Soul of the Jungle – The Datai Langkawi

Writer Véronique Lo | September 7, 2016

There is something magical about The Datai Langkawi – we know this as soon as we set foot on the resort grounds. There aren’t grand marble halls or any extravagant displays; instead, you pass through a green ‘tunnel’ – a driveway shaded by towering trees – to arrive at a hidden clearing where the quaint main building stands. A gong is sounded, and we are led straight to The Lobby Lounge for check-in, passing by a lotus pond as we make our way to the back of the building.    

Set on a forest ridge 40 metres above sea level, the main building, like the rest of the resort, was designed to honour the pristine surroundings and local heritage. Elements of traditional Malay culture abound, as antique torches, spears, iron brackets and two giant sculptures of war horses at the lobby take you back to a bygone era; while the open-air design invites nature in, literally – don’t be surprised to see a tree frog hopping around.

The Lobby Lounge faces the main pool and the Datai Bay, a private crescent beach that’s 300 metres away. Between the blue and turquoise waters, verdant jungles cover every inch of land. As we take in the postcard-perfect view while sipping a fresh honeydew juice, a chorus of frogs begins to echo the distant bird cries, setting a relaxing mood.

The Datai Langkawi is a haven built to encourage relaxation and reconnection with Mother Nature. It isn’t near any major tourist attractions, but the seclusion offers peace and quietude – a rare luxury if you’re from a city of seven million. The resort provides cars for guests who wish to go out although there is really more than enough to do within and around the property if you’re only staying for a few days.

Jungle Home 

At first glance it’s hard to tell the hotel is already 23 years old; on closer inspection, though, you will find it has aged gracefully.

When world-famous architect Kerry Hill discovered this magnificent location, he visualised a multi-level complex that would blend seamlessly into the prehistoric rainforest. His vision was realised in details such as unpolished railings designed to weather naturally with age, walls with a space for wild creepers and moss, and instead of an enormous modern hotel building, a moderately sized main building and numerous villas built from wood and rocks.    

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Our villa is part of the Rainforest Collection, which boasts more than 40 villas created for those seeking a thoroughly immersive experience. On the outside it resembles a rustic cottage; on the inside, however, is a charming home in warm wooden tones, fitted with a well-stocked mini bar, a balcony and a remarkably spacious bathroom. The AC has to run 24/7 to keep the humidity and heat away, but there are windows on all sides to make you feel encircled by nature, while the traditionally inspired decors and furnishings add a sense of place.

Chance Encounters   

For a chance to get up close to the wildlife here, grab a cool drink and a book – if you haven’t brought one, there are a few in the room and a wide selection in the Library – and lounge outside on the villa’s balcony that’s surrounded by native trees. Alternatively, take a walk around the property or join a guided walk.

Luck, patience and a keen eye are required for any wildlife sightings. We were eager to meet a fluffy dusky leaf monkey or two, but we didn’t see so much as a fly in our first afternoon here. As the sun sets, though, our first visitors arrive – a group of playful black and red squirrels sprint through the balcony before leaping onto a nearby tree in a game of hide-and-seek. The following days we are visited by more of the forest’s inhabitants: colourful tropical birds, pairs of dancing butterflies, nervous geckos and lizards, and a caterpillar taking a leisurely stroll on the railing.

Monkeys are known to be frequent visitors too; we’re told that they can even turn doorknobs and let themselves into rooms that are left unlocked! But fortunately (or rather unfortunately for an animal lover like me), no monkey tried to barge into our room; although we did have a few close encounters with families of dusky leaf monkeys and the more defensive macaque monkeys at the resort.

Between captivating tales Mobarak delivers an important lesson: that we can choose our relationship with the earth to be mutualistic, commensal or parasitic