One of the world’s most established and recognised eco/luxury resorts, the Datai is embarking on a new chapter in its history.
As the sun past below the tree line, the cicadas fell silent and a chorus of frogs began to noisily sing for their supper. It was the end of the day and we were starting a hike with Malay naturalist, Irshad Mobarak into the thick forest that runs right down to the shores of the Andaman Sea.
In an age of global tourism, the charm of a deserted island is somewhat hard to find. Yet, west of Malaysia’s mainland is Langkawi, the largest of an archipelago of islands, a sensational destination for lovers of nature.
The Datai Sujana Resort Langkawi
Almost hidden amongst the tall trees and within walking distance to the Andaman Sea, is ‘The Datai Langkawi’, one of the most prestigious resorts in the world, frequently topping the lists of the world’s best hotels since it was opened over 15 years ago.
For me it was a special privilege to me there, to be so close to nature and the forest teeming with life. I think this visit was when I was seduced by the notion of Eco/Luxury. I’d always been slightly envious of friends brave enough to go on those long hikes through the rainforest, but was always put off by the idea of pulling off leeches and treading into knee deep mud and then having to put up camp at the end of an exhausting day.
Stepping out into a pristine forest, yet still being less those 30 minutes from a cocktail was much more my style! Datai means travel safe, and here despite being in a remote corner of Asia, in deep forest, it’s a safe natural resort for lovers flora and fauna served up with a large side order of luxury.
Earlier in the day there had been a mix up with our beach villa reservation and there was a double booking. Yet the situation as so calmly dealt with; and within moments we were being directed to the ‘Villa Hutan Datai’. Little did we expect to be staying in the most prestigious villa on the property; a huge 4 room complex, constructed in traditional Malay style, with a large central swimming pool, with fern fronts dipping into the clear water.
The whole resort is surrounded by ancient trees, lush ferns and delicate orchids, making for a magical ambiance.
There is something exceptional about forested islands; the views across azure waters contrasting with the almost impenetrable depth of the forest with its myriad of greens and browns. And of course, the wildlife is everywhere.
One morning, returning from breakfast we discovered a huge monitor lizard sunning himself on the terrace wall.
At night, returning from a gourmet supper at The Pavilion, the elevated, open air restaurant amongst the tree tops on the steep hillside, we were greeted by a large gecko playing hide and seek behind the terrace lamp.
Yet it is in the forest that you really see the wildlife; monkeys, snakes, lizards, flying squirrels, extraordinary long tailed butterflies and more. The hotel provided a small illustrated wildlife sketch book, so we could tick off the fauna as we spotted it.
The beach too, is extraordinary. An evening stroll along those postcard perfect white sands reveal bioluminescent algae that lights up after you lift your feet– it all just seems too beautiful.
The Datai is a genuine luxury resort; from your first moment in its stunning open air entrance lobby, you know you really have arrived. Always a favourite with the Asian jet set, the hotel also attracts honeymooners and the well-heeled from Europe.
The property fits harmonious in its surroundings, with careful use of Red balau timber, black granite, and white marble. Return to your room after the turn-down service to discover not the generic hotel chocolate; but instead a card with poetry and depiction of one of the forests many species of animals – a theme of harmony with art and nature runs throughout this special place.
The spa is hidden away in the forest; I enjoyed a signature hot stone treatment, in an exquisite treatment room, open to the forest, surrounded by lush greenery and the sounds of birds and frogs.
Like everyone, there are excursions, but somehow those on the island of Langkawi seemed to give an insight into authentic natural habitats. I took the boat tour, showcasing eth mangrove swamps, and witnesses tens of raptors are they flew down to fish; took a tour of a bat cave and even took in some whale watching.
More than just showcasing the natural environment, The Datai, like many leading eco/luxury resorts, is contributing to education, and sustainable tourism. (A portion of your room rate is given to preserving the forest).
- Pristine nature – the resort is established, and looks to have been dropped from the heavens into the coastal forest
- Cuisince – Gourmet menus set the tone
- Privacy – spacious suites and the glorious villas makes the large resort still feel intimate
- Access – you need to be patient to reach this little slice of heaven, with at least two flights from Europe, via hubs like KL and then 40 minute transfer
- Big is still beautiful – it’s a large resort, and in high season is popular with families, although there is plenty of space for everyone
- Pricey – paradise doesn’t come cheap these days
COPYRIGHT 2013 – Andrew Forbes is a travel & lifestyle writer based in Europe. He is an expert in business marketing communications.