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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pulau Payar Marine Park

The Pulau Payar Marine Park is situated in the northern part of the Straits of Melaka, near Kuala Kedah and thirty kilometers south of Pulau Langkawi. It is a very popular tourist destination.

The Pulau Payar Marine Park covers two nautical miles off four little islands - Pulau Payar (the largest), Pulau Kaca, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Segantang. None of the island is inhabited, except by on-duty officers of the Fisheries Department, who enforce the law. Fishing, either for hobby or commercial, is strictly prohibited around the islands. There is no accommodation on the islands. However, for the more adventurous tourist who would like to rough it out with nature, camping is allowed with permission from the Fisheries Department at Alor Setar, the capital of Kedah state. Call them at 04-732 5573

A day trip to the Pulau Payar Marine Park is the only option for most tourists. This tourist spot can be accessed from three major points-Kuah, on Langkawi Island, Kuala Kedah on the mainland, and Penang Island. From Kuah or Kuala Kedah the boat ride takes about 45 minutes, whereas from Penang, it may take slightly more than an hour.

You can book your trip at the office of the Langkawi Coral at the Kuah Ferry Terminal, which cost around RM220 per day. For this price, the company will pick guests up from their respective hotels, provide lunch and the use of their reef-viewing platform. All their snorkelling equipment is also at the guests' disposal.

Pulau Payar offers four sandy beaches, which combine to provide a total length of about 200 meters. Teeming with coral reefs, the waters surrounding the four islands have an average visibility of between 9 to 15 meters, making the marine park an ideal place for scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, and picnicking. Two tracking  trails have also been made available for visitors to explore the flora and fauna of the island. These tracks appear to be underutilized as few visitors are even aware of their existence. Other amenities provided include picnic tables, barbecue pits, gazebos, and restrooms at strategic points.

Scuba divers and and those who snorkel will enjoy the sight of colourful fishes darting playfully in and out of the corals. You'll revel in the company of shoals and shoals of fishes as they go about their busy way. Various seashells, shellfishes and slugs that are scattered all over the seabed complete the wonderful underwater vista. There is a sense of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of life in the water. The tranquil surface belies the teeming life below

At the south-western tip of Pulau Payar is a site known as Coral Garden. It is one of the best spots for divers, offering spectacular views of multicoloured and vibrant soft corals. Other popular spots are the flat terrain to the east of the island, and the area to its west around Pulau Segantang that offers steep diving condition. The latter also provides an added incentive: you can literally have various sea creatures as company as you swim and explore.

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