Review: The Andaman, Langkawi

We check out The Andaman, the newly transformed resort in Langkawi - with a 10 million-year-old rainforest as its backyard, and the Andaman Sea as the pool in its front yard

The next time you think of heading down to Langkawi for a getaway, I recommend a stay at The Andaman – especially if you’re from the city. A Luxury Collection Resort located in an idyllic tropical setting on Malaysia's LangkawiIsland, The Andaman is tucked away cosily between a 10 million-year-old rainforest in the tranquil DataiBay and an 8,000 year-old fringing coral reef.  Abundant with rare wildlife and exotic flora, The Andaman's magnificent locale enables guests to partake in a wide range of activities that integrate the surrounding nature with the trimmings of a five star resort.

The Andaman is by no means the new kid on the block in Langkawi. For years, it has been a popular destination for travellers looking a luxury experience. It piqued my interest to learn that I was invited to stay at The Andaman to experience the fruits of its 18 months of transformation works. The 5-star resort unlocked the locale’s most enriching and desirable destination experiences via the unveiling of its new exceptional (in our opinion) guest accommodations - The Archduke Presidential Suite, Executive Seaview Suites, Pool and Jacuzzi Studio Suites as well as the resort’s specialty room types, which are the Luxury Pool Access, Garden Terrace and Seaview Rooms.

Aside from being wowed by The Andaman’s contemporary transformation, I was deeply impressed by the sheer friendliness of the staff – more on this later.

Home away from home

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Presidential Suite - Master Bedroom

The wonderful folks at The Andaman put me up in a one of its 47 Luxury Seaview Rooms, which boast a contemporary tropical design and stunning views across DataiBay. Imagine waking up everyday and walking out to your own balcony overlooking the ocean, with the gentle crashing of waves as a soundtrack. It is, of course, the very picture of a tropical island resort.

Here’s a cheeky secret about The Andaman that most won’t know until they have had the opportunity to spend a few days on the property. Aside from the friendly staff, don’t be surprised to see Macaque monkeys loafing around the property. These visitors from the rainforest, have grown accustomed to dropping by from time to time to snatch themselves a quick snack, or just lounge around in the trees.

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Presidential Suite - Balcony with View

Though generally harmless, these monkeys have been known to enter the rooms, which is why the staff encourage guests to keep their balcony door bolted and the front door closed. In fact I met one of them, whom I shall refer to as Paul. I got back to my room from a fantastic dinner at The Andaman’s Jala restaurant, and I found Paul lounging on the chair in the balcony eating an orange. I acknowledged him with a nod, turned on the telly and left him to his own devices.

Fresh catch & picks from nature

One of the wonderful activities that The Andaman had planned was a nature walk led by self-taught naturalist and outdoor buff, Irshad Mobarak. Regaling us with his animated and intriguing stories and facts on the natural history of Langkawi and the wildlife that call this tropical paradise home, Irshad led us on a journey through the outskirts of the rainforest. Believe it or not we stopped every so often to sample some herbs and plants that I was surprised to find were actually edible.

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Jala Restaurant

Accompanying us on the walk was Jala’s Chef de Cuisine, Rene Knudsen, who was picking herbs; these herbs would find their way into the dishes he was preparing for our meal at Jala.

Jala (which means ‘fisherman’s cast net’ in Malay), showcases an elevated culinary experience to guests. An exclusive sustainable seafood dining venue, its interior exudes a rustic, vernacular and natural beachside ambiance. Faithful to The Andaman’s mission to preserve Mother Nature, the architecture is stripped to its most basic form – allowing the environment to take center-stage, ensuring guests feel the outdoors, indoors. Here’s a tip: wear slippers, the floor is covered in sand.

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Meranti Table at Jala Restaurant

Headed by Rene Knudsen, who is of Danish origin, the dinner was a culinary experience full of creativity and innovation showcasing a marriage of Danish and Malay cuisine. Rene and his team utilize local ingredients, from Langkawi’s small businesses, farmers and artisans. For example, he prepared ice-cream made from buffalo milk procured from a local farm! I even got to witness Rene and his team in action, dealing and negotiating with a local fisherman who brought his vessel carrying the day’s catch right to Jala.

 

Coral Nursery

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Entrance path to the Coral Nursery

Here’s something unique to The Andaman…beneath the glistening waters of Datai Bay fronting the resort, lies an underwater rainforest.

Since December 2010, The Andaman embarked on a Coral Conservation project after discovering an 8,000 year-old coral reef that was badly damaged by the 2004 Tsunami. Since then, the resort has conducted monthly Coral Clearing activities to remove dead corals from the reef.

The resort has recently elevated its conservation effort by starting a coral rescue and rehabilitation program. Believed to be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, The Andaman’s Coral Nursery allowed me and the other guests to participate in the unique and inspiring activity of growing new coral.

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Coral Nursey

We were first given a brief but educational talk about coral and the importance of coral ecosystems. Then there was a 'hands-on' session involving the transplanting of live coral onto new substrates which are then placed in the nursery for observation. The Andaman will house these in its coral pond until it is determined that they are fit to be relocated into the reef. Post stay, each guest who had participated will receive an e-mail update with a photograph and GPS location code of the substrates that can be used on applications such as Google Earth. After the coral transplant, we were invited to go for a private guided snorkel in the pond with the resort’s Marine and Coral Curator. Not many places in the world can offer a tropical rainforest and a coral reef within 100 meters of each other!

Hole in one

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If you’re a golfer, you’ll be happy to know that The Andaman is less than 10 minutes away from the Els Club Teluk Datai. I don’t play golf, so I may not be the best person to judge but, based on the golf cart drive through the course, it looks fantastic. The newly re-opened golf course, is designed by Ernie Els as a tribute to nature. The Els Club Teluk Datai meanders its way through the rainforest, cascades down to the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea and is overlooked by the marbled limestone peaks of the Mat Cincang Mountain range.

Aside from the amazing views of the Andaman sea, my favorite features of the golf course are natural streams flowing throughout the golf course. Stretching over 47 hectares, the 18 hole par 72 Championship Golf Course spans 6,760 yards from the championship tees to 5,369 yards from the forward tees. Another interesting thing I learnt about the Els Club Teluk Datai was the fact that it does not have any bunkers. Instead, it incorporates the natural fauna of the rainforest into the core of its design.

More than a friendly face

If you ask me, The Andaman delivered on its promise to provide a unique and authentic experience that will no doubt, bring me back to the resort in future. Think about it, a 10 million-year-old rainforest as your backyard, and the AndamanSea as the pool (if you don’t like swimming with fishes, the resort also has a regular swimming pool) in your front yard…it rarely gets any better than this. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what I feel is perhaps The Andaman’s greatest treasure – its staff.

The wonderful people at The Andaman deserve special praise. One of the biggest things I look out for (as do most people) when staying at a hotel or resort, is the quality of service and the demeanour of the staff. Not only did the folks at The Andaman go out of their way to make my stay pleasant, they actually made an effort to get to know me – my preferences, likes and dislikes. Rarely have I had lengthy conversations about “nothing in particular” with the staff in hotels. These guys however, really made me feel at home. I would like to humbly thank the folks at The Andaman for being excellent hosts, and for putting up with me.

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