Soft impact hotel
At a time when there is so much concern about the environment, and more particularly, the negative impact of humans on a range of natural ecosystems, Andy Homden reports it’s nice to know that there are some success stories which show that people and nature can co-exist in an area of rapid economic development.
Visiting an old favourite
The Andaman Hotel, on the North West tip of Langkawi, off the West coast of Malaysia is a case in point. We have been coming here since it opened in 1997, attracted by the “soft opening” PR that it had been built with minimum impact on a spectacular rain forest coast line (this is really a place where the forest does meet the sea), allowing visitors and the native fauna to exist quite naturally side by side.
We hadn’t visited for some time, though, and with another tourist boom underway, we wondered if the Andaman was still operating in harmony with its surroundings.
The driveway to the hotel was just the same. It didn’t disappoint on our first arrival all those years ago, and it was just the same in 2018 – a reassuring sign. Then, like now, the hotel entrance is reached by a switchback drive which snakes down from the main road through a rainforest of massive hardwoods. At the bottom, the hotel is surrounded by similar primary and secondary rainforest growth, carefully preserved during construction. There are four floors, stretching down from the entrance to beach level. Almost all the shade around a carefully crafted pool area is natural, with pathways through the trees and mangroves to the beach. The forest had been carefully preserved.
We were also interested to see how the buildings – which are of conventional concrete construction, detailed by wooden balcony railings and handrails – were standing up to the heat and humidity.
As with any building in this climate, maintenance needs to be preventative and ongoing, and the hotel is very well – almost lovingly- cared for. The rooms had been stylishly updated and refurbished. So far, so welcoming and very pleasing!
Monkeys, otters and squirrels
What makes the Andaman so special, however, is the way that the local bird and animal wildlife has continued to thrive in the Teluk Datai – Datai Bay – area, side by side the hotel and its human visitors, apparently grazing on the natural flora and fauna rather than dependent on any human leftovers or rubbish, which is all carefully collected and taken away.
Long tailed (Crab eating) Macaques and Dusky Leaf Monkeys are sighted on the beach and in the mangroves on a daily basis, and there is a resident pack of otters which we were lucky enough to see (9 of them!) during a morning walk, emerging silkily from the sea after the night’s hunt, before heading across the beach to their holts along a nearby mangrove creek.
Neither did we have to wait too long before observing a range of squirrels, including the flying variety, and a pair of black giant squirrels with their chestnut fronts lounging in a tall tree alongside the third floor walkway just feet away from our room.
On the wing
The hornbills were in the high trees along distant ridges and seldom to be seen – but often kicking up a racket if a sea eagle was circling nearby in the morning, while a pair of Asian Tree Kingfishers, worked the mangrove beach for crabs.
And the beach was full of crabs – much to the delight of the children staying at the hotel – hermit crabs, and spidery sidewinders of various sizes and no doubt species.
Large, beautifully marked butterflies sipped the blossoms of a wide variety of trees and shrubs as they flitted their way from bush to bush, testament to a restrained use of pesticides.
But this is an environment that really comes alive at night, booming and croaking with frogs, large and small, while resonating with the sound of far off – and close by – creatures, on the prowl or marking out their territory. As night falls, no doubt, the otters slip silently out to sea to hunt again.
CEO Consilium Education
Further Reading about the Andaman (Asean green hotel)