Malaysia is known as a leading economy in Asia, and Kuala Lumpur, its capital city, as one of the top megacities in the region. In 1987, Malaysia catapulted Langkawi, one of its archipelagos, into the international tourism map, and today Malaysia is proud to have its first and only geopark recognized by UNESCO, the Langkawi Geopark.
In 1998, UNESCO launched its World Geopark program for the purpose of recognizing sites around the world that value earth science, and in 2007, the Langkawi Island was chosen as one of these sites. The objectives are to educate people on how science is helping to improve life in the planet, conduct geology-related research studies, highlight each member-nation’s unique culture, and promote and improve communication among member-nations. UNESCO hopes to identify 500 geoparks all over the globe and so far there are 30 in Asia: 24 in China, three in Japan, one in Korea, one in Vietnam, and, of course, one in Malaysia.
According to the standards set forth by UNESCO, to be considered a geopark, a site must (1) have a plan to manage and foster sustainable socio-economic development, (2) demonstrate ways of conserving and enhancing geological heritage and able to teach geo-scientific disciplines and environmental issues, and (3) submit proposals that demonstrate the best practices towards Earth heritage conservation and sustainable development strategies.
Langkawi was recognized as a geopark because the region has a complete geological history beginning from the Cambrian Period 550 million years ago, complete study on geology and geological records, and presence of geological biodiversity and cultural heritage. Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands that are blessed with karts, cliffs, caves, sea-arches, and glacial drop-stone fossils. The biggest island in the archipelago is Pulau Langkawi (Langkawi Island), while the smallest ones are only as big as a house.
As part of the area’s sustainable development strategy, the island now runs and maintains a number of interesting geo-friendly parks, the first of which is the Machincang Cambrian Geoforest Park. Located here are Malaysia’s oldest geological formation, oldest grains of sand, a submerged continent, and ancient graves of very old life forms, Also inside the park are amazing beaches, waterfalls, peaks and ridges.
Next is the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, which is known for its magnificent limestone landscapes and pinnacles, three river basins, beaches, mudflats, mangrove, and unique ecosystems. This ancient region has given birth to several Malay myths and legends including those about the giant bird Garuda, battle between Rama and Rawana, and a giant female creature that can turn anything into stone. This geoforest park is located in eastern Langkawi.
Finally there is the Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park, which is composed mostly of marble and limestone formations. This park has mysterious caves, mangroves, and a mythical lake, the Pregnant Maiden Lake, which is said to improve fertility among the women who would dip in it. The Pregnant Lady Lake is also called Tasik Dayang Bunting.
Unique wildlife, endangered animals and rare fossil finds abound in these parks. Several fossils of extinct sea creatures from the Paleozoic era have been found here. They are believed to be more than 500 million years old. The mysterious island of Langkawi deserves to be in UNESCO’s list of geo-significant sites. By the way, Langkawi geopark is the only duty-free geopark in the world