The best of Langkawi : Hornbills

The Magnificent Hornbills of Langkawi

Peering through my monocular, I can see its eyes are red a sure indicator that it’s a male and on the branch above it his mate for life the female with her yellow eyes and slighter built. (having to see a bird through a binocular or monocular makes for a whole lot of difference.) For this is the only way one can tell the difference between the male and female Great Hornbill. If there is any bird that deserves the oos! and the aars! on the island it must be these magnificent hornbills. Langkawi is a birders paradise, with lush rainforest covering more than 50 percent of the island and another 30 percent with rice paddy’s, it is home to over 180 species of birds.

To name but a few, there are 3 species of Hornbills, the Wreathed Hornbill and the Oriental Pied make for the other two, of the 12 species of Kingfishers in Malaysia we have 8!,of which the Brown winged Kingfisher can only be see in Langkawi, 19 species of birds of prey, 8 species of wild pigeons (very unlike the Trafalgar Square types!), 3species of Bee-eaters, many water-birds and others.Among all the birds, if I had to have a favorite then it must be the Hornbills. The best place on the island to observe them is at Gunung Raya, this protected forest reserve is located at the center of the island and is about a 20 minute drive from most hotels along Pantai Cenang. No trip to this island can be complete without checking these birds out, so grab yourself a good map, a pair of binoculars, perhaps a bird book get into your car and drive yourself to the base of Gunung Raya. Once you are there wind down your windows, switch off your radio, drive slowly, look and listen. Be sure to stop at several places along the way, get out of the car and look for them, paying special attention to any fruiting trees. You would not have to wait too long before you will be rewarded with the sight of these amazing birds.

The Great Hornbill is the largest bird on the island, from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail it measures at 1.20 meters! Its call is a distinct and loud Gok! Gok! Gok! and sometimes followed with a Gawarrrr! When this bird flies you hear a woosh! like sound with each wing beat it takes. These birds are monogamous (strange culture! No, no just joking, I mean good culture) they reach maturity at year five and live for about 28 to 30 years. When it is time for her to lay her eggs she will find a hollow in a tree, if the hollow is suitable she enters and begin to plaster herself inside using her own droppings this makes for a wonderful cement to seal herself into her nest. She leaves a small opening to allow her beak to stick out. She has built herself a fortress. She will remain in this nest for between 8 to 9 weeks. Throughout her stay in this confine quarters the male will travel and return every 2 to 3 hours with room service! Its diet is mostly fruits but some times it is supplemented with little lizards and little snakes and once I saw the male bring her a little squirrel.

The female is not having a holiday while the poor male is hard at work , she stays behind to protect her one precious egg from many enemies including large snakes, monitor lizards , macaque monkeys and civet cats. 8 or 9 weeks later when the young is strong, can protect it own self and food needs increase the female will break out and together both parents will feed its young until about 4 or5 weeks later the young breaks out too and join its parents and be trained for the next 6 months before they join the flock. Hornbills are remarkable parents and they never fail to impress me.The best times to see these birds are between 7.30am and 10.00am in the morning or between 5.00 pm and 7.00pm in the evening. And as an added reward the drive up Gunung Raya, have some of the most scenic views of the island especially at sunset. Happy birding folks.For information & booking visit

Langkawi Geopark: Come alive!


The first Geopark, not only in Malaysia, but Southeast Asia. The Machincang Formation in the North West of the Island is the oldest in the world at 550million years old. Langkawi has not been called the bithplace of the region for nothing! The Chuping Limestone at Pulau Dayang Bunting, dating back some 280million years, and the north eastern part of Langkawi easily have some of the most beautiful and intriguing formations you've ever seen.

But the Geopark concept is made up of more than mere geological structures and landscape. It is about how the local communities within it sustain and nurture this geological heritage through effective conservation efforts and promotion of ecotourism.

Essentially it is about whether the people living within the Geopark realise that these invaluable geological gems belong to them and their future generations.

Editor's Note


Oldest Rock Formation
The natural construction of these features greatly influenced the types of rock formation. Datai Bay is a sequence of interbedded sandstone and shale which is called Machinchang Formation aged 550million years old and regarded as the oldest rock in Malaysia. Indeed this area is one of the most important geological sutes in Malaysia which must be preserved and protected for educational and reserceh purposes.

High Geological Value
Datai Bay also has a great diversity of rocks, structural and landform, which contributes to the high geological value of the site. The rock diversity is easily defined by the rocks types within the Machinchang Formation. At the Bay, this sedimentary rock as identified along the rocky beach is a layer of dark shale and fine to coarse grain sandstone. Most of the rocky beach to Tanjung Hulor. To the east, towards Anak Datai Island, the coarse grain sandstone becomes dominant. The diversity of rocks in Datai Bay is a record of environmental change during the period of sediment deposition 550million years ago. The deposition environment during that time is believed to be river deltas and shallow coastal areas.

Primary and Secondary Structures
Structural diversity in the Machinchang Formation can be viewed at the rock exposure along the rocky beach. Rock structures formed during the sediment deposition are called the primary structure, and by tectonic activity are known as the primary structure. Primary structures such as planar bedding and cross lamination are found along the rocky beach, while the secondary structure consists of faults, folds, joints and quartz veins intrusions.

Coastal Outlines and Soft Sand
The landform diversity at Datai Bay is a plethora of wonderful coastal types; rocky beach, sandy beach, pebbly beach, abrasion platform, depositional platform, gravel bar, sea tracks, sea caves and residual island. The sand here feels extremely soft beneath bare feet. The series of abrasion platforms along the rocky beach display the structure painted on them. Great persistence by the wave and erosion processes had shaped the pebbles on the beach into semi rounded, rounded and pellet like. The works of the tireless wave with the help of structures within the rock had eroded part of the promontory to form residual islands and at the small scale they are called sea tracks. At an area where the wave is strong, such as at the west of Anak Burau Island, the erosion along the vertical layer of rocks had formed sea caves and rocky arches.

Tourism Education
Datai Bay is one of the sites in South East Asia with significant geological history. It also perfectly showcases the coastal landscape for sedimentary rocks. The diverse landscape in this area provides a great opportunity for research and tourism education. Not to mention a living exhibition of beguiling rock formations.