Sailing the Islands of Langkawi

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Take to the warm waters of Langkawi with resident sailor TC Gerrard and Editor Chad Merchant and discover the delights of leaving the land and embracing the tropical seas of this favoured Malaysian archipelago.

Most visitors to Langkawi come to enjoy the beaches, the tropical grandeur of the forested mountains, and the laid-back local culture that has evolved on this island paradise. However, visitors should not overlook the surrounding islands, and heading out to sea, whether in a crewed or bareboat charter, is among the very best ways to experience the natural splendour of the islands of Langkawi. Taking the opportunity to sail the small hidden inlets and quiet anchorages on the outlying islands is a remarkable experience that will create lasting memories long With no fewer than 99 islands in the Langkawi archipelago, there is no shortage of waterborne destinations. Lying to the south of Pulau Langkawi are the larger islands of Pulau Tuba, Pulau Dayang Bunting and Pulau Singa Besar that form the Bass Strait which is home to the main harbour in Kuah and the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, and at the south end of Pantai Tengah, Porto Awana. Further to the west is the picturesque Telaga Harbour with its Mediterranean- influenced architecture and on the northeast side of the island is the Kilim River Jetty that leads out to the open sea through the spectacular mangrove forests that comprise the Kilim Karst Geoforest, part of the Langkawi’s UNESCO Geopark. All of these harbours offer the opportunity to get out on the water.

Langkawi has a more stable climate than most of the other islands in Malaysia, and enjoys relatively favourable conditions year-round. Due to its location on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the Straits of Malacca, it is shielded from major winds and storms by the mainland and the vast island of Sumatra. Langkawi experiences tropical weather year-round with temperatures around 30°C during the day and seldom below 27°C at night. This makes Langkawi a good all-year-round destination.

The Royal Langkawi Yacht Club sits on the bustling harbour near the ferry jetty where visitors coming from Thailand and the mainland disembark. This is the home of the annual Royal Langkawi International Regatta, and the busy harbour is regularly full of sail and powerafter yachts of all types. From the small ocean passage maker to 100’ mega-yachts, this is a true sailor’s port of call on the island, and can cater to almost any seafaring need. The yacht club is also in close proximity to Kuah, the main town on the island of Langkawi, with numerous
duty-free shopping centres and local seafood restaurants.

Some of Langkawi’s sailing highlights include:

  • Kilim Karst Geoforest – part of Langkawi’s UNESCO Geopark, recognised for its stunning geological features dating back 500 million years
  • Pulau Payar Marine Park – an outstanding diving and snorkeling site famous for its ‘Coral Garden’
  • Pulau Payar – hike through the tropical forest and mangrove or experience the thrill of feeding baby sharks
  • Pantai Cenang – Langkawi’s liveliest beach with an excellent and wide-ranging array of restaurants, bars, live music venues, and watersport activities
  • Pantai Tengah – peaceful white sandy beach and a favourite for relaxing
  • Pulau Beras Basah – pristine and peaceful uninhabited island on the west tip of Langkawi
  • Pantai Datai Bay – exceptionally clear water and very tranquil bay, only accessible from the sea or for guests of The Datai and The Andaman

Sailors love Langkawi’s proliferation of islands in warm emerald seas dotted with amazing geological features, many carpeted in dense rainforest. Whether chartering a boat from elsewhere in Malaysia and making the enjoyable voyage up the coast, especially with the popular luxury catamarans, or hiring a boat locally, Langkawi offers much to the seafarer, delivering an experience far beyond that of merely sticking to the main island. Secluded beaches abound on the many tiny islands in the archipelago, and with a small tender, these sandy retreats are easily accessed and perfect for ambling along, where you’re all but certain to be alone. Back on board the yacht, sailors and their guests can slip between islands teeming with birdlife and beautiful rock formations, then drop anchor and relax, taking in the view while enjoying a refreshing drink as the tropical seas lap against the hull.

For those who prefer a shorter (or merely less hands-on) sailing experience, there are also day charters and even sunset cruises that depart in the early evening and journey out through the outer islands to the open sea. Passengers enjoy dining onboard while sun the slowly sinks beneath the far horizon, filling the sky with a kaleidoscope of colours.

Visitors who want to learn the ins and outs of seamanship and take the helm themselves can learn how to sail at the Langkawi Sailing School, located in the picturesque Telaga Harbour. With sailing courses from basic sailing to the RYA Yacht Masters certificate, the Langkawi Sailing School offers a wide variety of courses and certifications. This is not for those short on time, however, as the in-water sailing courses range from five days up to fifty days for the Yacht Master’s programme. Indeed, if you have ever dreamed of learning to sail, this is an exciting way to spend a holiday in Langkawi and learn to sail as well.


Sailing the waters of Langkawi is overlooked by most of its visitors; however, it’s one of the best ways to really see the archipelago and all the diverse geological formations which have earned Langkawi its UNESCO Geopark status. For a family or small group, a sailing holiday can be a surprisingly affordable and unquestionably more memorable alternative to a land-based vacation. And with the wide variety of sailing options on offer in one of Malaysia’s most stunning island retreats, it is an experience that should not be missed.

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