Have you ever dreamed of swimming with sharks? We were lucky to do so a few years ago whilst diving in The Great Barrier Reef, Australia, and whilst visiting Langkawi, Malaysia in November this year we were eager to visit Pulau Payar (Payar Island) as we heard that sharks will swim close to the beach and you can swim with them!
There are over 104 islands that make up the Langkawi archipelago situated in the Andaman Sea, and as our airplane was landing into Langkawi airport we were treated to some of the best views we have ever witnessed out of the windows- the lush green mountainous islands were dotted around and we were so excited to get in the warm turquoise water and swim with those sharks!
There are many places to book tours, either at your hotel, or along the bustling Cenang Beach where every couple of hundred metres you'll see tour booths- the surprising thing with Langkawi is that you aren't hassled, be it selling tours or clothes/ gift shops or markets, no one is trying to beckon you in, this gives you time to look around the tour booths along the town and find what tour you'd like. There's many way to see the islands around Langkawi, popular ones are hiring jet ski's or taking a boat tour.
The tour we selected was with a company called 'Langkawi Coral' which was a full day tour to Pulau Payar Marine Park which is situated 19 nautical miles (35 km) south of Langkawi, and it was £15pp. We were picked up from our hotel (The Smith House) and drove to the Kuah jetty (i.e. the ferry terminal at Kuah town in Langkawi), the mini bus was around 45 minutes late on picking us up however and once we made the 25 minute trip to Kuah and followed a throng of our tourists to our large, ferry type boat, we waited for almost an hour for other groups to board the boat. The boat was dark and dank and had row upon row of seats, I'd guess it takes around 200 persons. I didn't set my sights too high on what the tour would be like due to the slowness and type of boat but the journey passed quickly and soon we were docking up on a man made floating platoon island where those scuba diving were separated from those of us who were going snorkelling. We queued up for a little boat to take us all of 50 metres to the floating pontoon which we then stumbled over to reach the beach of Pulau Payar Marine Park.
Pulau Payar has a marine park status as it offers protection for its diverse marine life and is famous for its snorkelling and diving sites and for its corals. It's even said to have the widest range of coral reef species in the whole of Malaysia. However we felt a bit let down as a lot of the coral was dead and whilst we did see an abundance of fish including horse-eyed jacks, groupers, black spotted puffers, beautiful butterflyfish, parrot fish, colourful wrasse and many other exotic marine species, we just felt we had seen better in other places. Later we read that the boats dock now at a new area as the coral and marine life was being affected in the old bay. Also unfortunately many do not follow the prohibitory Eco Tourism laws and sadly litter the water area.
BUT...! There were sharks!! We reckon we seen up to 10 Black Tip Reef Sharks, they were swimming close to the beach, so there's no need to be swimming out to the coral, you can even stand on the sand and see them swim around your feet. It was truly amazing to experience this and there's no need to be scared, they never do any harm and shy away when they notice a human being close by.
We had around 3 hours on the island and spent most of that time squealing in delight when we seen the Black Tips. We also took a little walk around the wooden boardwalks but you can explore more of the island if you wish.
With our tour package we also had the complimentary hire of snorkel and mask, along with a life jacket, and a packed lunch, which we weren't really feeling it, as we just wanted to be in the water with the sharks.
Even though we had a few disappointing things to say about this tour, overall we had a fab day and are over the moon that we got to swim with and see so many sharks. We would recommend going to Pulau Payar as it was a good price and such an amazing experience.
We recommend booking at least one day in advance, if in the high season book as early as possible. There are many tour companies and tour booths so weigh up the prices and options.
On the day you should bring-
Suncream Money for lock box, around £4 (if you wish to store your belongings whilst in the water) Food (if you are fussy like us) Drink (if not content with the choices available) Spare clothes Underwater camera (gopro)