HEAVEN FOR FAMILIES, HAVEN FOR NATURE
By Anis Rozalina Ramli
The Andaman, Luxury Collection Resort in Langkawi is a special place where families and nature relax blissfully in each other’s company.
image credit to @edrwright from The Andaman Instagram page.
Tucked away in a million-year-old tropical rainforest, The Andaman has the warm, clear waters of the Datai Bay at its doorstep and the Mat Cincang mountain range as its backyard. Located on one of the 99 islands collectively known as Langkawi, the entire resort is blanketed in the green jungles of Malaysia so dense that nothing of this paradise resort is visible from the sea.
With the miracles of nature right at its doorstep — along with majestic sunsets, flying lemurs, giant squirrels, colourful corals and their resident marine friends — it’s not difficult to remember who’s boss here at this resort. It’s a daily reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of things! Definitely no airs here even though the facilities and service standards reflect the property’s Starwood Luxury Collection branding.
Despite its luxury positioning, it’s heartening to know that The Andaman welcomes kids with open arms. There’s nothing as humbling as catering to the needs of the most discerning of guests — the under 12s! They are tough to please but The Andaman certainly tries very hard and they’ve got the formula down pat. Kids menu, check. Wading pool, check. Babysitter, check. Kids playroom, check. Only, they’ve gone one step further with the SPG Kids Pass which allows children 12 and under to have three meals a day for just RM60 per day, per child. All the typically popular kid-approved favourites are on the menu – fish and chips, pizza and pasta – but there are a few adult-inspired creations as well such as cheese-and-fruit skewers, a caprese salad-type sandwich, and Asian vegetable rolls. Parents with kids will definitely appreciate this one-price convenience at meal times.
kids playroom at The Andaman
flying lemurs right at your doorstop
Holidays with Purpose
But, of all the facilities available at The Andaman, it is the coral nursery programme that’s a welcome distraction – both with young and old. Believed to be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, the coral nursery is a rehab centre, private snorkelling area and education centre all rolled into one. Tucked away at one end of The Andaman beach, the nursery is nothing more than a huge saltwater pool filled with thriving coral and marine life but its environmental purpose is one that resonates with many modern travellers who are more conscious of their travel footprint.
In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, a 6,000-year-old coral reef fronting the resort was badly damaged. That was the impetus for the resort’s coral conservation project encompassing coral clearing activities and taking guests on educational coral walks to learn about the fragile marine ecosystem. At first, it was just the resort staff clearing the dead corals that were rolling over and damaging live coral in the sea – all part of the day’s work. Interested guests, both children and adults, soon joined them in their bit to help the environment and it naturally took off as a regular resort activity for guests.
During spring tides when sea levels pull back to reveal a 6,000-year-old reef, the resort offers guided walks along the stretch of coral garden where abundant marine life-forms make their home. Guests who are lucky enough to be at the resort during this time get to learn about this fragile ecosystem from the resort’s resident marine biologist, Dr. Gerry Goeden. Others purposefully check with the resort to make sure their visit coincides with the spring tide dates for this experience alone.
One of the highlights of the coral nursery is the opportunity to snorkel within its natural environment under the expert guidance of the charismatic Dr. Goeden. The coral pool, thriving with all manner of colourful tropical marine fish and the rainbow-hued corals, offers a still environment and great visibility for even first-time snorkelers to appreciate the blooming beauty of the underwater marine world. Without choppy waves in the open sea to sway you, it’s easy to manoeuvre around the pool with Dr. Goeden firmly by your side narrating the aspects of the coral environment. His deep knowledge of conservation and extensive experience with the Great Barrier Reef in Australia brings a more meaningful appreciation for the ecosystem. Expect to swim among friendly razor, clown and parrot fish as well as groupers, lobsters, sea urchins and starfish. Brain coral, and other hard and soft coral flourish here, showing of their full beauty.
With 80% of coral reefs damaged due to dynamite fishing, net fishing and overfishing, the resort aims to educate children about the importance of a coral reef ecosystem. The nursery’s programmes such as Ocean in a Bucket, Young Marine Biologist and the Artificial Reef Modules (ARMs programme) all give important insights into the environment with opportunities for old and young guests to participate in marine conservation efforts at the resort. Guests can make mini versions of the ARM out of concrete and plant live coral on it, which will be nurtured and eventually released into the sea as homes for marine life! Meanhile, the Young Marine Biologist programme for 8 to 10 year olds aspiring to work in the marine environment gives a hands-on training in managing a marine environment at the nursery which includes cleaning the pool, feeding the fish and collecting dead corals.
With kids contented, the adults can rest easy, too, and enjoy the range of resort services such as spa, beach-front bars, sun-deck dining and golfing.
The Andaman has great dining facilities at its six dining areas: Tepian Laut, Beach Bar, The Restaurant, The Japanese Restaurant, Jentayu Lounge and Jala.
Dining at Jala Restaurant, with beautiful sunset views and therapeutic sand floor (go barefoot in a little black dress for best effect), is great for the fresh seafood sourced from the local community. Its exciting menu respectfully blends aspects of the east and west in palate-enticing concoctions. Fresh seafood is available daily for selection and meal preparation according to diners’ preference.
The Japanese Restaurant is said to bring authentic Japanese menu to the shores of Langkawi each evening. For sashimi with a difference, try the cuts from local fish.
The Beach Bar, meanwhile, is a fun place to hang out in the day or at sunset. Day-time temperatures determine the discounts offered on drinks during Happy Hour, so soaring temperatures in the summer mean deeper cuts in price! The bar prides itself on such signature drinks as the Radiant Maiden, a curious blend of aged rum, kaffir lime, agave nectar, lime juice and chili pepper. Or try the Perfect Balance mocktail, a refreshing combination of kiwi, rambutan and lime suitable for guests of all ages.
Fusion of Fun and Healthy
Image credit to @TheAndaman Instagram page. Watermelon salad is a perfect cooling salad on a hot day by the beach
A healthy cuisine menu has also been carefully designed by the chefs at the resort to incorporate healthy ingredients with delicious results, enticingly presented to tease the taste buds. The menu has been curated carefully to include raw desserts and gluten-free and vegan offerings with fresh and organic ingredients that are free of pesticides, synthetic fertilisers and insecticides, with herbs and micro-greens harvested from the resort’s own herb garden. As the dishes arrive at the table, one truly feels the inspiration behind the creations that celebrate and honour sustainability, fair trade and local farms, and which are prepared with love and consciousness.
Another adult activity worth indulging while at the resort is golfing at the new Els Club Datai, designed by former number one golfing legend Ernie Els also known as The Big Easy. The 18-hole par 72 bunkerless championship course meanders its way through a 10 million year old rainforest, cascading down to the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea.
Those looking for some “me” time will appreciate the resort’s V Botanical Spa village. Located at the far north of the resort, V Botanical Spa is the first spa in Southeast Asia to offer 100-percent certified organic food grade products. Perched high on a verdant hillside are four treatment villas hidden away in the rainforest. While the range of spa treatments are relaxing and therapeutic, the beautiful view of the crescent-shaped bay and the lulling sounds of the ocean are what make this special place a heaven for tired minds and knotted muscles.
The Andaman oozes of traditional Malay architecture yet fulfils all modern expectations and is further made special with its magical location near sun, sea, sand, jungle and mountain. As a family-friendly resort, it has earned its stars among families with children, but what’s most heartening is that its heart is at one with nature.