Also known as the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, this 100 square kilometer area in Langkawi is a nature reserve and a collection of geo-sites full of amazing flora & fauna, and stunning geological formations like mammoth limestone rocks, fossils, caves, lagoons, beaches and seascapes. The whole area is administered and protected by the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department. It is part of the larger Langkawi Geopark and one of the biggest hot spots of Eco tourism in the entire region.
The approach to the Kilim Geopark is through the Kilim river. You will need to take a tour on a motor boat that starts from the Kilim Jetty or the Tanjung Rhu bay area both located at the north eastern end of Langkawi. A guided boat tour would be ideal to appreciate all the attractions in Kilim Geopark. The Kilim Geopark area comprises of the river basins of Kilim, Kisap and Air Hangat along with several islands including Langgun and Tanjung Dendang.
So what do you get to experience? The boat ride will initially take you along the Kilim river with dense green mangroves (also known as wetland mangroves) on one side and gigantic limestone rocks on the other rising from the river bed. Some of these limestone rocks that look like mountains, have been formed some 500 million years back. The mangroves serve to protect the shoreline from the sea and prevent soil erosion by forming a barricade.
Kilim Geopark Langkawi, Limestone Cliffs
Keep a watch at the mangrove area and the muddy flats, you will see lots of amazing animal life. Other than squirrels, mud crabs and monkeys, you will also see Monitor Lizards that can easily dive and stay underwater for a long time. The lizards are harmless though. Sometimes you will also see crocodiles. In the waters there are many varieties of fish (some 40 species) and if you are lucky, you can also spot a dolphin or even an otter.
There are several species of birds that you can see in the geo park including the popular kingfishers and kite birds. But the most majestic of all are the reddish brown eagles that hover around the sky in plenty. You are also likely to spot white bellied sea eagle which is hard to find elsewhere.
In about 10 minutes you will reach the Floating Fish Farm. Here you can hand feed a stingray or even the shooting archer fishes that jump a long way out of the water to take away the bread piece from your fingers. And then you will be taken to a calm water area surrounded by high rocks and forest where you will see a grand spectacle – Eagle Feeding. The boatman stops the engine and the guide throws some chicken skin pieces into the water. In no time the eagles start swooping in from the sky, grab the food and take off.
Next you will be taken to the Fossil Island, also known as Pulau Anak Tikus (Pulau in Malay means island). The boat is tied to a small jetty built to access the tiny island. After you climb up the narrow stairs, the guide will show you several fossils on the rocks some of which are 480 million years old. You will walk on a narrow concrete footbridge that takes you to the other side of the island where there is another staircase to get down to the water. The boat meanwhile circles around and moors at this end of the island. This is where we spotted a white bellied sea eagle flying at a distance over the water.
The next stop is Hidden cave or Gua Langsir. The boat is secured to a small platform and you will hop out to a staircase that leads to a footbridge. After climbing down several steep steps, you will reach the lower level where the footbridge extends to a beautiful lake. The cave here is hidden by the mangrove roots and therefore called the hidden lake. This is where you will also see mangroves that are more than 100 years old, and the highest limestone cliffs of Langkawi that are some 500 million years old.
Having spent some 15 minutes at the hidden cave, the boat driver usually takes you on a fast ride towards the open sea. Some of these boats can really get to high speed. On the way you will see a small island that looks like a shoe. The locals call it the Shoe Island. As you boat zooms toward the open sea, on the other side you will see “Kilim Geoforest Park” written on large white metallic letters on the cliffs.
Depending on your tour itinerary, the operator may then take you to the lovely Tanjong Rhu beach full of soft white sands and fringed with casuarina trees. This is where you will spend some 1 hour time swimming (if you so like) and take some refreshments at the stalls. If you plan to swim, do carry a towel and swimwear. At the beachside restaurant, chill down with some fresh coconut water (you get them for RM5) or stroll along the coastal road. There are many stalls selling clothes and local souvenirs on both sides of the road.
Usually a good tour operator will include lunch. Following your time at the beach, they will take you to Hole In The Wall restaurant & fish farm for lunch. It’s a floating restaurant and you get lovely view of surrounding water and landscapes as you dine. The simple lunch which comes as part of the tour package usually includes fried rice, chicken fries and salad. They also serve lots of chilled pineapple juice. If you are used to curry or gravy based dishes, you may find the lunch quite dry. The quantity (portion) is okay, but may not be adequate for some. I thought the rice used here is of medium quality and nowhere close to Basmati.
After lunch, you are taken to a calm water area on the river which is full of mangrove swamps on both side. As the boatman brings the boat close to the shore, large number of monkeys appear from nowhere expecting peanuts to be thrown to them. The guide actually carries a bag full of peanuts and hands it over to the passengers to feed the monkeys. Don’t be surprised if some of the monkeys come on board the boat in excitement. They reach no harm though.
Next you will be taken to the Crocodile Cave. You aren’t likely to find any crocodiles here. During the low tide, the boat can pass right through the cave. As you go under it, you can see great limestone formations as well as many bats. But during the high tide, you will only have to see the cave from outside.
The final stop is at the Bat Cave. which is located quite close to the Kilim Jetty. Other than awesome sight of large colonies of bats hanging from the ceiling and flying all over your head, Bat Cave showcases stunning formations of limestone. In one such formation, the stalactites and stalagmites have joined to form a single column. There are also many plants in the area that are centuries old and one of them is called “Living Fossil”.
How to visit the Kilim Geopark & Mangrove
There are many tour operators in Langkawi offering this tours. However many are only mediators and will only take the group to the jetty and hand over to a boatman who often double up as a guide. One of the best Kilim Geopark Tours is organized by Malibest Resort located in Pantai Cenang. While their usual rate is RM120 per person, the hotel guests enjoy discounts. They specialize on this tour, provide a knowledgeable guide speaking English, use air-conditioned vans for transfers from/to the hotel and design the tour to give you a complete flavor of the Kilim geopark along with opportunities to swim and spend time at the Tanjung Rhu beach. Their tour starts at 9:15am, includes lunch at the floating fish farm, and returns around 3:30pm. It is also a reasonably priced tour compared to many others.
If you like to be closer to the nature and like to focus more on nature activities like exploring bird life, animal life, caves and mangroves, then the best option is to go through either Dev’s Adventure Tours or JungleWalla. They are eco tourism companies and organize both boat and kayak tours to the geopark that are environment friendly. While their tours are more expensive, they provide expert guide and great insights into the individual geosites that you visit. The Kayak tour gets you close to the narrow and smaller water channels, and you can experience the mangroves and shore flora & fauna from a closer distance. The tours lasts for 4-5 hours. Visit Top Nature Tour Operators to get details of the offerings and contact information for booking & inquiry.
Alternatively you can go down to the Kilim Jetty and rent a full boat for yourself. If you are in a family or small group, it works out to be quite cheaper. A boat costs about RM250 for two hours and RM300 for 4 hours (the rate varies with the demand though). For longer rides the hourly rate comes down. Depending on the size of the boat, it can accommodate between 8 to 10 persons. However one problem with private boat is that you won’t have a guide. The boatman is unlikely to speak English and would have no knowledge about the places. But you can still enjoy if you don’t care much about the information and history behind the places you visit. You will need to take a taxi to come to Kilim jetty.
You can also rent a private boat from Tanjung Rhu bay area. Reach the coastal road that leads to the public beach. You will see a row of stalls selling clothes, food and souvenir items. Take the dirt road from the backside of the stalls and you will find boats moored on the river which you can rent by the hour. But you should go there by 9:30am when the tide is high. If the tide recedes, the boats can not leave. Tanjung Rhu is about 22kms from Kuah town. You will need to take a taxi to come here (fare: RM40 from Kuah).
Another great way to explore the Kilim Geopark is by taking a guided Jet Ski tour from NAAM Sports. They are the only operator who offer such guided tour of the geopark on jet ski. Their tour operates from Tanjung Rhu beach. Check out Jet Ski Operators to get the details including contact information for booking and inquiry.
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Carry enough sun lotion and drinking water. While most boats have plastic shades, there is also some open space for seating. Try to avoid the open sun exposure. Even while the boat moves and the breeze feels nice, on a sunny day you won’t know how your skin may take a battering from the sun.
Wear comfortable walking shoes, contton T-shirts, a hat and shorts.
Carry swimwear and towel if your tour offers time at Tanjung Rhu beach.
If you plan for a short tour for an hour or two, then reach the Kilim Jetty, take a boat and start around 4pm in the afternoon. By this time most of the tour boats would have returned and you will get a free way of exploring the geopark.
Map location of Kilim Geopark
1) Langkawi Boat Tours: The great boating tours in Langkawi.
2) Langkawi Parks & Nature: Parks, Nature Reserves, Lakes, Mountains, Sanctuaries
3) Air Hangat & Kilim Attractions
4) Air Hangat & Kilim area Guide: All about the area including activities & restaurants
5) Langkawi Attractions: All the top tourist attractions in the island.