Tucked away on the shores of Datai Bay in Langkawi, The Andaman is so much more than somewhere to rest your head and bask by the pool…
A few months back, after our few nights in Kuala Lumpur, Jenelle and I flew with AirAsia to the island of Langkawi. Neither of us had ever been before, and I think it is fairly safe to say that after a few nights at The Andaman, neither of us wanted to leave either!
I still hold quite a fondness for The Andaman, for more reasons than just the gorgeous view, generous sized dip pool and huge, well equipped room. There were so many things that make the resort stand out in my memory, things that I believe make The Andaman a resort you must visit if you are ever planning a stay in South East Asia.
The conservation program
Back in 2004, a tsunami damaged the 8,000 year old coral reef that fringes The Andaman in Datai Bay. The dead coral, that is still moving around with the currents, is causing ongoing damage to the living coral and inhibiting the regeneration of the coral reef that has been damaged. I have a special place in my heart for the ocean and it’s creatures, and it is so warming to see a luxury resort take such pride in the piece ocean they proudly show off to their guests.
Dr Jerry – an American ex-pat – heads up the marine conservation team at The Andaman. Dr Jerry, the team at The Andaman, and the guests put in a huge effort to keep this coral reef healthy, growing and regenerating. Right down in the left hand corner of the resort is a shallow pool that houses the coral nursery. Here, Dr Jerry and his team grow coral and let fish breed while protecting them all from the elements and predators out on the reef. There are guided snorkelling tours of the coral nursery that run each day, and once or twice a month – at low tide – guests and employees of The Andaman are taken out onto the reef to clear away debris.
The conservation program is so well integrated into the life and culture of the resort, that the restaurants even play a part in the efforts. Each day, fisherman from around the area sell their fresh catch to Jala, the resort’s seafood restaurant. To educate and prevent over fishing, The Andaman have advised the fisherman that if anything undersize comes in, they will not be purchased. Instead, any undersize animals that come in are taken and nursed back to health in the resort’s coral nursery, before being released back to the reef when the time comes. Not only is this arrangement put in place to protect the reef and it’s inhabitants, it is helping members of the local community by giving them a reliable source of income for their families.
I am going to come right out and say it – I have never been to a more beautiful spa in all of my 26 years of life.
Perched on the cliff side, just a short buggy ride from the resort’s main entrance, is V Botanical Spa. If the ride to the spa was anything to go by, I should have known we would have been in for a magical experience. Along the rainforest lined path to the spa, we happened upon a family of little black monkeys who sat no more than 2 metres away from us, feeding themselves and watching us inquisitively. I was in awe – mostly because I am utterly obsessed with monkeys and chimps, but also because there were so many monkeys, so close to us in the wild.
Once we got to the spa, we were not disappointed. The view from our suite was phenomenal, but the spa’s open air space trumped that with an incredible 180 degree view of the picture perfect Datai Bay. Jenelle and I had the pleasure of visiting right at dusk, so the skies turned a beautiful shade of pink just as we were being led to our respective open air cabanas. Getting a massage, at dusk, in the open air, to the sounds of the ocean and the rainforest, has to be one of the most incredible experiences. If you are lucky enough, you might even get a little monkey visiter stop in for a little bit of water like Jenelle did! To finish the massage, and rid your body of excess oil if you need, there is an open air shower off the side of each cabana (don’t worry, nobody but the wildlife can see in!).
When you are staying at a resort that is tucked away into a 10 million year old rainforest, you would be silly to think you weren’t going to encounter a range of different creatures and critters. I was beside myself at my first sighting of monkeys on Langkawi, but 10 minutes into our car ride from the airport, I realised this was going to be quite a common occurrence… not that it stopped me from squealing with excitement every single time (poor Jenelle).
The grounds at The Andaman are absolutely teeming with families of monkeys. You can see them sitting in the trees, minding their own business, and in the early morning you might even have them paying you a visit on your balcony. We had a cheeky grey monkey pop his head over the roof of our balcony as we were enjoying a midday cocktail by the pool (prompting us to guard our doors in the hopes of detering him from trying to get in and steal our fruit), and I woke one morning to our doors being rattled by another inquisitive (ahem, ‘theft plotting’) little guy.
As we wandered around the resort on our first day, we were also incredibly lucky to spot not one, not two, but THREE rare flying lemurs. Normally the flying lemurs get around as a male and female pair, with the female staying back protecting their young, and the male heading off to find food. The three that we found were two females and one young, something you would only ever see once in a blue moon. Just past this sighting, we were stopped by a massive monitor lizard… and I couldn’t count the number of birds that we saw…
… I think you get the gist… staying at The Andaman is like staying overnight in a friendly zoo. We were even told that The National Geographic booked in to stay at The Andaman so that they could get photos of some of the wildlife (namely the flying lemur) because they weren’t having much luck finding them around the island.
Most hotels and resorts these days offer some sort of yoga or wellness class for their guests. Yes, The Andaman offers them too, but they also have some very different activities for you to join in on. As mentioned above, there are the reef conservation activities that both adults and children can get in on – snorkelling the coral nursery, or helping to clear the reef at low tide. There are also daily nature walks/adventures, kayaks and windsurfing boards available for hire, a lush 18-hole golf course just down the road, and even a catamaran you go exploring the islands surrounding Datai Bay on.
Jenelle and I spent a half day aboard the twin hulled catamaran (built and captained by a West Australian man!) that moors just outside The Andaman. We shared the cruise with just 3 other people – a lovely American lady, her 4 year old son and her aunty. There were bottomless glasses of bubbles, a beautifully prepared lunch and some great conversation on board, and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. We got to see yet more monkeys, swam in warm Thai waters, and even got to see some ‘Jesus fish’ walking across the water.
The Barefoot Restaurant
Jala, The Andaman’s seafood restaurant, has built quite a name for itself and it is easy to see why. As you approach the entrance, you are asked to leave your shoes at the ‘shoe concierge’ before proceeding to your table. Just past the concierge, the floor turns to beach sand and you enter the main restaurant, where the specials of the evening are shown to you, right there – fresh, whole and sitting on a bed of ice. The night Jenelle and I dined there, there were some beautiful looking fish, but it was the stingray and shellfish that really got me excited. I must say, the seafood we did choose to accompany our Napa Valley white was prepared absolutely perfectly (and, as we learned, sourced ethically).
If you want to make the most of the glorious pink sunsets, booking in for a barefoot, sunset seafood dinner is an absolute must!