BORNEO is one of Southeast Asia’s most prized natural wonders, an overwhelmingly stunning archipelago where some of the region’s most unspoiled rainforests and shorelines reside.
The region is also home to rare wildlife including many that are endemic; a nature trek could see you encounter species such as hornbills, orangutans, sun bears, leopard cats, proboscis monkeys, and pygmy elephants.
While refreshing to be at one with nature, your stay in Borneo doesn’t have to cross out the comfort and luxury you might be used to on a city or beach retreat. Here are four hotels that bring a little bit of decadence to the forest.
This spectacular five-star resort is perched on a hill and surrounded by the best of both worlds – the unspoiled Pantai Dalit Beach and 400 acres of lush tropical forest. While Kota Kinabalu in the east Malaysian state of Sabah has an abundance of stunning natural landscapes, Shangri-La’s outdoes one’s expectations of Borneo by offering both luxury and nature under one roof.
In the Garden Wing, each room features a private balcony with two armchairs and a coffee table overlooking the forest, garden or sea. Whether it’s the Superior Rainforest View, the Deluxe Garden View, or the Deluxe Sea View you opt for, rest assured you’ll rise every morning to a beautiful backdrop.
The 64-acre Nature Reserve is home to many species of flora and fauna that are naturally found in Sabah. While preserving the wonders of nature, the reserve also serves to educate guests of the beauty and uniqueness of the local biodiversity.
Meanwhile, the Canopy Walkway offers miles of picturesque views of the sea on one side and the majestic Mount Kinabalu on the other. Guests can explore the Nature Reserve with the guide of a Resident Naturalist via the six nature trails – herbal, entomology, native, wildlife, canopy walkway and adventure. Read more…
Deep within the dense tropical rainforest of Sarawak is Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa, a unique five-star operation. Suspended on a walkway set in the forest and designed in the style of a traditional longhouse, this Marriott property is likely to be the first of its kind you’ve set foot in.
The resort is only five minutes away from Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and something of an institution in these parts. Brimming with dramatic terrains, endemic wildlife, and otherworldly geographical formations, the park pulls in tourists from the world over.
Back at the hotel, all rooms and suites are elevated on 15-foot stilts and connected by wooden walkways. Locally built furnishings and fittings are made with Belian, a rare, native hardwood that’s considered one of the most durable timbers in the world.
Despite being in the wilds of nature, the hotel provides modern amenities and services including spa-like bathrooms framed by magnificent rainforest views, private balconies with views of the rainforest or the Melinau river, 42-inch flat screen TVs with satellite channels, and plush bedding.
Gaya Island Resort is nestled on an island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and sits amongst thick mangrove plantations, curled around the sandy coast of Malohom Bay. On a clear day, the stunning outline of Mount Kinabalu – Malaysia’s highest peak – is silhouetted against the sun-dappled skyline.
Accommodation is limited to suites and villas, all the better to have you bask in privacy in the deep Bornean woods. Villas are fully equipped with flat screen TVs and international channels, open en-suite bathrooms with oversized bathtubs and two vanity units, and outdoor verandahs with daybeds.
The resort’s Spa Village is a must-visit for all guests. Enveloped in cool jungle air and set against a backdrop of rich lowland forest, the spa’s setting alone acts as therapy. Whether you opt for a specialized rice scrub and masque of the Kadazandusun or the age-old practices of the Bajau sea nomads, a trip here is unlike that of a conventional spa experience.
For a spot of seafood in a romantic setting, Fisherman’s Cove situated on the resort’s rooftop serves up a cacophony of locally and sustainably sourced seafood. Not only is the seaside restaurant a celebration of fresh Malaysian produce, it’s also a great vantage point from which to catch the looming summit of Mount Kinabalu.
Nearer to Sabah’s capital of Kota Kinabalu and set on the shores of the South China Sea is The Megallan Sutera Resort, a five-star property that knows how to pay tribute to the native community of the state. The entrance is an architectural celebration of the Rungus natives of Sabah, while traditional handicraft artefacts adorn the property.
Considering its waterfront setting, beach activities here are common. If you’re not lounging on the private beach with a drink in hand, book an island-hopping tour, snorkel or scuba-dive for rewarding views of corals, or rent a jet-ski boat to zoom about at your own pace.
Because of its vicinity to the city and its stunning shoreline location, meetings and events are commonplace at the resort. The Grand Ballroom – which can fit up to 1,800 – is the largest convention facility and is perfect for concerts, opening ceremonies, weddings, exhibitions, corporate conventions, and product launches.
Both business and leisure guests can also make use of the in-house Mandara Spa for a little me-time before clocking out. Treatments showcase traditional beauty recipes from Bali and use indigenous ingredients to simultaneously rejuvenate and relax those tired joints.