Twenty years ago, luxury travel and sustainability may have seemed like two mutually exclusive concepts. After all, how can extensive buffets, private pools, 24/7 air-conditioned rooms and regularly replaced premium toiletries ever be compatible with the principles of sustainability? Well, now they can.
Over the decades, as the effects of development take its toll on nature, we have been forced to face the reality of our survival if we continue acting inconsequentially. This has perhaps altered the perceptions and lifestyles of some to be more conscious about the way they eat, live and yes, travel.
Today, sustainable travel is no longer a myth – it is a decision that consumers have to make to influence their own carbon footprint on earth. At the same time, luxury is no longer defined by the facilities and services aforementioned.
Discover how these 9 luxe eco-friendly resorts are changing the sustainable travel landscape in Malaysia so you can have a guilt-free escape.
1. The Datai Langkawi
As far as rainforest retreats go, The Datai sits among the top in the country. And it doesn’t fall behind on the sustainability front either. For one, every tree that was cut during development was replaced by another or repurposed to build the suites and villas. Resident naturalist Irshad Mubarak later coined the Datai Pledge: a series of initiatives aimed at creating a sustainable future for guests and the local community. It includes the rehabilitation of coral reefs and promoting sustainable fishing; protecting wildlife in the area; and introducing educational programs for sustainability, targeted at youth. Meanwhile, guests are treated to spacious, tranquil accommodations and luxe amenities worthy of the resort’s 5-star prestige.
Jalan Teluk Datai, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
2. Japamala Resort
It took ten years to develop this resort which calls Tioman Island it’s home – for a solid, sustainable reason. Owned and developed by Samadhi Retreats, this 11-acre resort was built without disrupting the natural rocks, trees and formations of the land. As a result, no two chalets or villas are identical. Plus, the materials used in development were either salvaged from old kampong houses or sourced from the Orang Asli, an indigenous tribe in Malaysia. This gives the resort a unique aesthetic it calls ‘Rustic Luxe’. To top off your Samadhi experience, take your favourite pick of aromatherapy oils during check-in and find your room turned into a treat for the senses when you return at dusk – courtesy of the resort’s turndown service.
Kampung Lanting, 26800, Pahang, Malaysia
3. The Andaman, A Luxury Collection Resort
You don’t get Marriott’s seal of a “Luxury Collection Resort” easily. This marks a property that offers unique, authentic experiences that make it a world-class desirable destination. But The Andaman is also one that doesn’t compromise on eco-friendliness – featuring its own marine science laboratory and coral nursery aimed at protection and conservation of nature; in addition to a herb garden, rainwater harvesting and food compost systems, and 95% locally-sourced produce to meet strict sustainability standards.
Jalan Teluk Datai, Langkawi, 07000 Malaysia
4. The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat
Nature shines through the little luxuries at The Banjaran in Ipoh, which cohabits with 260 million-year-old limestone hills, rainforests, hot springs, caves, and waterfalls. Unlike swimming pools which involve a lot of maintenance, the resort provides private hot tubs with natural geothermal water in its villas. There’s even an organic farm on the resort to offer fresh, farm-to-table meals. Now that’s what we call sustainable luxury – the resort’s numerous sustainability awards only cement our point.
1, Persiaran Lagoon, Sunway 3, 31150 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
5. Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Nestled at the heart of the Danum Valley Conservation Area, Borneo Rainforest Lodge does not take green policies lightly. The multi-award-winning retreat was built using locally-sourced materials and recycled wood to ensure zero wastage for building construction. The chalets are designed in such a way that improves airflow, making ceiling fans sufficient to replace air-conditioning. For the ultimate slice of luxury: a hot tub sits in your private balcony complete with views of the million-year-old rainforest, awaiting you after a day of nature and wildlife exploration right outside your doorstep.
Danum Valley Conservation Area, Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia
6. Sukau Rainforest Lodge
Named one of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, Sukau Rainforest Lodge prides itself in conservation, community development and sustainable tourism as part of its green policies. Nestled on the bank of the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, this eco-retreat employs many green practices including the use of energy-saving light bulbs, rainwater harvesting, efficient waste management and low noise, zero-emission boats for river safari cruises. Its open-concept design also replaces the usage of air-conditioning in certain areas of the resort to conserve energy. These stringent applications have earned the resort the Travelife Gold Certification for sustainable accommodation since 2018. Yet, guests are still able to enjoy a taste of luxury amidst wildlife and lush forests in their unique Borneo-designed rooms, enriched by a list of activities and facilities to explore.
Lot 1, Pusat Perindustrian, Kolombong Jaya, Mile 5.5, Jalan Kolombong, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
7. The Kasturi
For those who take pleasure in a slow-paced routine, The Kasturi offers a sanctuary for you to laze back in a private pool with unobstructed views of the beach. Before the boutique resort was built, its founders started the project by developing a turtle hatchery to compensate for inevitable environmental damage due to construction. They then used local materials and recycled timber reclaimed from the old building and kept the project to 23 rooms to minimise its footprint. The rooms use energy-efficient LED lights and harvested rainwater for toilet flushing; the main building uses solar-assisted air-conditioning to save energy; and the gardens use organic fertiliser. All of this occurs in the background, whilst guests sunbathe at their patio, cycle along the forested paths or hit the beach for a stroll.
KM 32.5, Jalan Kuantan/Kemaman, 26080 Cherating, Pahang, Malaysia
8. The Dusun Rainforest Retreat
This small nature destination won’t call itself an eco-resort, but its ‘responsibility’ policies certainly place it on par with the rest on this list. Set amidst an orchard in Perak, the Dusun incorporates sustainable development in farming and building. The former involves the use of natural fertiliser (read: chicken manure and compost), sans pesticides. The latter saw development revolving around the original landscape, so as to minimise cutting down trees or harming the environment. Additionally, the team observes a strict booking policy to ensure a low density so that guests can indulge in the harmonious sights and sounds of nature at the comfort and privacy of their traditional houses and other retreat facilities.
3437, Jalan, Mukim, Kampung Baru Pantai, 71770 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
9. Batu Batu Resort
Tucked away in the uninhabited island of Pulau Tengah, Batu Batu borrows its charm from the surrounding powder-white beaches and dense jungles. The founders were careful to ensure the natural biodiversity of the land was not disturbed during development, calling upon a team of marine biologists and environmental scientists to conduct scientific and community-based conservation programmes to protect the area. This eventually turned into the Tengah Island Conservation initiative currently funded by the resort. Not compromising design and comfort, the resort offers a range of private villas, dining and wining venues, and a spa, on top of fun diving excursions and activities for a memorable stay.
Pulau Tengah, 86800 Mersing, Johor, Malaysia
© This article was first published online in Oct 2020 – World Travel Magazine.