What Is A Geopark?
The prefix geo is taken from the Greek word meaning Earth. Geology is the study of rock: its history, formation, composition, structure, and also of how the landscape has formed from the process of Earth’s evolution over millions of years.
A geopark is a location selected for its geological significance, and the abovementioned aspects of the location are researched and promoted through mass media for the general public as well as academia, so that the precious natural heritage of these geoparks can be preserved for posterity.
What is the Significance of Langkawi Geopark?
The goal of LADA’s Tourism Division has always been to catapult Langkawi into the top ranks of the tourism industry as one of the best and most unique travel destinations in the world. As the only Southeast Asian destination to attain UNESCO’s highly-coveted Geopark status, LADA now has the leverage to highlight Langkawi’s spectacular natural attractions via the growing industry niche of eco-tourism.
What was LADA’s Inspiration for Seeking Geopark Status for Langkawi?
Langkawi has been carefully studied for more than 35 years by scientists and environmentalists. In that time, they have unearthed a wealth of vital data on the island’s fascinating biodiversity and geology, confirming without a doubt that Langkawi is a region of high heritage value to the world. It was this research and data that inspired LADA, with the help of the National University of Malaysia (UKM), to apply for geopark status from UNESCO. Geopark status would not only allow Langkawi to shine in an extremely competitive industry but also give LADA the authority to push tougher environmental laws to preserve an island constantly under the threat of deforestation and over-development.
What’s in the Name Langkawi Geopark?
As a marketing brand, Langkawi was officially re-named as Langkawi Geopark on May 31 2006 by the Kedah State Government and on October 6, 2006 by the federal government. But it was not until June 1 2007 that Langkawi was finally accepted as a member of UNESCO’s prestigious Global Geoparks Network (GGN), giving it international validation for its claim as a geopark.
Why Rename the Island as Langkawi Geopark?
It’s a corporate rebranding strategy to give Langkawi an edge in a highly-competitive industry. The name Langkawi Geopark, along with the publicized GGN membership, makes it easily recognized and accepted internationally. The re-branding puts Langkawi on the world stage, effectively boosting both tourism and foreign investment.
What Specific Areas Does Langkawi Geopark Cover?
Langkawi Geopark is an all-encompassing name. It includes every island in the archipelago, the surrounding waters and marine ecosystems, the forests, villages and countryside.
What Does UNESCO Have To Do With Langkawi Geopark?
Any country can officially declare any of its locations a geopark. However, the only way to get international validation as a geopark is to gain membership into the Global Geoparks Network (GNN) founded by UNESCO. Due to the prestige of the GNN list, LADA tirelessly petitioned UNESCO for 11 years before Langkawi was given membership into the GNN.
What is a UNESCO Geopark?
UNESCO has an expanded definition of a Geopark. It is not just about the geology of a region but includes the communities and activities in it. These include economic activities, especially those related to tourism. A geopark, as defined by UNESCO, has three components:
1. Environmental conservation.
2. Development of tourism to stimulate economic activity.
3. Socio-economic development, especially to promote community participation in the Geopark.
Why Does LADA Say the Archipelago is Made Up of 99 and not 104 islands?
Although the total number of islands in the Langkawi archipelago is 104, the number stated in LADA’s information brochures and publications is 99. This is done mainly for marketing purposes as the number 99 was deemed as more interesting and memorable than 104. Also, as most of the island inhabitants are Muslim, the number 99 has a sacred significance for them (the 99 Names of God).
What’s so Special About Langkawi Geopark?
There are three amazingly-unique geoforest parks in it:
The Machinchang Geoforest Park is estimated to be between 450 to 550 million years old. It contains the oldest known rocks in the region and is evidence that the geological origins of Malaysia and even all of Southeast Asia may have begun here.
The Kilim Karst Geoforest Park is a world-class nature attraction featuring a gorgeous limestone landscape, an extensive mangrove forest system, lovely beaches, coastal wetlands and two islands (Langgun and Dendang) that are spectacular nature parks in themselves.
Dayang Bunting Geoforest Park on Dayang Bunting Island is the setting for one of Langkawi’s most well-known natural attractions: an enormous freshwater lake perched on the very edge of the ocean. It was formed from the collapse of an ancient cave system. Beautiful marble caves abound on the island and the marble mined here is among the best in the world. The Pasir Dagang Cave on the island can only be accessed with proper caving equipment but the payoff at the end is a magical cavern filled with spectacular curtain stalactites and a gigantic limestone chandelier.
Langkawi Geopark is also the world’s first duty-free geopark and the only geopark that is an archipelago, or island cluster. There are over 90 geological sites around the geopark that are under research and have been shown to possess high heritage value. The whole region possesses an abundance of geological attractions like caves, sea arches and stacks, fossils, glacial dropstones and cascading waterfalls.
Culturally, the local inhabitants, long isolated from the mainland, have developed a very rich legacy of myths and legends that blend in with the fascinating oral history of their colourful, if often violent, past.
Is Langkawi Geopark Designated as a Protected National Forest Park
No. Under the Geopark concept, the controlled development of the area is allowed. Community participation is even encouraged, especially those related to tourism activities. Geopark areas that have been developed as recreational areas for tourists include Seven Wells Waterfall, Temurun Waterfall, the Kisap-Kilim area and Dayang Bunting Lake.
Will the Local Villagers Like Farmers and Fishermen Be Affected by the Changes?
Not at all. In fact, the Geopark status makes LADA obligated to train the local inhabitants to use their traditional culture and knowledge to financially benefit from the tourism industry. Products and services developed under Geopark guidelines must strive to involve local operators directly as nature guides, boat operators, food vendors, artisans, cultural performers or souvenirs sellers. Fishermen and farmers can supplement their income from tourism by promoting or selling lifestyle tours of their daily activities or create homestay programmes for tourists to experience authentic village life.
What is the philosophy behind the Langkawi Geopark?
Langkawi is already well-known as a beach-resort island, so the geopark concept extends our market beyond the beach-holiday crowd to adventure travellers, eco-tourists, nature enthusiasts and lovers of traditional culture. Our work to educate the public on the natural wonders of Langkawi Geopark also serves to encourage scientists, geologists and students from around the world to conduct research here.
The geopark concept also allows us to market Langkawi without competing with other island destinations in Malaysia such as Tioman, Pangkor, Penang and Redang. It also allows Langkawi to be seen in a different light from overseas competitors such as Bali, Phuket, Hawaii or Malta.
Our aim is to rapidly increase tourism so that employment and business opportunities will also increase. However, we strive to expand economic opportunities in a way that encourages cooperation and harmony within the local business community. It is also our policy to enhance Langkawi’s potential from all angles, including the preservation of traditional life and culture, and of its natural heritage.
We also plan to establish a geological research center to foster the spirit of free information exchange with other geoparks or scientific establishments. Our first step in this direction was to organize the Asia-Pacific International Geopark Conference in October 2007.
What Benefits Will Langkawi Geopark Bring To The Community?
The success of Langkawi Geopark will directly benefit travel agencies, tour guides, boat operators, taxi drivers, retail stores, restaurants, food stalls and souvenirs and handicraft centres. Increased tourism will bring greater business opportunities and create a wide variety of jobs for the local population.
What are the Benefits to the State of Kedah and to Malaysia in General?
The success of the Langkawi Geopark Langkawi will increase the Gross National Product and boost the overall economy of Kedah. Increased tourism will bring in positive foreign exchange for Malaysia, increasing national reserves and strengthening the national economy.
How Langkawi Geopark is managed?
The local administration of Langkawi Geopark is managed by LADA. On the State level, there is a Langkawi Geopark Advisory Council, established and chaired by the Chief Minister of Kedah. Members of the Advisory Council come from various ministries and government agencies. There are four committees (Technical, Development, Promotion and Marketing, and Conservation) to help implement the guidelines laid down by the Council. LADA itself implements specific projects identified for development of Langkawi Geopark. For 2007, LADA received a special fund from the Ministry of Finance for this purpose.
What Projects Are Currently Associated with Langkawi Geopark?
We have ongoing projects that publicize significant geology sites and assist travellers to find and explore the attractions within. Some projects include the Information Centre located at Oriental Village, construction of rest-stops in recreational areas, a hiking trail to Lake Langgun on Langgun Island, construction of paths and observation platforms at Kilim Karst landscape areas and around Dayang Bunting Lake, and setting up bulletin boards or signs at various tourist attractions.
The scenic, rural island of Pulau Tuba is currently being developed as a geopark attraction. The projects there include the observation platform at Wang Buluh Cave, construction of boardwalks, coastal roads and the Tuba-Selat Bagan Nyior motorcycle bridge.
What Future Plans Are There For Langkawi Geopark?
LADA’s goal is to develop and promote Langkawi Geopark as the most attractive and unique of all geoparks. For this purpose, collaboration with all government agencies such as the District Office, Langkawi Municipal Council, the Forestry Department, Department of Environment and private agencies in the tourism industry will be established.
So far, LADA has set up a Geopark Administration Division and this department will be expanded in accordance with upcoming requirements. However, subject to government approval, LADA is likely to be restructured in the near future as the Langkawi Geopark Development Authority and put in charge of overall business planning and development. All development will be based on goals and objectives to market Langkawi Geopark as a new brand and a world-class travel destination.