Great for: Being one with nature without sacrificing the luxury!
What is it? Resort
Will set you back: MYR 1400 – 9000 p/n
There is something incredibly special about The Datai. Strategically positioned in the midst of a 10-million year old jungle that leads to arguably one of the best beaches in the world (National Geographic concurs), Datai Bay, the beauty of this world-famous resort is purely that – the true beauty of its natural setting. One of the first things the staff welcoming you will tell you is that The Datai prides itself on seamlessly blending into its environment, not imposing on it. It only takes a few minutes before you discover lizards, birds, squirrels and even families of monkeys on your walks around the resort, and above all else you won’t be able to ignore the palpable serenity. Any music at the resort is deliberately kept to a low volume, water sports are not allowed and the indigenous flora and fauna are respected at all times. You come to The Datai to switch off, recharge, and come back down to earth, and this aim is met unlike any resort we have stayed at.
At The Datai, you are well and truly in the jungle, and Architect Kerry Hill has designed the resort to ensure that it seamlessly slots in this one-of-kind environment, which is showcased to its full. The open-air lobby is rustic with its bounty of unstained, raw wooden beams, wooden horse statues and a large pond full of lily-pads and frogs. Continue on and you arrive at the lobby bar and welcome area with its stunning view over the turquoise Adults Pool and jungle, and a teaser of blue water on the horizon. The nature-focused layout and design of the resort is reminiscent of Australia’s Qualia Resort in Hamilton Island, although purposefully less polished to reflect its jungle surrounds. The Superior Villas, one of the room categories in the “Rainforest Experience” are equally designed to remind you of exactly where you are in the world, with plenty more wood, beams and a peaked roof, making the villa feel utterly authentic. The villa is oversized with a generous bedroom and a super-sized bathroom, and we think the latter is the hero of the room. The design of the space is simple, pleasant and airy, if a little dark, although this is to be expected nestled in amongst the giant greenery of the rainforest. If you prefer a view or a water-side feel, opt for one of the rooms in the “Canopy” or “Beach” experience instead. Although the Superior Villas are beginning to show their age (the resort was opened in 1993), they still make for very attractive quarters.
We found our Superior Villa very comfortable, with a large king size bed, a window seat and an outdoor deck nestled into the jungle, which was my favourite place to relax in the room. The Villa and the whole resort had excellent WIFI that was better than a lot of the internet connections we have experienced in cities, which we thought was brilliant given the natural setting. The bathroom is extremely large and has a beautiful layout with his and hers separate benches and basins, as well as wardrobes, and a large stool in the middle, perfect for a chat when getting ready for dinner. The only downside of the bathroom is the bath and shower are quite small, and we did have to keep all the blinds shut due to the close proximity of the next villa. The room is equipped with a coffee machine (although an outdated one), which is also a bonus when you can enjoy a warm brew on such a beautiful deck each morning. All of the technology in the room (dials and knobs etc) is in need of replacing, and the age of the villas in general is the one small negative here. However, one look at the other room categories is enough to convince me that this isn’t the case across the board and so I would strongly recommend booking an upgraded room such as the Datai Suite or Beach Villa.
The Datai has a gym, free WIFI, a library, a spa, two pools and a number of complementary and paid nature walks. The Adults Pool is naturally children-free and is high up near the lobby overlooking the jungle, while the second pool is positioned along with the Beach Club at Datai Bay, which is absolutely breathtaking. Datai Bay is a picture-perfect near-private beach with powdery white sand, warm clear water like a sheet of glass and next to no-one in sight. Water sports are not allowed, and it is the ultimate serene beach destination in our humble opinion. The layout of the resort has been designed so that each day you can choose to have either a jungle or beach experience, with pools and restaurants in both areas and a short walk separating both if you want to experience the whole lot! The Datai Spa is just beautiful, and I must admit we experienced the best massage we’ve ever had here – and we’ve had a lot of massages in our time! The open-air, natural environment is so quaint and serene you can’t help but be lulled into ultimate bliss by the sounds of the trickling stream in front of you, and the therapists truly give other five star resorts a run for their money. For the entire experience to be a 10/10, the spa checking-in service could be smoother, but this is soon forgotten once you lay down on that massage bed. An absolute must during your stay at The Datai.
The staff at The Datai are exceptional. From being offered free ice cream, water and face mist while lounging on the beach, to being given an “introduction” tour of the buffet breakfast on your first morning, the service is extremely well thought-out and well executed. Even being lightly stung by a jellyfish in Datai Bay will see you surrounded by friendly faces and helpful hands at The Datai. The nightly turn-down comes complete with a sweet treat such as brownies and chocolates, which we also loved coming back to after dinner each night. If there’s anything the staff can do for you, just ask and you shall receive. I asked for a flight itinerary to be printed off one evening and it was slipped under our door in record time. They don’t miss a beat and go to lengths to make sure your stay is memorable. Occasionally, this level of attentiveness can slip into overbearing territory, mainly during some of the meal services when the waiters tend to ‘hover’ nearby while you eat. At breakfast time in particular, the changing of plates and cutlery to suit each of the buffet options can perhaps become a tad much – especially if you’re not a morning person (ie. Me)! However, this is a very finicky criticism.
Dining at The Datai is very impressive. Often in ‘nature setting’ resorts, and especially island resorts, this is the one area where the quality often doesn’t match the five star level of the rest of the hotel, however at The Datai there are three restaurants and all serve excellent food. The Beach Club offers a relaxed lunch menu, great cocktails and a slightly more elegant dinner menu, naturally with a focus on seafood and accompanied by killer sunsets. We sampled the oysters (massive), tuna and prawns, and all were of a high standard. The menus have a mix of Western and Asian food but across the board, the chefs are consistent in their offerings. The Gulai House is set right in the jungle and is about as close to nature as a restaurant can get, and specialises in Malay and Indian food in a tropical, authentic setting with excellent service. Lastly, The Pavillion is set on stilts near the Adults Pool and serves delicious Thai in the sky… Be sure to make your reservation for before sunset, though, or you won’t be able to fully appreciate the view.
Datai Bay is so breathtakingly beautifu, many guests won't want to leave the resort. But for those staying for more than a few days, the UNESCO Geopark island has countless picture-perfect beaches ideal for lazing, while Pulau Payar Marine Park's azure waters make it perfect for snorkelling, diving, and marine-life watching. For those that are a little more restless, there is the island's Sky Cab and cable car ride that offers a beautiful bird’s eye view of the natural beauty of Langkawi. Click here to book your stay at The Datai.
Peaceful and beautiful nature setting