Known as the the Jewel of Kedah, the 99 islands that make up the Langkawi archipelago are an ideal base for island hopping in Malaysia. With a population of 64,792 Pulau Langkawi is the largest island in the chain, and the only other inhabited island in the area is nearby Pulau Tuba. The former was little more than a backwater until it was granted tax-free status in the mid-1980s. Since that time, tourism has blossomed. There’s plenty to see on the island and in the immediate vicinity, but many savvy travelers opt for a little traveling from Langkawi to Sipadan, Mabul, and other idyllic destinations that beckon.
The most obvious choice is one of the many tour operations that explore Dayang Bunting Island, the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden, Wet Rice Island, and other spots that are only accessible by small boats. The typical tour departs from the main island in the morning and returns in the mid-afternoon after taking in the pristine waters and diverse flora and fauna.
The nearby island of Mabul is ideally suited to the backpacking crowd, with it’s beautiful beaches and massive reef, and the island of Sipadan (Malaysia’s only oceanic island) is tough to beat if you’re hoping to get in some world class scuba diving during your trip. The latter takes a little planing (as access is severely limited), but it’s worth the trouble.