Dolphins off the Sea, and Penguins on Land in Malaysia

In its recent  travel  survey, EXPAT FORUM, an almost exclusive on line portal answering everything  and everyone for the expatriates in Malaysia, respondents voted Langkawi island as the best holiday destination in Asia – that’s ahead of K. Lumpur and Penang, perennial destinations in the country.
Langkawi is voted even ahead of Phuket, Bali and Singapore, in that order. Choice destinations, and names that are on the lips of every tourist – long haul, short haul, high end  and backpackers –  choosing a holiday destination.

Now, add dolphins and penguins to what is already on the island. Can you think of a bigger draw – dolphins off shore and penguins on shore – anywhere in the world? Combine both attractions to an eager and hungry troop of tourists – last year, figures showed almost 2 million visitors set foot on the island – and you have a lethal mix of sun, sand, sea and see-through exhibits.  Can anyone deny that the gods are smiling on the island?

The island’s latest visitors: a school of about 50 dolphins have been spotted around several islands. A fact the state’s chief minister is not slow to proclaim will be the island’s next biggest tourist draw.

But it is already starting a debate from concerned watchers – from near and far – not wishing to see the island lose what could turn out to be its ace in the tourist draw card, and  the sea mammal’s continued sustainability in Malaysian waters.

In a lengthy letter to one of the country’s newspapers, a reader has raised a serious concern about comments by no less than the director of Malaysia’s World Wide Fund (WWF) who claims it is not a problem if tourists are allowed to feed the dolphins. It is a known practice in other parts of the world tourist attractions include not only going out to the open sea, watching dolphins frolicking, but also feeding them.

Reader Elizabeth Burgess, with a hint of expertise on the subject warns “feeding dolphins is a very serious issue, involving both the protection of the dolphins and the safety of humans. Dolphins are wild and should be treated with the same respect as all wild animals. You don’t feed wild animals.”

So to feed or not to feed?

“Humans should not be encouraged to feed dolphins. They are sea hunters who do not need to receive dead fish from humans.

They come close to the shore in search of fish in the shallows.”

And the right way to go dolphin watching? 

“Don’t disturb them, sit on the shore , look and enjoy their natural behavior. Feel very privileged these marine creatures choose to come so close to our shorelines,”  adds Elizabeth.

On shore, albeit in captivity, 20 penguins of the sub Antarctic specie are impatiently waiting the completion of their new home: A 60,000 square feet double complex, where they can dive and swim. Another 25 of the Black Foot specie is on the way to join them.

The latest addition to the island’s existing water themed attraction, portraying various marine lives, costing nearly US$ 8 million is nearing completion. The investors hope, a trip to the new undersea 3-D (three dimensional) marine life exhibition and presentation theatre will be a must on every visitors program.

By Y. Sulaiman
eTN  Malaysia

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