak has commanding presence, but is really a gentle giant.
For the past 12 years, he has presided as resident Naturalist at The Datai. This is Langkawi’s most exclusive hotel, renowned for its architectural design which merges the built and natural environments so seamlessly it is difficult to know where one stops and the other begins.¬† Irshad has extended this symbiosis to the hotel’s guests.

He leads daily morning and evening nature walks specially designed to inspire children and their parents to understand, respect and honour the genius of Nature.

dragonfrlyFor the more adventurous, he has laid out trails in the adjacent rainforest of the Macincang Massif, Malaysia’s oldest geological formation, and which provides The Datai a dramatic mountain backdrop. The Poet’s Trail takes you through superb scenery past towering dipterocarp trees and writhing vines. On the most spectacular trees are affixed plaques with poems, each a hymn to the majesty that is the tropical rainforest.

Embark on the Hornbill Trail, and Irshad guides you into valleys where these graceful birds swoop overhead, their distinctive calls not just explained, but even expertly mimicked. Irshad then leads his now totally enchanted converts to the cause of defending and celebrating what he calls the Wild Lands, along the Meranti Trail. Here, safe from the logger’s saw, these magnificent hardwood trees can soar to over 60m high.

Now you will begin to understand why this urbane man abandoned the dubious comforts of urban life in Seremban and Kuala Lumpur many years ago, and found his calling here. In the emerging field of Information Rich, Knowledge Enhancing Eco Tourism, Irshad has no parallel in Langkawi. And on this Island of Legends, he is becoming a legend himself.