“Grin, guess where we are going next?”
“I don’t know, where?” Grin looks up at me from the corner of his eye. He’s busy playing with a school of fish that have gathered beneath his hull. He likes to droop his lead rope into the water, separating and confusing the school until they circle around in two loops. I am scrolling through articles about the best things to see and do in the Langkawi area from the comfort of my beanbag, my morning coffee mug hung loosely over three fingers.
“The ‘Grand Canyon of Mangrove Rivers!’ Langkawi has one of the worlds largest mangrove river systems in the world. You can see giant sea eagles, eat freshly caught fish, and maybe even see a spitting viper!” I read aloud. “How about that?”
“Sure, I guess.” He pulls his rope taught again until the two fish loops mash up and everyone points themselves to the face of the current.
Grin tries to play it cool, but we all know both he and Captain Andrew are jittering with excitement. Grin bounces on wavelets surfing behind Sonrisa as we sail around the South side of Langkawi Island. There’s a happy glint in Andrew’s eye. “Time for ‘adaventurrrrra!,’ right Sonrrrrrisa?” Andrew says, rolling his “rrrr’s” with flourish.
It’s a pretty sail; our way marked with little lighthouses, dotting of islands, and the large variety fluttering butterflies Langkawi is known to house. Arriving at one end of the Mangrove Park, we thread Sonrisa through a narrow opening in tall cliff walls. We test out a spot the guide says is an adequate anchorage, but as we note two or three sailboats left abandoned on the edge of the river bank looking rather haunted, we got nervous about anchoring in this narrow gorge. We enjoy the scenery, turn a loop, and head back out to find a better spot.
We keep sailing until we arrive at an anchorage called Tanjung Roo. It’s so beautiful, we decide to really dig in and make it home for a while. We lay our anchor down, hang the hammock, and bake some banana bread. As sun sets, rain squalls roll through just West of us leaving our anchorage dry but putting on a brilliant show.
The next day, we are ready for adventure. Andrew fuels Kitty and installs two extra tanks in Grin’s bilge. We apply ample sunblock, don floppy brimmed hats and sunglasses for what we knew would be at least a three hour Odyssey… so long as we did not get lost in the mangrove maze. Lucky for us, Google Maps (Satellite View) works just as well for navigating mangrove tributaries as it does for street driving.
Andrew pulls Kitty’s cord, and in her excitement for the day, she starts up with only one pull. We untie and wave goodbye to Sonrisa. “And…we’re off!” Grin cheers.
We follow the twists and curves of the mangrove river, tourist boats flying past us with two 400HP Yamaha outboards. Grin swings his bow wave-on each time a boat wake threaten to topple us; he skips through the waves, letting them slip behind us to be absorbed by the mangrove roots lining the river on each side. The river flattens to glass, and we glide. “Wow, this would be a great place to waterski!” He says, and he gives me the “come-on I dare you!” eye. We follow behind one tourist boat surfing its bow wake until they power up their large engines and leave us behind.
Soon, we come upon a crowd stopped to see Monkeys. We join for a few moments to watch the monkeys jump out of the trees to fight over bananas.
In a narrow spot in the river we come upon a boat stopped along side, pointing vigorously into the trees. “What is it?” I ask. Kitty slows to a putter and we pull along side peer into the swamp.
Grin spies our target first: “…a SPITTING VIPER!!!!! COOOOOOOOOOOL!”
“Yig!” I say, not quite as thrilled as Grin seems to be. I take photos, which is no easy task as the snake is camouflaged almost perfectly. I wonder how many of those guys we’ve walked right past without ever noticing.
We carry on and on, each bend offering more scenery and a different variety of mangroves that stretch to the sky. It’s impossible see where the mangrove forest ends and the land begins. Roots springing up from water stretch back layers and layers until the jungle is so dark, you cannot see further. It’s beautiful and strange. These trees are key to our ecosystems. They are unique in that they can tolerate and grow from salt water. They protect the land from large sea storms, and they store more carbon than even the rainforests.
Then, we see a swooping, diving, swirling commotion in the distance. Everyone has stopped in the river to watch giant sea eagles soaring…
…to catch fish in their talons and fly away. The size of these creatures cannot be overstated. The grey and white ones easily have a wingspan the size of Andrew’s 6’3” arm reach. The flying prowess and grace are also a sight to behold. One spirals above us holding the relaxed tension of his aerodynamic-glide position, steering by dipping his wing. They look like fighter jets against the sky.
This attraction adds almost an hour to our adventure, as we could not pull our eyes away - at least not until Andrew’s stomach began to assert himself as the higher priority. We continue on to the far end of the river where we enjoy a freshly caught Red Snapper in a dry chili sauce with vegetables and rice for lunch. Grin, tied up at the dock just below our feet, tells terrible jokes to us, to the waitress, to the Tourist-Boat Ladies, and whomever else will listen while he waits.
Then, we turn back around to flow with the outgoing current back to Sonrisa. We zip like a blur through “Hole in the Wall” where Grin can no longer contain himself: “WE’RE PASSING THROUGH AN ALTERNATE DIMENSION!!!!! WOOOOHHHEEEEEEEE!”
We are all Super Heroes, now.