On returning to Singapore last Monday it would have been nice to know that you now need an immigration form before you get to passport control.
We had a fantastic holiday - thank you very much Declan.
Leah always gives excellent service
Would be very helpful if regular customers are notified of presale travel via email especially to their frequent travel destination.
Ace as usual
The journey went very smoothly. Many thanks for all your help.
Always such great service, help and advice from Raj and his team
Juat a very big thank you to DialAFlight and to Molly Smith and her team for all her expertise, assistance and friendly but professional manner.
Everything worked out well and it was nice to receive emails from DialAFlight just to confirm everything was on track
Malaysia Airlines business class on A330 is not up to standard.
First rate service, thank you.
Once again DialAFlight have been brilliant, specifically Peter Smith finding me the best flights, times and price for a complex, multi country trip. Always quick to respond to my question and very supportive with regard to visa requirements.
Great team. Good info. Good admin.
Absolutely fabulous, will certainly be contacting you to book next year’s holiday shortly!
Gareth really good.
You were efficient and listened to what I needed. Very reliable and I felt safe knowing my trip would go well
It was good to know that if any problems arose during my trip I would have been able to phone the out of hours number for help or advice
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Really great holiday and Jonathan has been very helpful throughout
Great job Vinnie! A fantastic trip brilliantly organised by DialAFlight!
Colin always comes up trumps with his recommendations.
As it was an urgent trip Jason helped to arrange the tickets and hotel as requested. Many thanks again for your help.
Faultless from first phone call. Have already recommended DialAFlight and Sean in particular to friends
Great service - will definitely use again.
Never, ever, again Singapore Airlines. Rubbish service, meals thrown at you and "Premium Economy" dreadful on almost all the flights. Air New Zealand any time.
Michelle Dooler was an absolute star from start to finish! Each detail of our trip was perfect and Michelle’s prompt communication, attention to detail including catering for my husband’s disability needs, wealth of knowledge and kindness made this trip possible for our 20th wedding anniversary
Thank you very much for all your help Stan, 10 out of 10, superb.
The only problem was a 2 1/2 delay on the return flight, due to a delayed flight from Japan. A lot of hanging about! Many thanks for your excellent service Richard.
Everything was great
I have dealt with your firm for many, many years. I can pick up the phone, pass Keely Papworth the information and she does all the hard work sorting my travel plans (normally last minute as my life is hectic). Tis takes the sting out of planning for me. Through the years I have built a rapport, and have 100% trust and confidence as I’ve NEVER been let down. This is “customer service” done right.
The morning’s topic of conversation has turned to the strangler fig. The parasite in question stands there tall, defiant, wrapping its sinuous energy around the ironwood tree which has found itself the choking focus of its attention.
Five yards away, Irshad Mobarak breathes deeply and prepares to play devil’s advocate. 'In the business world, this would be fully understood,' he muses, arm extended, tracing the long shape of the arboreal aggressor to his left. 'Just think of it as a hostile takeover.'
A powerfully built man, well over 6ft, he says these words with a composure that is impressive for two reasons. The first is that, directly behind him, a five-star resort swimming pool shines in the 10am daylight, the sun-worshippers around its fringes listening as they lie on loungers. The second is that one of Britain’s most fabled botanists is his main partner in this discourse. David Bellamy nods quietly as Mobarak speaks. He knows this stuff, of course – but he's happy to hear it from a fellow expert.
'The strangler fig has a terrible image problem,' Mobarak continues. 'It can take up to half a century to kill its host. Yet it has a positive effect. It only picks on trees which are past their best, which are going to die. The death brings nutrients and renewal which benefit the surrounding ecosystem.'
This might seem an odd topic for just after breakfast on a warm Friday in a luxury hotel. But then, the Datai is no ordinary hideaway. It is slotted into thick foliage on the north-west corner of Pulau Langkawi - the tropical island in the north-west corner of Malaysia.
This is Bellamy's second visit to the Datai, having stayed 13 years ago when he was a speaker on conservation at the 2002 Asia Pacific Ecotourism Conference (Apeco). The two men forged an immediate connection – and Mobarak was meeting his hero.
'I grew up watching David on television,' he grins. 'I was weaned on his shows. When I was nine, my father asked me what I wanted to be. I recall pointing at the TV and saying "I want to be like him". His enthusiasm was infectious.'
Now 82, Bellamy still looks at nature around him with a fascinated eye and the jungle still holds great allure for him.
He is staying at the Datai with Rosemary, his wife of 55 years. Mobarak has been The Datai’s resident nature expert since it opened in 1993. The resort revels in creature comforts – 125 rooms, villas and suites; a small spa near the beach of powdery white sand; four enticing restaurants, including The Dining Room, where miso-glazed black cod is served under the tutelage of executive chef Richard Millar; and the Naga Pelangi, a grand wooden schooner, anchored and ready to take guests on genteel cruises in search of orangeade sunsets.
Mobarak's nature walks are popular and informative. An evening amble with the Bellamys has barely started before Mobarak spots a local character. The colugo is an odd beast – a winged mammal which seems to be a close relation of the bat, but is nearer in genetics to the primate clan.
Camouflaged against a tree trunk, she suddenly - Mobarak can even tell the gender - switches from stillness to motion, racing up the bark before spreading her wings and gliding some 50ft down to the next cluster of branches. 'I’ve only ever seen these animals in books,' Bellamy admits, with a broad smile.
On verdant Langkawi there are options for exploration further afield.
Mobarak joins the Bellamys for a voyage along the Kilim River, chattering with his childhood hero about the cycads – fern-like plants so old that dinosaurs used to eat them – that hang on the rock walls here, and the crab-eating macaques which dart down to the water to grab crustaceans. Above, a pair of white-bellied sea eagles swoop and soar.
The day’s crowning episode is saved for last. Gunung Raya rears up at the heart of Langkawi – a 2,890ft granite bluff, 204 million years old. Its peak is a fine spot from which to watch the sun go down, when some of its bird population are at their most active.
And so it proves, midway up the mountain. Mobarak calls the car to a halt and beckons its passengers on to the roadside verge. A group of great hornbills – brightly exotic birds, with extravagantly curved bills, common and colourful inhabitants of the Malaysian heavens – has gathered in the canopy.
As the light starts to slip, they take off one by one from their perches, floating without any perceptible effort across to a meranti tree with ripe fruit. There they dine amid a whoosh of wings as the entire flock flutters in.
On the ground, the two naturalists stare at the scene in raptures.
First published in the Mail Online - January 2016
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