Wild About Pangkor Laut
Pangkor Laut, an exclusive private island off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia on the Straits of Malacca, has been hailed as the most luxurious premier resort in Malaysia. Since its opening in 1994, it has been the favourite playground of the rich and famous and the well-heeled. Honeymooners flock here to celebrate their love and be intoxicated by the romance of this idyllic hideaway.
When the late opera singer, Luciano Pavarotti, came to officiate the opening, he was moved to tears by its sheer beauty as he declared, “It is a paradise!” when he landed on the island. It is a 300-acre island with rocky coastlines punctuated with sandy coves. Guests who arrive on the jetty are greeted by a large natural rock formation that looks like a face with a big smile. It may be a stone but the welcome is certainly not stony as guests are greeted warmly with iced cold drinks and cool moist towels to freshen up at the reception.
Within its beating heart lies a two million-year-old primeval rainforest teeming with wildlife that has lived there long before any human habitation. The resort is celebrated for its luxury villas, award-winning Spa Village and great restaurants but the jewel in the crown of the island is its stunning natural beauty and its exotic wildlife. It is a perfect place for nature lovers and deserves a top billing above the luxury man-made amenities. I am taking a walk on the wild side around the island.
A Rumble In The Jungle
If you think the jungle is a serene haven, think again. As night falls, the crickets and cicadas create quite a cacophony with their nightly jungle orchestra. At the crack of dawn when swirling mist dances on the forest canopy, the dawn chorus of the feathered kind starts their morning ensemble tweeting in perfect harmony.
Just yards from my villa, a couple of oriental pied hornbills are having a raucous conversation over a breakfast of palm nuts. Their squawking calls are like the rock band of the forest compared with the sweet melody of the other birds. A white-bellied sea eagle soars high above the forest hunting for prey for his morning snack. As it swoops down on a nest with young chicks of a black bird, the mother bird goes into a defence mode to protect its young shrieking and fluttering its wings frantically to thwart off the attack. Father bird comes to the rescue and the devoted parents manage to fight off the fearsome eagle as it flies off to look for an easy prey in the sea. It was a priceless moment to witness the avian aerial combat.
By mid morning, monitor lizards, the largest reptiles on the island, would crawl out of their hiding place and sprawl lazily on big rocks by the sea catching the rays to warm up their cold-blooded bodies.
By dusk, high frequency sound can be heard from a cluster of trees by the jetty as flying foxes wake up from their roost to fly into the night to forage for insects in the forest. Their nightly exodus is a sight to behold as they arouse from their long slumber during the day hanging upside down in groups. Flying foxes belong to the megabat species and are the largest bats in the world. Their faces resemble mini foxes, hence their name. Guests on the resort marvel at the sight every evening as the flying squadron set off for dinner shrieking into the fading sunset. They will return to roost by dawn.
Oh…the sheer joy of tuning in to the rhythm of nature and be surrounded by Mother Nature’s awesome creation. It is magical and a privilege to watch nature at its best. I am totally in my element when I am at one with nature.
The One And Only Pangkor Laut Resort
Pangkor Laut Resort is the sole resort on the island and is exclusively reserved for its guests and staff only. No day-trippers are permitted on the island. It belongs to YTL Hotels, Malaysia’s premier hospitality company for luxury resorts and hotels well known for their eco-friendly policy in their properties.
In accordance to its mission statement, when the company built the resort, it was mindful of preserving the environment with as little destruction to nature and wildlife as possible. The fact that the wildlife on the island is thriving is thanks to this company ethos. The verdant virgin forest is left untouched and revered as a green shrine to the island where guests can pay homage to the enchanting rainforest on guided jungle treks.
Accommodation comes in chic villas built on the hills with panoramic view of the Straits of Malacca; on the beachfront and gardens with sounds of the gentle wave lapping against the shore and over the sea in villas on stilts in the Sea and Spa Villas, their premium category. But the most exclusive villas are tucked away on a private cove in The Estate where each villa has its own swimming pool, chef and butler to attend to your every need. The exquisite villas are where the celebrities and the wealthy come to relax and be pampered in privacy away from the main resort.
A Room With A View
I am ensconced in the Spa Villa with its private balcony overlooking the Straits of Malacca to watch the fishing boats chugging out into the sea and a view of Pangkor Island, the big inhabited sister island of Pangkor Laut across the water. In front of my villa is the verdant forest where I can be an armchair naturalist watching the wildlife and listening to the birdsongs. I have a great view of marine life from my front porch. I am enthralled by a large school of anchovies swimming in unison and sea urchins with their menacing spikes lurking among the corals while sea cucumbers, which are delicacies in Chinese cuisine, look like purple slugs strewn on the sea bed.
Now and again hornbills will be flying past in their ungainly flight with their large beaks and big wings while the sea hawks are taking advantage of the thermal updraft of the warm air gliding high in the sky. Pure joy! In the oppressing afternoon heat, the forest is silent as the animals are resting in the coolness of the jungle. It is time for me to take a break from nature watch and head to the spa for a spot of therapeutic massage.
Spa, Sarong and Shanghai Scrub
The multi-award winning Spa Village on the resort is one of the best in Malaysia. It is set in a leafy tranquil enclave of the island with an herb garden complete with treatment pavilions, gazebo for sweet slumber, two Bath Houses and a Rotenburu thermal pool among other facilities. It has its own swimming pool and a bar serving healthy snacks and juices.
One of the amazing features of the spa in the resort is the Bath House experience, unique only to this Spa Village in the YTL properties. The ritual is performed before each treatment as my therapist leads me to the Bath House after I have changed into a sarong, which I can keep as a gift. The therapist gives me a soothing footbath and a Chinese foot pounding treatment. This practice harks back to imperial China when the emperor’s concubines with their painful bound feet, as were the customs then, would be relieved of their pain by their servants who would tap their tiny feet with wooden mallets to improve circulation.
Then it is off to the inner sanctum of the Bath House where I wade through a shallow pool flanked by giant urns spouting water to reach a platform with steaming wells of scented vapour from various herbs that I inhale to relax. A quick body scrub and a luxuriating soak in the thermal pool follows before being given a Shanghai exfoliating body scrub. After a refreshing cup of herbal tea I am ushered to my pavilion for the most divine Balinese massage and a facial. After the spa session I am totally blissed out as I float back to my villa.
Emerald Bay is the favourite spot on the resort for sun worshippers to relax on the sun loungers and hammocks. The sweeping white sandy beach against the lush backdrop of the forest is an idyllic place to chill out or take a dip in the emerald green water. It was voted as one of the top 100 best beaches in the world by Condé Nast magazine. While I am enjoying an iced cold watermelon juice at Chapman’s Bar by the beach, a giant monitor lizard saunters nonchalantly on the sand like a prehistoric predator on the prowl. It has no fear of humans for it knows that it is safe on an island that respects its domain and that of its fellow jungle creatures. Pangkor Laut may be small but it made a big man like Pavarotti cried, and that is how special this piece of paradise is, wild and free.
Pangkor Laut is three hours by road from Kuala Lumpur to Lumut town and a mere 20 minutes by boat from the town. www.pangkorlautresort.com