Tropical Retreats17 Oct 2016
THE STICKS, SELANGOR
Touted as an eco-glamping getaway, The Sticks is located on the fringe of a tropical forest in Kuala Kubu Bharu, Hulu Selangor, and was built with sustainability in mind; facilities were constructed with minimal clearing of the surrounding rainforest and are powered by solar energy. Getting to the resort itself involves following a 10-minute jungle trail and crossing a hanging bridge, although you can also opt to hop on the 4X4 pickup truck.
Accommodation comes in the form of chalets or glamping huts called tendok (a portmanteau of tent and pondok, or hut). Meals, which are included in the packages, are eaten al-fresco and the fare is simple, home-cooked and harvested from the resort’s backyard whenever possible. When lazing around gets tedious, The Sticks has arranged activities ranging from treks of varying difficulty levels to Amazing Race-type jungle treasure hunts.
LOT 213, JALAN KUALA KUBU BHARU,
FRASERS HILL, KUALA KUBU BHARU,
HULU SELANGOR, SELANGOR
TEL: 017–345 9109
SEKEPING SERENDAH, SELANGOR
Located near the sleepy one-street town of Serendah, about an hour’s drive north of Kuala Lumpur, Sekeping Serendah is a private nature retreat created by a renowned Malaysian landscape architect – Ng Seksan. Seksan’s aesthetic is one of using humble materials in stylish yet effective ways, and Sekeping Serendah is a wonderful celebration of this. Every effort has been made to tread lightly on the land as the eight largely transparent and open sheds, spread over five acres of jungle, appear to almost float gently above the forest floor.
There are also two independent buildings named Warehouse which use recycled bricks and shutters and can cater for larger groups of up to 10 with their own private living and dining areas. No-frills and back to nature is the order of the day, so don’t expect Wi-Fi, TV or toiletries and towels; instead, there are outdoor bathrooms, beds with mosquito nets and kitchens with a stove, fridge and microwave oven to look forward to.
SERENDAH, HULU SELANGOR,
TEL: 012–324 6552
TERRA TREE HOUSE, PAHANG
Imagine a hideaway completely handmade by orang asli (indigenous people) among virgin forest, overlooking a peaceful valley where birdsong and jungle sounds are the only soundtrack; add to that the childhood wish fulfillment factor of living in a tree house, and you have the Terra Tree House in Brinchang, Cameron Highlands.
The owners are active conservationists and took great pains to ensure that construction was carried out without the use of any heavy machinery – not even for levelling! Instead, the local orang asli carefully crafted the structures using traditional methods and resources such as rattan, bamboo and Nipah palm leaves. Rooms are basic but cozy with good quality organic bed linen, electricity (only available after dusk), hot water and modern toilet facilities. Terra’s own bio-dynamic farm offers fresh produce, and if you opt for a catered stay, expect wholesome organic meals to be eaten at the community hall.
OFF JALAN SUNGEI MANSUN,
CAMERON HIGHLANDS, PAHANG
TEL: 012–661 3299
TIME CAPSULE RETREAT, PAHANG
The last thing anyone would expect to find in a forest reserve is a capsule hotel, but in the sleepy town of Sungai Lembing, these rather incongruous cylindrical ‘rooms’ have become quite a hit.
Constructed from concrete pipes, these compact capsules are air-conditioned and each contain a queen-sized bed, lamp and plug sockets. Toilets and bathrooms are not en-suite, but are conveniently located just a short stroll away.
Capsules come in two choices: those with full glass panels offer an unrestricted view of nature, while those who prefer more privacy can opt for the capsules with half glass panels instead.
Since the success of these unusual rooms in the great outdoors, the resort has also added what they claim to be the first reflective rectangular glass retreat in the world. Known as Parallel rooms, these cuboids have at least one all-glass side for unobstructed views of the lush greenery, while the Parallel Discovery has two transparent sides and a private outdoor Jacuzzi.
SUNGAI LEMBING, PAHANG
CASABRINA VACATION VILLAS, PAHANG
For nature lovers who adore their creature comforts with equal passion, a visit to Casabrina combines both superbly. Undeniably luxurious yet intrinsically connected to its stunning natural environment, this exclusive resort is located deep in the thickly forested highlands of Pahang and offers two villas designed by renowned Balinese architect AA Yoka Sara.
Villa Amertani is the larger of the two with four suites, a sinuous roof echoing the undulating lines of the surrounding hills and an inviting infinity-edge pool dramatically framed by the natural landscape. The story goes that for 30 years, a local rubber farmer would come to the crest of a small ridge to eat his lunch, drawn by the constant breeze and its positive energy. Now, Villa Amertani enjoys those invigorating winds upon that very same ridge. Its counterpart, Villa Aranya, is a very private two-bedroom treehouse nestled in a cul-de-sac. With the sound of flowing water close by, Villa Aranya seems to have emerged from the forest itself. Facilities are everything you would expect for a resort of such calibre and bespoke tours can be easily arranged.
LOT 1460, JALAN TRAS, MUKIM TRAS,
RAUB DISTRICT, PAHANG
TEL: 016–980 3222
FIG TREE HILL RESORT, PENANG
Much has been written about George Town’s heritage hotels and the island’s coastal beach resorts, but Fig Tree Hill Resort reveals a different side of Penang. Located in the town of Sungai Ara, the Fig Tree is an all-villa resort with generously-sized accommodations, with the smallest being 150sqm while the largest is 200sqm. Each of the six villas is unique and overlooks a different aspect of the terrain, ranging from the neighbouring stream and fruit orchards to the resort’s tropical gardens.
The owner has a keen interest in architecture and the villas represent various vernacular typologies with pitched thatch roofs and wraparound balconies. Most of the timber was collected over a decade while the owner was travelling in China, Vietnam and Indonesia, although the beautiful doors and windows were sourced locally. The resort is relatively selfcontained with a pool and gym, but guests will need to venture out for lunch and dinner. With Penang’s relatively small size and reputation as a foodie’s paradise, though, this won’t feel like a burden.
OFF JALAN KENARI, TAMAN DESARIA,
SUNGAI ARA, BAYAN LEPAS, PENANG
TEL: 019–362 0270
NANGA SUMPA LODGE, SARAWAK
As it comes up to its 30th anniversary, the award-winning Nanga Sumpa Lodge in Ulu Ai remains one of the first (and most successful) examples of village-based tourism in Sarawak where people looking to discover rainforests, nature and the charismatic Iban tribal people can have a base.
Ulu Ai is considered a relatively remote area of Borneo and the lodge is located on the banks of the Delok River, an approximately 4.5-hour land transfer from Kuching, followed by a 1.5-hour longboat ride from the Batang Ai Lake jetty. It is also uniquely situated to allow visitors to combine a range of outdoor activities with a longhouse visit as this region serves as a gateway to the Batang Ai National Park and the Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary – protected forests that harbour Sarawak’s last remaining wild orangutans. The lodge underwent a renovation two years ago to upgrade the facilities and add more accommodation wings, all of which share an Ibanstyle ruai, or covered verandah.
SUKAU RAINFOREST LODGE, SABAH
As Malaysia’s sole entry in National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World collection, the Sukau Rainforest Lodge wholeheartedly fulfills the revered publication’s requirements of providing comfortable shelter while offering a meaningful connection to the local culture and landscape.
Located on the Kinabatangan River, this lodge dates back to the 1990s when many of the Sabahan forests were being cleared for plantation expansion. Native Borneans Albert Teo Chin Kion and Baton Bijamin stepped in before this habitat-rich area was devastated and pioneered Sabah’s first ecotourism company and ecolodge. The highlight of staying at Sukau is the opportunity to discover well over 1,500 plant species, over 200 species of bird and many other species of primates and endemic wildlife in the Kinabatangan River basin. If you’re especially lucky, you might spot the Borneo Pygmy Elephant on any one of the Lodge’s three daily cruises along the river.
TEL: 088–438 300