At a luncheon hosted at Kilim Geoforest Park in late August by natural cosmetics manufacturer Paul Penders, Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) General Manager Dato’ Kamarulzaman Abdul Ghani (left) described his vision for the island following its designation earlier this year as a UNESCO Geopark.
“Langkawi was the first Geopark in Southeast Asia,” he said. “We want to lead the way for the region to develop more Geoparks.”
Derived from the word, “geology”, or study of the earth, the term Geopark refers to an area that has significant rock formations as well as unique landscapes. In 2000, the United Nations Education, Social and Culture Organization (UNESCO) established the concept as a means to encourage appreciation and protection of the environment. Since then, more than 60 Geoparks have been designated around the world. Eighteen of these are in China. In mid 2007, UNESCO updated its requirements so that each country can now have only two Geoparks.
Designation as a Geopark could provide an important boost for tourism, as a way to publicize an area’s natural beauty.
General Manager Kamarulzaman said that Langkawi is being advertised heavily. The emphasis, he said, is on the island’s tourist value, rather than its interest for geologists.
He hopes to retain Langkawi’s natural beauty while expanding its tourist infrastructure. “We envision Langkawi as a friendly, educational, relaxing destination. We don’t want to compete with Phuket,” said Kamarulzaman.
Phuket is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations but is also known for its busy nightlife and city-like feel.
Over the past 16 years, the Federal Government of Malaysia has invested more than RM2 billion developing the 99 islands of Langkawi. Going forward, said general manager Ghani, development will continue on Tuba Island with a new road and observation deck to be built at Wang Buluh cave, a coastal road and a motorcycle crossway at Tuba-Selat Bagan Nyior. Other projects include walkways and an observation deck at KilimGeoparkForest, boardwalks at Dayang Bunting Lake and new signs at all Langkawi tourist attractions.
The timing of the development coincides with the prediction made by an old island legend. According to the tale, Langkawi was cursed by a woman who was falsely accused by her mother-in-law of having an affair. The lady vowed that if she were innocent, her blood would flow white after she was put to death, and Langkawi would languish for seven generations. Her blood did reportedly turn white and after many years of relative obscurity, Langkawi is now starting to enjoy a growing tourist trade.