July 23, 2019

Going Green: Eco Resorts in Malaysia

Ecotourism might be the most overused, misused, and clich├ęd term in the tourism industry. It was a word coined by scientists but then hijacked by the marketing department of many hotels most of which have little more than a landscaped pavement at the entrance to lure tourists onto their property. Ecotourism came into vogue as tourism surveys reported the increase in travellers seeking green, sustainable, responsible and eco-friendly holiday opportunities. There are some Malaysian hotels that are fully committed to the green cause and often it is what you cannot see that make a resort truly green. It is hard making good public relations press releases from treated wastewater and composting garbage, but these are some of the indicators of those who are committed to the cause. Many Malaysian resorts have taken giant steps in lowering their environmental footprint, and here are five that standout as places to enjoy a greener holiday.


One of the main principles of ecotourism is that the locals benefit from tourism development, and in Sarawak there are several destinations where this occurs. While Batang Ai is a dam, efforts were made to involve the local Iban community when the Hilton-managed Batang Ai Longhouse Resort was mooted. Now many work in the hotel and accept hotel guests into their longhouse communities for cultural exchange. Local longhouse architecture has been incorporated into the design of the resort while creature comforts are also in place. Staff conduct nature walks, longhouse visits and trips to Wong Luih Waterfall.

Website: www3.hilton.com


Kids love Club Med and that is good news for parents as they can chill out around the bar and pool while their child's every need is addressed by eager beaver staff. Club Med's eco-nature resort concept is set in coastal forest that is home to a menagerie of animals. Some 75% of the site is protected and the environmental policies put in place satisfy Green Globe benchmarking (the environmental barometer adopted by most hotels around the globe) and Accor's own PLANET 21 initiative. Waste water is treated on site and compostable garbage is returned to the soil. Green turtles lay their eggs in the soft sands of Chendor Beach between April to August and Club Med guests can visit the Cherating Turtle Hatchery operated by the Department of Fisheries.

Website: www.clubmed.com.my


When Frangipani opened in 2006 the management set about putting in place 200 green practices and has won many local and international awards for its conscientious efforts. These include the regulation options, ‘reduce, reuse and recycle', but also a general rethink about everything that occurs on their land and the effects they have on their immediate island surroundings on Langkawi. While maintaining a high guest experience, the resort is setting out to try and become self-sufficient in their use of many resources, such as water and energy. They capture rainwater in tanks for irrigating the grounds, treat grey water in an on-site wetland, compost rubbish to fertilise organic gardens, incorporate solar power and openly show others how to reduce their costs and save the planet. They also host Langkawi Live – One Earth Music Festival, held in November, where music and environmental activities feature.

Website: www.frangipanilangkawi.com.my


Sabah has many ecotourism propositions with Gayana Eco Resort being situated on Gaya Island which forms part of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Rooms overlooking the turquoise waters of the South China Sea are fabulous, and Gayana's coral reef restoration initiative is unique in Malaysia. Located just off Kota Kinabalu, the resort is a refuge for urban weary travellers. Gayana Eco Resort and its neighbouring and jointly-owned Bunga Raya Island Resort have established a Marine Ecology Research Centre to help restore coral reefs around Borneo.

Guests can participate in reef restoration including coral planting of broken coral fragments. Its Marine Kids' Club is especially appealing and guests can learn more by doing a PADI scuba course. 

Website: www.gayana-eco-resort.com


Sabah's Lower Kinabatangan River is one of the major focuses for ecotourism in the country. While surrounded by a number of oil palm plantations, the wildlife sanctuary is a protective habitat for many animals including orangutans, proboscis monkeys, clouded leopards and the Borneo pygmy elephant. Many wildlife lodges (including Sukau Rainforest Lodge) are located on the perimeter to offer deluxe lodges overlooking the river. It caters for small numbers and places emphasis on employing excellent and experienced guides to impart knowledge to guests (80% of the staff and 30% of the ownership are local). Activities are conducted from dusk to dark and the resort facilities include a nature library, with staff presenting evening slide talks. Boats with electric motors are used for riverine wildlife spotting. Small luxuries here such as outdoor baths, Wi-Fi and chilled beers in the Gecko Lounge confirm that eco- holidays need not involve sacrificing life's little luxuries. This hotspot is also where eco-celebrities like Sir David Attenborough, hole up when in the Kinabatangan.

Website: www.sukau.com

Source: Senses Of Malaysia.com January 2014

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