Pulau Payar: Langkawi’s Marine Sanctuary



.      A “marine sanctuary”, or more properly called “Marine Protected Areas”, are regions in which human activity has been placed under some restrictions in the interest of conserving the natural environment, it’s surrounding waters and the occupant ecosystems, and any cultural or historical resources that may require preservation or management.




.      If this is the operational definition of a marine santuary, then Pulau Payar in Langkawi,  fails in all aspects.  Droves of tourists are ferried to this island everyday, 365 days a year – pushing the ecosystem off-balance and creating myriads of problems for this island-paradise.  What was once a virtual showcase of living colorful corals is now a shadow of what it used to be.  So we felt a bit guilty that we added to this problem by booking a whole day trip to this beautiful island …




.      Getting there from Langkawi’s main island was an easy and smooth one hour fastcraft ride from the main port in Kuah town.  Passing by some magnificent rock formations and picturesque islets, we reached the island before 10 in the morning.  We were briefed properly on the do’s and don’t’s in the island – including NOT feeding the fish (well, we cheated!).  For the next four or five hours, we were allowed to do what we want to do in the island …




.      We decided to go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the island.  Fortunately, it was low tide, so we didn’t have to go to the deeper part of the sea to appreciate the colorful marine life of this sanctuary.  In fact, just by the shore, schools of fish would swarm you – probably expecting some food.  Some of the bigger fish bite, or nibble your legs, eating off your dead skin.



.     The area safe for snorkeling is demarcated by a rope that limits the place where you can go.  We never ventured way that far, afraid that the current may bring us away from the safety of the island.




.     The Malaysian government is trying their best to keep this natural heritage “alive” by at least controlling the number of visitors each day.  They are also strict in implementing “rules” in the island such as:

  • No fishing or killing of fish.
  • No collecting of corals or other marine organisms.
  • No collecting of sand, dead shells or dead corals.
  • No polluting or littering.
  • No anchoring on reefs.
  • No building or erecting any type of structure on the water.

.      For our part, we only took photos and nothing more … we want this marine sanctuary to last forever so that the next generation will also have the chance to appreciate it’s innate beauty.







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