Half a dozen schoolgirls burst out laughing and screaming. Had we done something ridiculous to amuse them?
We were eating a picnic, surrounded by a luxuriant, aromatic rainforest on Langkawi, an island off the Malaysian coast, a stream cascading into pools behind us. The schoolgirls screamed, giggled and gasped again, cupping their mouths in astonishment.
Then we saw what they saw. A pair of macaque monkeys were vigorously, acrobatically mating on a branch above our heads, shaking the tree with their passion.
On a nearby rock, teenage boys performed backflips into a deep rockpool. Tropical birds called from high canopies. Above the sea, a short walk away, eagles wheeled and soared before swooping down to catch fish in mid-air, thrown by tourist-boat guides to entertain their guests. Beneath the boats, smooth-skinned black-tipped reef sharks glided to and fro.
Langkawi is fecund, ripe, teeming with flora and fauna, one of the most beautiful islands in the world. We were constantly surprised by its riches: spectacular resorts with the loveliest, widest, whitest private beach and sculpted pools, their lobbies like cathedrals. Beachfront restaurants serving dinner by candlelight, with only palm trees and the gentle swish of the sea for company.
It’s enough to make you feel like mating.