I hope I’m not the only one, but I thought Langkawi’s Geoforest Park was a national park that I could just walk around in. In actuality, the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park is little more than a jetty where many of Langkawi’s must-do mangrove tours depart from. There are very few things to do at the Kilim Geoforest Park if you haven’t booked an expensive mangrove tour, which starts at RM250 per boat.
However, one overlooked attraction at the Kilim Geoforest Park is the Santuari Bakau or the Mangrove Sanctuary. There is no information online about this attraction, not even on the park’s official website. This is a great, short activity to do inside Kilim Geoforest Park that’s absolutely free, even if you haven’t booked a mangrove tour. The Santuari Bakau is a raised mangrove boardwalk through the forest where you can get a closer look at the trees and the wildlife amongst them.
Mangrove Boardwalk at Kilim Geoforest Park
After you pass through the main gate, simply follow the road. There is no admission ticket desk at Kilim Geoforest Park, so ignore the huts on your left side which will all be mangrove tour related. The toilets are in the grey and white building on your right. It was a nice, clean washroom with sitting style toilets, toilet paper and soap at the sinks. You might want to take this opportunity to apply bug spray because the mozzies can be ravenous once you’re inside the forest.
Once you’re further up the road, you can’t miss the GDC building or the Geoforest Discovery Centre, which was unfortunately closed when we visited. Directly across from it is the entrance to the Mangrove Sanctuary. The signage is unhelpfully blocked by a potted palm, which makes this attraction even more hidden.
Inside the forest, you’ll walk between hundreds of juvenile mangrove trees with their spindly roots penetrating the earth. There is one section in the middle where you can get to ground level with the mangrove trees if the water level is low enough. If it’s raining, there are a few gazebos to take shelter under. The route is a trapezoid shape so there will be very little backtracking or chance of getting lost. The boardwalks are well maintained, feel sturdy and have rope barriers for safety.
When we visited in the late afternoon, it must have been low tide as most of the water was dried up. The mud was pockmarked with so many holes where crabs have made their burrow. It looked mucky with so little water, but it was ideal for spotting all the mudskippers, crabs and hermit crabs scuttling across the mire. The low tide might be the best time to visit so you can see these critters close up, not to mention the mangroves’ unique roots.
Don’t miss the view to be had by the river. Get on to the concrete walkway (marked in black on the sanctuary map) and follow it off the map. The river should be on your right side and don’t forget to watch for more mudskippers along the coast as you go. You’ll eventually end at this gazebo by the water’s edge where you can see the distinctive karsts swelling up from the ground.
There are a lot more birds to spot by the river, and we even saw monkeys on the opposite bank. There is no protective barrier at the end of the bridge, so don’t stick your neck out too far trying to get a view or you’ll drop into the water. When you’re ready to leave, walk back along the concrete path and go over the bridge to get back on to the road.
Although Kilim Geoforest Park officially closes at 5 pm, you can stay inside the grounds for longer than that. We got here at 4:45 pm and could freely walk around the Mangrove Sanctuary and the park until we left at 6 pm. The only thing that was closed when we left was the mangrove tour ticketing huts, the food stalls and the women’s washroom (the men’s was still open, however). You might not be able to get away with arriving after hours though, since I saw security standing by the main gate as we left who might have been there to prevent newcomers from entering. If you get here before 5 pm, you don’t need to worry about yourself or your car getting locked in after closing time since there are no fences.
If you’re staying in Tanjung Rhu, the mangrove walk at Kilim Geoforest Park could be a good activity to kill an hour or so when it’s raining or before your next mealtime. It’s not strenuous and you can wander at your own pace without the park staff hounding you. The Grab fare from Tanjung Rhu to Kilim Geoforest Park is only about RM10 and the drive is 15 minutes or less. It’s not worth it to come all the way here just for the Mangrove Sanctuary if your hotel is across the island. However, if you’re already going to be at the Kilim Geoforest Park for a mangrove tour, the Mangrove Sanctuary is worth a visit after your tour.