Thursday, February 23, 2017

#29 - Thursday, 23 February 2017 | Langkawi, Malaysia

What a day yesterday! I am exhausted and sunburned from an amazing adventure on the Andaman Sea aboard the Damai Indah. Captain Eva and her crew outdid themselves and the food, drink and hospitality were incredible. 

But before I talk about our boat trip I'll fill you in on what occurred on Tuesday. Two years ago when I first visited Langkawi a small group of us hired Wendy Chin for a guided birdwatching trip. Her business is the aptly named "Langkawi Nature Guide". She has begun to generalize a bit more and explores the island for wildlife other than birds now. Part of that I'd like to think is due to meeting Mark and I and learning more about spiders and reptiles. She arranged our trip into the mangroves of Tanjung Rhu for the Mangrove Pitviper (Trimeresurus [Cryptelytrops] purpeomaculatus) earlier in the week, and we hired her to take us to Teluk Datai on Tuesday. This is the area she had taken Mark in February and June of 2016 and where they found what we feel is a new species of arboreal tarantula. Mark wanted to return to the area and bring myself, Ray & Angela Hale and Jean-Michel Verdez along. It was quite the group of international tarantula experts, but we couldn't locate the adult female that Mark had discovered with an eggsac the previous year. We did, however, find what was likely one of her offspring and evidence of others in the area. I located one silken entrance to a liana hole and was able to spy the forelegs of a juvenile Phormingochilus sp. Mark has bought an endoscope that connects to his iPhone via wifi and he saw it as well. However, in the few hours we had to comb the jungle above Datai Bay we could not find other theraphosid spiders. We did observe quite a few "flying lizards" of the genus Draco and I photographed one very special species of true spider – the Curved Spiny Orbweaver, Gasteracantha arcuata.

Gasteracantha arcuata © Michael Jacobi

But back to the Andaman Sea ...

Our group of 18 – comprised of 13 mad hatters from Bristol, England, 2 originally from Birmingham, England and now of Polegate in the south of the U.K., 2 from northern France and this lone American – boarded a private coach to take us on the forty-five minute drive from Berjaya Langkawi Resort clockwise around Langkawi to the Langkawi Yacht Club in Kuah, the commercial center of the islands. I guess this is the time for me to tell you a little more about Langkawi ...

Langkawi is an archipelago off the northwestern coast of peninsular Malaysia. Some sources say it is a cluster of 99 islands, while many others state 104. It is officially known as Langkawi Permata Kedah or Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah, Kedah being the state of northwestern Malaysia. The largest of the islands is Langkawi Island and that is where I am typing this from. In the map below you can see the dark line representing the border between Thailand to the north and peninsular Malaysia to the south. You will see that the Langkawi Archipelago lies to the west about 30 km almost even with the border.

Jeremy from Australia actually steered our vessel as we left the jetty of the yacht club while Captain Eva commanded her crew of three and her German Shepherd "Rebekka". The Damai Indah has a full bar and two coolers filled with beer and soft drinks as well. We weren't even underway before I had a cold tin of Tiger in hand and was slurping down some fantastic seafood cocktail. In was less than an hour before we were anchored at our first stopping point, and I was the first person to jump from the second deck into the ocean. Before long Mark and two other mates were bobbing in the Andaman Sea with me and we were chucked cold cans of beer. It's not a bad life treading water in the warm and salty turquoise water with a refreshing Tiger lager. Appetizers were continuously served when we re-boarded the Damai Indah, and included corn on the cob and a wonderfully marinated tempeh on skewers, and we sailed on to another anchoring location where we returned to our ocean swimming while a secondary boat took some of our group to a beautiful and secluded private beach. Dinner followed and there was plenty for vegetarian, pescatarian and carnivore alike with steamed mixed vegetables, broiled corn on the cob, rice pilaf, red snapper, prawns, meatballs, chicken satay, baked chicken and more. The drinks were flowing and I dozed under the shade of the upper deck while others sat atop under the sunscreen socializing and enjoying more than a few cocktails. As the sun began to set, we headed back to the main island's harbor where we arrived after dark.

Today I've spent a good deal of time resting my sunburned carcass in my air conditioned chalet, alternating correspondence with napping. I finish this blog entry after meeting Mark and family at the pool bar and having a late afternoon snack. Tonight we have a reservation at the Mizumi Japanese Restaurant in the Oriental Village.

All the best, M

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