If you're hoping to take a gap year that enables you to indulge your passion for water sports in exotic destinations, Malaysia is one place that will definitely be up your street. Incorporate a visit to the south-east Asian country as part of your travelling plans and you'll experience fantastic sailing conditions, especially if you visit Langkawi.
Of course, many backpackers taking time out of work and/or education are also looking to relax and, as golden beaches and crystal-blue water are common features all across the 99-island archipelago, finding a pretty spot where you can drop anchor and take things easy won't be too hard.
However, the fact there are dozens of isles makes it important to do a bit of forward planning in deciding where exactly you should go. While embarking on a yacht charter break in Malaysia will always enable you to take in exciting destinations, figuring out which isles you should visit in advance can help you to make the most of your time there.
One island you will certainly want to visit is Dayang Bunting, and as it's the second biggest isle in the region it's quite hard to miss. Here, you'll find Tasik Dayang Bunting - the largest lake in Langkawi - which in English translates as Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. Not only is its shape said to look like a pregnant woman lying on her back, but, according to local legend, infertile females who bathe in it will have a baby.
After you've taken a dip in the water, you can take an exhilarating walk through the limestone hills and enjoy snorkelling. Alternatively, you could just find a quiet spot on the beach and lie in the sun.
Pulau Beras Basah
Pulau Beras Basah is also a great place to relax, partially because it is virtually uninhabited. As one of the most westerly islands in Langkawi, here you can walk through unspoilt rainforests and along white sandy beaches, so it really is a great place to connect with nature.
Don't worry if you feel like being a bit more active though. Both parasailing and banana boat rides are offered as the isle, so you can still experience an adrenalin rush.
Kilim Nature Park
On Langkawi Island, meanwhile, you can take a tour of Kilim Nature Park. Verdant mangrove forests are in abundance here, though to see these beautiful stretches of trees you'll need to travel though an intricate network of streams only accessible by a small boat. As you tour through the park, you'll get to see exotic wildlife - including many endemic species - and explore secluded caves.
Of course, the fact you're on a yacht break means you'll get to enjoy lots of exciting sailing, but this is by no means the only sport you can try your hand at in Langkawi. The crystal-clear waters of Datai Bay make it a great place to try snorkelling and swimming, while you can enjoy a round of golf at the Datai Bay Resort. This 18-hole par 72 course was designed by South African golf legend Ernie Els, who has won both the US Open and Open Championship - so you can be confident of enjoying a challenge as you attempt to make your way to the fairways.
Datai Bay is also a fantastic destination for hiking, thanks to the network of trails that take you into the heart of the rainforest and past tropical flora and fauna. A route you'll definitely want to follow is the one leading up to the Temurun waterfall, the tallest falls in the archipelago. Come here in either September or October and the water's flow over the rocky tiers will be at its most dramatic.
While gap years tend to be synonymous with budget accommodation, that's not to say you can't - or shouldn't be able to - enjoy a little luxury. This part of Langkawi is home to two five-star resorts - The Andaman and The Datai Bay - with both offering their spas and others facilities to non-guests. Bear in mind though that you'll need to pay for these services and, as, a smart-casual dress code is in place at these hotels, it's a good idea to bring some formal attire with you.