Langkawi Bridge

Langkawi situated just off the northwestern coast of Peninsular

Malaysia comprises a group of 104 tropical islands during the low tides

and 99 Island during the high tides. The main island Langkawi, is 47.

848 Hectare followed by Pulau Dayang Bunting and Pulau Tuba while some

of the others appear to be mere dots in the emerald green ocean when

viewed from the air.

In Langkawi a nature adventure had a true-blue naturalist as their

guide. The guide’s name is Irshad Mobarak. Dubbed the Jungle-wallah

(Jungle-fellow) of Langkawi ( ), he is

perfect for the job as he possesses vast knowledge about Langkawi’s

wildlife, gleaned from years of trekking and observation of its

jungles, mangroves and wildlife.

Some people think the beauty of Langkawi lies in its pristine beaches.

Others like the duty-free shopping. But Irshad and his team of

naturalists at Natural History Tours ( )

reckon that the edge Langkawi has over places like Bali and Phuket is

its jungle and wildlife.

As such Irshad and his team have been actively involved in preserving Langkawi’s natural environment.

His social-responsible company provides real ecotourism experiences

such as nature walks, birdwatching, jungle-trekking and mangrove tours

in kayaks or motorized boats without the “gimmicks” activities involve.

His pet peeve is the eagle-feeding sessions at the mangrove swamps of

the Kilim River. While it is quite a sight to see dozens of

white-bellied sea eagles and brahminy kites circling in the sky and

swooping down on their food, Irshad feels it’s bad for the birds.

Helang Kawi (red-brown eagle)

“What you’re doing is habituating the eagles to take food from humans when they usually feed on

fish. Now they are given chicken guts, and these are from farm-bred

chickens fed with antibiotics and hormones, making it unhealthy. It may

affect their bone development and the integrity of the shells of their

eggs.” Irshad said contaminated feed could kill a lot of birds, as each

feeding attracts between 50 to 100 birds.

Not only is Irshad fully acquainted with information on the wildlife in

Langkawi, he is also great at handling children. His “young explorer

club” is a hit for student’s summer program in Malaysia and tourists

traveling with their children. “The trick is not to bore them to death.

You can be much more informative with adults, but with children, you

need to make it more experiential. They need to touch and smell and

conduct experiments.”

Irshad, who’s especially love birds, said Langkawi has recorded 190

species of birds, including brown winged kingfisher, black hooded

oriole and mountain hawk eagle. The mountain hawk eagle which can be

identified by its very pronounced crest with two feathers can only be

found in Langkawi and Irshad has recorded 3 different individual here.

Langkawi Crocodile Farm

The relatively small and cut-off habitat of an island like Langkawi

allows for many of its flora and fauna to evolve into unique species

over thousands of years. But it also possessed a danger of

Habitat-fragmentations. One of Irshad ongoing project is planting figs

trees closer to the road so the canopy on either side of the road will

meet and become close enough for animals to cross over. “This is one

way to counter the negative effects of habitat fragmentations and we

hope to see the results in 10 years,” Irshad said. Visitor can also get

involve in this program by purchasing trees and plant it during their

visit to Langkawi ( )

Who is the Jungle-Wallah of Langkawi?

In the 80s, the Negri Sembilan-born Irshad was a decathlete and rugby

player employed by a major bank institution. He worked for five years

with the bank in Kuala Lumpur, only to discover the corporate world was

simply not his cup of tea.

The turning point in his life came during a vacation in Tioman Island

between 1981 and 1982. He realized that what he really wanted was to be

closer to nature.

“So I quit my job, traveled and bummed around for a couple of years,”

said Irshad, and then he found Langkawi. The island’s beauty and

mystique inspired him to embark on his own study of its ecosystems.

“I saw the potential for nature-related work. I got a job as recreation

manager at Datai and at the same time was involved in conservation

work,” he said. Soon, a new position was created for him, that of a

Resident-naturalist. And today, after 19 years, he is so well-versed in

the subject, he is considered an expert. He has trained many individual

who is now employed by other hotels as their own Resident-naturalist

and some of them work as independent nature guides.

Irshad considered himself very lucky because his work, his hobby and

his passion are all fused into one. He also believes that taking care

of the natural environment is an integral part of being a steward of

the Earth. He is recently won DiGi Amazing Malaysians Award 2007, an

award for Malaysians who were nominated by the public for their passion

and dedication in heritage conservation.