American naturalist and nature essayist, John Burroughs has this to say about the healing ability of nature, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” And I couldn’t agree more especially after the two years we have spent stuck between four walls. But now that travel restrictions have eased, it’s time to breathe in some fresh air and listen to real birds sing.
Whether you are feeling burnt out from work or need a change of scenery to recharge and reflect, spending some quality time in nature tends to help. And where better to relax and relish all the beauty and healing nature has to offer than the lush rainforests of Borneo?
Take time off from your gadgets, screens and meetings and spend time admiring the treasure trove that is right in our own country! Here are 8 places in the wonderful rainforests of Sabah where you can go to relax and recharge yourself because you deserve a break.
Sepilok Nature Resort combines rich tradition with contemporary luxury in their comfortable (and air-conditioned!) twin bed chalets that are surrounded by a treasure trove of tropical flora, huge trees, and beautiful orchids in bloom. It makes an excellent starting point for other wildlife attractions in Sabah such as the Kinabatangan River and the neighbouring Sukau region. And only a short walk away is the world-famous Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, home to the last wild orangutans of Northern Borneo. In fact, I saw a comment on one of their Facebook posts from a previous visitor who recommended staying at chalet 23. She mentioned her extraordinary experience of being able to have a one-on-one session with an orangutan that landed in the trees behind that chalet!
A jungle retreat complimented by home-like service to make for an unforgettable Borneo experience, Sepilok Forest Edge Resort comprises of beautiful Malay style chalets and a longhouse set against a backdrop of lush greenery and hills for an incredible view. Each chalet is built from recycled wood from Chinese houses that were from the 1940s! The interior is designed to be minimalistic and decorated with local drawings, handmade art pieces and pictures of old Sandakan. The longhouse known as Labuk B&B offers a more affordable option for backpackers and budget travellers. The rooms are equipped with bunk beds and divided into female, male and mixed dorms. Btw, don’t be surprised if you bump into orangutans as you walk about – it seems they have a taste for the fruit trees they grow there.
An award-winning wildlife and nature destination, Sukau Rainforest Lodge is located on the banks of the Kinabatangan River, which is home to some of Borneo’s most magnificent species. You will find yourself immersed in the serenity of the rainforest while you stay in one of the Superior Rooms or Borneo Villas that are set on stilts. Each one is equipped with air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms with solar-powered hot showers in line with their sustainability practices. There are many unique activities to choose from – birdwatching tours, river safari cruises, jungle trekking, etc. Do look out for the “5 must-see” of the animals at Kinabatangan River, which is the orangutan, Borneo pygmy elephant, rhinoceros hornbill, proboscis monkey and the Estuarine crocodile.
Located within the Danum Valley Conservation Area, the home of a 130-million-year-old ancient rainforest, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge offers premium accommodation for their visitors. Only able to accommodate up to 70 guests at a time, you can be sure that the rooms get booked fast especially during the months of April, July, and August. But you can’t go wrong with this eco-friendly boutique jungle lodge! Choose from a standard chalet, deluxe or premium deluxe river chalets – the river chalets include a soaking tub on the balcony overlooking the Danum River. Talk about soaking in the atmosphere!
Borneo Nature Lodge is an eco-friendly resort nestled along the Kinabatangan River’s riverbed, providing comfort without sacrificing the environment. A natural retreat for outdoor enthusiasts looking to discover the melting pot of species that can be found in Sukau – after all, the lower Kinabatangan wetlands are known to be teeming with many rare and endangered animals. The lodge has 12 rooms that can accommodate a total of 24 people. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience a rejuvating trip for the body and mind in the jungles of Borneo.
In the language of Kadazan-Dusun, Sabah’s largest indigenous group, Paganakan Dii means ‘the family’ and it is the concept on which this retreat was created. Comprised of a large central communion pavilion and surrounded by longhouses and stilt huts, it is the perfect place for budget-conscious visitors. The longhouses accommodate 12 persons in a dormitory-style setting with a communal bathroom while the Duplex stilt rooms provide a bit more privacy and comfort. Located along the Kinabatangan River, it is a wonderful place to relax and recharge while surrounded by nature.
A charming rustic kampung house that used to be a plantation house, ukkay (pronounced ohk-kei) was restored and refurbished to become a home for those looking to escape from a busy city life. Equipped with the simplest modern facilities such as toilet, hot shower, and a functional kitchen (no TV or aircon but there is WiFi), visitors are treated to the perfect place to laze all day. The house is in Kudat and while there isn’t anything in the immediate surrounding except rolling greenery, there are several beaches such as Tip of Borneo within an easy drive away!
Tabin Wildlife Reserve is the largest wildlife reserve in Malaysia with a total land area of 300,000 acres and within this reserve is the Tabin Wildlife Resort. Consisting of 10 units of River Lodges and 10 units of Hill Lodges, each lodge houses a twin or double beds along with an ensuite bathroom, hot shower, and a private balcony overlooking the Lipad river or the hillside forest. You are in for a treat whichever type of lodge you choose! There is also an abundance of nature-based activities such as visiting the Lipad Mud Volcano or trekking to Lipad Waterfall to complement your stay at the wildlife reserve.
Looking for another way to relax and recharge? Check out these spas in KL & Selangor: