BEST NATURE STAYS IN BORNEO

BY ESTELLE EILISH, 11 JANUARY 2019

Borneo is home to some incredible lodges and nature getaways that will have you settling into pure comfort in the heart of the island’s natural beauty and stunning locations. Majority of the lodges are conveniently located at destinations surrounded either by ancient rainforest, sandy shores and shimmering sea and outstanding natural beauty. With so many beautiful stays  to choose from, knowing where to start can be a little tricky. We’re taking the guesswork out of finding the best lodges in Borneo with our insider review of some of Malaysian Borneo’s best kept secrets.

From jungle expeditions to tropical island getaways, Borneo has something to suit everyone’s adventure styles. Choose from luxury lodges based in the heart of Borneo’s jungles to boutique hotels in charming historical towns, we are sure you will be left captivated by Borneo’s beauty.

Jungle-based nature lodges

The Borneo Rainforest Lodge

Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL) doubles as an intimate sanctuary of luxury and tranquility set in the ancient rainforest of Danum Valley Conservation Area. A 2-hour journey from Lahad Datu gives you exclusive access to this award winning lodge and upon arrival, you will be greeted by welcoming staff and a blissful environment. The lodge boasts a number of chalets and premium villas as well as a spa facility to rejuvenate your tired muscles after spending hours exploring the natural wonders of Danum Valley.

You’re bound to have a wonderful time staying in the beautifully designed rooms and soaking in the outdoor bathtub

You may also indulge in a private pampering session as the chalets come with an outdoor bathtub facing the pristine forest reserve. Best to keep in mind that the forest landscape is not the same in all chalets, but the surrounding  view still looks like it came out of a renaissance painting no matter which room you are staying. During your stay, take advantage of the activities offered in the lodge by trekking the various trails or a night walk with a resident guide equipped with extensive knowledge of the natural history of Danum Valley, explore the rainforest from above in the canopy walkway, or go for a 4×4 night drive and catch glimpses of nocturnal species. The hub of BRL is the lowland dipterocarp rainforest brimmed with wildlife so you can expect to see gibbons, orangutans, or pygmy elephants while you’re there!

Whether you’re a couple going for a romantic getaway, a family on vacation, or a group of nature enthusiasts and avid birders, the lodge is the perfect place to enjoy mother nature up-close and personal. As a premium product, staying at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge does not come cheap, however this five star experience in the heart of the Bornean wilderness is worth every penny.

The rooms are built with Borneo’s wood and equipped with decks to enjoy the view of the forest

Tabin Wildlife Reserve is home to a great diversity of wildlife which includes endangered species. Efforts to protect these remarkable creatures began in 1984 considering the large amount of animals occupying the forest including a number of endangered species such as Bornean pygmy elephants. Within the reserve is Tabin Wildlife Resort (TWR) placed strategically to enable curious visitors to get up close and personal with wildlife. There are two lodges to choose from – River and Hill lodges. The spacious rooms and the tasteful wooden design make this one of the unique jungle lodges having you resting alongside the river or amongst the forested hillside amongst the trees. With resident Muller’s gibbons passing by the property most mornings you will awake to their echoing calls with opportunities to catch sights of these agile tree dwellers very close to the lodge. It is a rare opportunity to be able to get so up close with gibbons in Borneo and is a rare treat that is awarded to guest staying at the resort.

The variety of birds in the forest of Tabin makes it an exceptional place for birding enthusiasts to find pleasure in discovering rare and endemic species of birds. The packages offered are designed to ensure the experience is fulfilling and satisfying. You can also trek through the nature trails and explore a large amount of Borneo’s fauna. To increase your chances of wildlife encounters, we’d recommend to go for 4×4 safari in the vicinity of the reserve or rise at the crack of dawn and observe animals drink the water from the mud volcano. The mud is believed to contain mineral elements that are beneficial for the human skin so if you’re in need of a natural ingredient for your skin care routine while you’re in Tabin, take the chance to spread some on your face!

The walkway made from ‘Belian’ wood

Another nature lodge surrounded by the forest reserve to put in the list is Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort nestled in the Lower Kinabatangan. Entering the stunning resort is through a walkway made from ‘Belian’ wood; a rare species of timber tree. KWR caters to all sorts of travelers – budget travelers have the option to stay in the twin share rooms of Longhouse Cabin where basic facilities are mostly covered. The spacious deluxe chalets carry extra facilities and reserved for travelers looking for privacy and a unique stay.

But fret not, both the cabin and the chalets are equipped with amenities to maintain your stay as comfortable as possible. Next activity in line aside from the river cruises, is morning and night walks through the jungle trails. Incredible species of wildlife are regular visitors of KWR, you might get lucky catching sights of orangutan or langurs!

Boutique Hotels and Resorts

Ranee Boutique Suites stands out even more after the sun has set

Not exactly categorized as a nature lodge, The Ranee Boutique Suites is still a beautifully tasteful boutique hotel nevertheless. The strategic location will most certainly stir the adventurous side of you to explore the precious gems all over the cat city, Kuching. Because the hotel is centered in between Kuching’s electrifying waterfront and the culinary delights of China Street, chances of missing out on great opportunities are zero.

The Reading Lounge and bar facilities available at Ranee Boutique Suites

Ranee is the perfect place for travelers transiting from one destination to another to stop by for a short while and will have you perfectly placed to enjoy day trips from Kuching. You will be captivated by the unique decor incorporating authentic vintage design; a culmination of style from the past and the present. The rooms are designed and furnished with the utmost elegance and more interesting is the fact that no two rooms are the same. The hotel has shelves comprising of interesting reads and a working area in the The Reading Lounge, a convenient facility to fill up the hours. Ranee is the ideal place for a stopover and caters to solo travelers, families, and couples.

A superb aerial view of Aiman Batang Ai Longhouse Resort & Retreat
Photo credit: Aiman Batang Ai

A blend of traditional design and luxury, guests of Aiman Batang Ai Longhouse Resort and Retreat are in for a satisfaction-guaranteed getaway. The resort was built on the outline of a dense rainforest in Sarawak and it is not accessible by road – it takes 5 hours to travel by land and another 20 minutes boat ride to reach the resort. It grants you the opportunity to be completely away from the concrete jungle and unwind in the most relaxing way possible.

Indigenous Borneo designs to showcase the wonderful of the Iban tribe.  Photo credit: Aiman Batang Ai

The structure draws inspiration from the Iban longhouse in Sarawak and the rooms are adorned with indigenous Bornean designs which exude the rich culture of Iban. The amenities provided in every room are ample for guests to be self-sufficient. The facilities available at the resort are top notch – there’s a tennis court to engage in casual matches with your companion, a restaurant serving sumptuous spreads of local dishes such ‘Manuk Pansuh’, a lobby shop to treat yourself to unique handicrafts and souvenirs for a token of remembrance, and the list goes on.

Learn how to cook in bamboos when you stay in the resort
Photo credit: Aiman Batang Ai

Activities offered at the resort offer visitors a unique experience and has its own distinctive perks. We’d suggest going for a sunset cruise to soak in the evening rays and watch the sun slowly set on the horizon or upgrade your cooking skills to the next level by learning how to cook dishes in bamboo; just like the locals. If you are interested in team building events the resort is equipped to cater for corporate outings. Aiman Batang is suitable for adventure seekers, families wanting to spend quality time together, and company trips.

Mariott – Miri & Mulu

Pampering sessions over the weekend never hurt anybody, especially when you’re having it at a resort of an international brand! Miri Marriot Resort and Mulu Marriot Resort and Spa offer the highest quality of hospitality and luxury for fellow travelers; ensuring the stay to be as outstanding as possible. We listed out the exciting perks that each resort provides:

Miri Marriot Resort & Spa

Miri Marriott Resort & Spa
A 5-star resort in Sarawak famously known for their sweet delicacies.
Photo credit: Tripadvisor

Miri Marriott Resort & Spa is a luxury stay with a 5-star rating and what’s great about staying here is the fact that the resort is strategically placed not far off from the city centre and national parks. The interiors of the rooms are fashionably embellished with tasteful style and equipped with views that will leave you breathless.

Discover a variety of bursting flavours in the Zest Restaurant; offering only the best or satisfy your sweet tooth with baked goods in the Baking Company – fun fact: they are known for their cakes and breads. You may indulge in a full-body unwinding experience in the form of a relaxing massage and body scrubs at Mandara Spa but if you’re yearning to stretch those muscles with a good work-out session , the fitness centre is at your service. Create new memories with your loved ones when you stay at this resort.

Mulu Marriot Resort & Spa

The only resort in Mulu tucked within the lush rainforest of Sarawak
Photo credit: Sarawak Tourism

A 5-minute journey from Gunung Mulu National Park lands you at the resort and thanks to the strategic location, you’re able to engage in exciting activities that will get you closer to the natural wonders of Sarawak. Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa is Mulu’s only 5-star hotel, and the fact that it is located in Borneo’s dense rainforest makes it more amazing. The rooms and suites are styled to mirror the longhouses of Borneo, allowing you to have an exclusive insight of the local lifestyle. The spa provides Balinese-style atmosphere, a perfect cure to release the accumulated tension in the body and be fully relaxed to carry out daily routines.

Beach and Island Getaways

A luxurious paradise brimmed with lavish gems to soak in. 
Photo credit: Gaya Island Resort

Nothing gets better than enjoying the island life and staying in a 5 star resort built within Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Gaya Island Resort (GIR) is more than just accommodation; it is an oasis reserved for inquisitive travelers desiring to have a taste of luxury surrounding the resort. GIR is where you have the chance to romantically dine in a private beach while getting sunkissed and feasting on a gourmet meal. If that’s not enough, you can even arrange for an intimate dining experience and satisfy your palate uninterrupted.

Gaya Island Resort
Don your best attire and dine in one of the finest restaurant in the resort
Photo credit: Gaya Island Resort

The accommodation is never short of amazing topped with amenities that will make you want to stay longer. If you need help with choosing one, the Kinabalu Villas takes the cake for having the best breathtaking views in the resort but opt for the Canopy Villas if you’re leaning towards being near the resort’s facilities. Certified divers will be delighted to know that the resort offers PADI snorkelling and dive programs so you can explore the impressive diving sites in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Complement your getaway with an indigenous massage in the Spa Village Gaya Island as this wonderful therapy is brimmed with benefits that is able to help with circulation, mobility and flexibility. GIR is great for a holiday trip for couples and families and suitable for events and functions. It is also the perfect place create unforgettable memories!

The resort is a great place to have your dream wedding or going for a honeymoon
Photo credit: Booking

Whether you’re a pair of newlyweds searching for the perfect place for honeymoon or a couple of lovebirds waiting to say “I do” on a sandy beach, Lankayan Island Resort has the capacity to cater your every need. The resort sits on an island in the Sulu Sea with transfers departing from Sandakan. It boast a total of 16 luxury beach chalets with access to the beach and splendid views and not forgetting the 3 over-the-water luxury chalets. The main focus of Lankayan Island is the dreamy ocean and the diverse aquatic life; a wonderful opportunity to engage in scuba diving & snorkeling offered at the resort. The resort’s restaurant serves delicious servings of breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with the scenic view of the sea.

Reef Dive
Another paradise on earth to add to your bucket list
Photo credit: Agoda

Feel a massive surge of 7th heaven when you set your foot in the Reef Dive Resort located at Mataking Island. What you can anticipate after an hour journey from Semporna is an abundance of magnificence both on the sandy, white shore and the blue sea loaded with aquatic creatures to discover. The chalets and villas are saturated with touches of exquisiteness and comfort; even when home is miles away.

Whether day or night there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied. During the day, trek the lush forest and discover nature’s hidden gems on Mataking Besar or discover the surrounding area on an island-hopping excursion. When the sky is engulfed with darkness, immerse yourself in a breathtaking cultural performance but if you’re itching to dance the night away, then bring in your best moves! There are various facilities in the resort you can visit such as Jamu Spa to treat yourself with a good self-pampering, an exotic garden for a breezy stroll and restaurants serving tasty locals delights.

When you think luxury doesn’t get any better than this, it does

Luxury at its finest, Hibiscus Villa is an ideal vacation spot for family and friends looking forward to spending a few days away from the fast-paced city life! The stunningly designed villa comprises of 3 spacious bedrooms and can accommodate up to 9 individuals. The interior design will definitely spark an abundance of inspiration for creative minds and what’s more, you get the entire villa all to yourself.

Apart from the glorious views of the South China Sea, the pool and the garden, guests are invited to have a really great time during their stay by embarking in numerous outdoor ventures offered. A 15 minutes drive from the villa takes you to Mangrove River Cruises to enjoy a thrilling quest of watching wildlife in an exclusive setting. Surfers itching to catch some waves in Sabah, head over to the beach at the Tip of Borneo to ease your urge.

Treetop and clifftop chalets ideal for smaller groups

If a peaceful getaway in a tropical destination is your preference, Hibiscus Beach Retreat is one of the best options. The Clifftop chalet sits on a cliff facing the South China Sea and is a with direct access to the beach. Go for it if your retreat involves suntanning, swimming, or dozing off in the hammock as the cool air brushes your face. The Treetop chalet is somewhat bigger than clifftop and settles amidst the trees within the jungle. The deck is sufficiently large to fit a few sun loungers for you to revel in an absolute state of relaxation while slowly soaking in the gifts of mother nature.

If you wish to fit in more things to do, pay a visit to Kudat’s daily market or uncover a rich culture in the temples, the longhouses and the gong village located at Matunggong. We recommend lovebirds and a small group or families to enjoy their quality time in Hibiscus Beach Retreat.

Want a taste of everything?

Words are not enough to thoroughly describe the excitement and thrill you are getting when staying in these lodges. Nature lodges are part of the process of soaking in the full Borneo experience in its entirety and Sticky Rice Travel is here to assist you on that odyssey. We can assist you with tailor-made options so you don’t miss out on Borneo’s exceptional getaways. We’d love to hear what you have in mind and we try our best to cater your needs to ensure you’re getting only the best of out of the tours. Nothing give us more happiness than a client’s satisfaction. If any of the lodges above caught your attention, do not hesitate drop us an email at info@stickyricetravel.com !