Monday, January 18, 2016

Hotel insider: Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley, Borneo, Malaysia

I’m met at the tiny Lahad Datu Airport by a uniformed driver. The flight from Kota Kinabalu is disconcerting – you see vast areas of logged land that are now home to palm-oil plantations. 

My driver loads my luggage into a specially adapted Toyota Land Cruiser, and we go the short distance to Borneo Nature Tours’ office, where I complete registration and sign a waiver. 

Because it’s lunchtime and my package is for three nights, I’m bought lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant, before making the two-and-a-half-hour drive to the heart of one of the area’s last tracts of virgin forest.

On arrival at the lodge I’m met by a staff member called Daniel from Kota Kinibalu, who proffers a pandan-leaf garland, checks me in and takes me to my room.

The neighbourhood

The lodge is a sustainable tourism operation in the Danum Valley Conservation Area, 44,000 hectares of primary rainforest that’s home to about 1,500 orang-utans, plus thousands of other animal and plant species. There are 30 chalets, accommodating a maximum of 60 people at any one time.

The room

Most rooms are the same size, classed as standard and deluxe – deluxe rooms have a river view and outdoor bath. Rooms are built mainly of sustainable wood, with natural ventilation, built-in insect screens, a modern bathroom with rain shower (hot water heated by solar panels and using filtered stream water), comfortable beds, a minibar, sofa, tea- and coffee-making facilities, dressing area and safe. You’re surrounded by the sounds of the forest and river, but ensconced in relative luxury.

The scene

Most guests are middle-aged Europeans, mainly British and German, with the rest a mixture of American, Australian, Singaporean and Japanese. Some have specialist interests, such as birdwatching and photography, and when I stayed, there was a crew from National Geographic TV in residence. The inviting open-air restaurant, bar and lounge area has gorgeous views over the river and forest. Shoes must be removed at the entrance – you walk barefoot on the dark-wood floors. It’s functional and stylish.