Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Berjaya Resort, Langkawi; a wildlife photography niche

At the end of March 2015 I spent three nights at the Berjaya Resort on Langkawi Island. It was long weekend with my wife and two other couples. I was interested in the wildlife around the hotel grounds, which were quite extensive. One of my friends was a keen nature person with excellent knowledge of the local mammals and reptiles.

My first impression of the hotel was not particularly good as the check-in was very slow. I was however impressed by the room when we arrived there. There are basically two room locations; a forest location or a seaside location. We chose the former. The room was not luxurious but everything was clean and perfectly adequate. The outside deck was a great place to read and appreciate the passing wildlife and sounds of the night. A walk around the grounds later demonstrated that the chalets were in good condition and the grounds were well maintained. From a nature perspective the chalets had been located with some thought to preserve the trees to allow free passage to the fliers and gliders. From along the beach only the seaside chalets were really visible.

The grounds are gardens were well maintained and the plantings added to the ambience......except when the silence was rudely punctuated by leaf blowers.

The next day I got up early and walked for four hours around the grounds. There was a good selection of wildlife and I was able to get some good images even though I had only a 28-300mm zoom lens.
My friend Nick Baker was seeking images to put on his popular website, EcologyAsia. He had a lean time until he had an encounter with the occupants of a tree hole…two Red Giant Flying Squirrels.
From my perspective the shooting targets were the cute Orange juvenile Dusky Langur babies, hornbills, Black Giant Squirrels, mischievous and house-invading Long -tailed macaques and the intriguing Colugos. I managed to get shots of each of them and came across at least 3 Orange Langur babies. Three Black Giant Squirrels put on quite a display of chasing each other and squealing like mating cats.

The Colugo is also known as a Flying Lemur, which is quite a misleading name. First it does not fly but has an extensive webbing that includes between the hind limbs and tail and between the 'fingers'. They can glide for long distances well over 100metres in ideal conditions. Secondly they are not even closely related to Lemurs, they are a separate evolutionary line whose closest relatives are the primates.  

There were mangroves at the top of the beach and there is a short mangrove walk for guests to enjoy that fragment of an eco-system. Nick managed to photograph a Brown-winged Kingfisher in the mangrove area. This was on my list but a challenge with a relatively short focal length lens.

The hotel offered free night walks to appreciate the denizens that are active then. Surprisingly there is no promotion of the nature within at on the Berjaya Resort website. A small brochure in the rooms might also arouse more interest in guests who are not connecting with the surrounding wildlife. I was informed by Nick that there was a booklet available in the hotel shop for 5 ringgit detailing some of the wildlife but those responsible for this slice of information has ripped off 12 images plus tracts of information from his website.  Other information contained within was riddled with errors.

The food outlets in the resort were good and the vehicles were efficient in transporting guests to and from their rooms. The pool was nice and there was also a part of the beach cordoned off for swimmers. The Beachside restaurant had a great view over the sea and the Thai restaurant at the end of the jetty has delightful staff, great ambience and the food was excellent.

In summary for nature lovers and photographers this is a very good place for subjects despite the lack of accurate information from the hotel and associated guides. The rest of the facilities are common in many other resorts. It is perhaps another case of not appreciating the natural resource you have.