IMG_5969When there’s wildlife, sea creatures and exotic plants in mind-blowing abundance, the beach is a bonus at the Datai rainforest adventure retreat, writes Michelle Walsh


As an Australian who lives on one of the worlds’ greatest coastlines, impressing me with a beach is like astounding Gordon Ramsay with your Beef Wellington. Langkawii however, has sand so fine it feels like silk under foot and water with more clarity than my post morning espresso mind. As a first time visitor I was eager to experience the Island famous for white crested eagles, dusty leaf monkeys, and ten million year old rainforest. The beach just seemed to be like a gift with purchase when booking a stay at The Datai, Langkawi.

In the lobby, two giant statues of proud looking horses adorn the space like guardians of the hotel. The lily pond is a striking sea of fuchsia. Flowers open in the evening, as though they have dressed for cocktail hour and the view from the balcony over the forest to the sea is an impressive welcome to this Langkawi institution.

Spacious suites fill the canopy like a luxury tree house with freestanding pool villas dotting the rainforest floor right though to the ocean. Villas run along the edge of the sea, delivering guests a unique rainforest to beach experience. Our suite, a secluded high heaven with, dark wood finishes, and large wrap around balcony on gigantic stilts in the canopy had more than enough rooms to easily misplace my husband.

The hotel is a nature lover’s dream and with a variety of walks and activities to get you in touch with your inner David Attenborough. Marine Biologist Jonathan is a walking almanac on all things ocean and his engaging nature, endless knowledge and quick wit is enthralling. Exploring the coast on a morning walk whilst discovering its inhabitants as eagles soar overhead is just the right amount of exercise for a guilt free seaside lunch at the beach club.

Dining seaside is an elegantly casual affair and lunching at your daybed overlooking the still waters of the Andaman Sea is a Zen like experience. The Quinoa super salad, steamed snapper with ginger and choice of fresh juices make lunching feel like a cleanse and reboot of the most delicious kind.

IMG_5787Parked out the front in Datai Bay like a floating work of art, is indigenous Malay junk, the ‘Naga Pelangii,’ Combining aesthetics of yesteryear with modern day luxury, it’s available to guests of The Datai and no trip would be complete without experiencing its old world charm.

With the excitement of a writer who has CAPS on lock my husband and I JUMPED at the chance to set sail on the sunset cruise. Weather had been spectacular since arriving in Langkawi but the night we decided to set sail, one giant cloud began doing an impression of a black horizontal cyclone.

Christophe and his crew seemed to magically outrun the ‘Debbie Downer’ clouds as we glided over the water, enjoying prawn canapés and a glass of vino. Toasting the suns departure, farewelling the day and enjoying the company of new friends was a perfectly interwoven element to the Datai experience. Lying on the nets as the boat sailed back was the icing on the cake of an elegant evening on the water.

Courtesy buggies are on call to whisk you to wherever you need to go on the expansive resort and getting to the renowned Gualai House after dark is an excellent use of this service. Tucked away in a traditional Kampung house, low Malay tables, organza drapes and rain forest surrounding make it impossible not to be impressed, even before tasting the delectable cuisine.

The array of starter’s wreaked havoc on my decision-making ability but the sample platter solved the problem. Dishes including the ‘Otak Otak’ of grilled fish and prawns in banana leaf and ‘Ketum Goreng Ranggup’ crispy soft shell crab sent my appetite to warp speed. The Mahi Tika from the tandoor oven with aromatic Indian spices was full of flavour and a palate cleansing house made mango sorbet had me thinking about which activity may best work this off in the morning.

The tranquil setting lends itself to early nights and sunrise starts, ideal for a morning of kayaking. Single and double kayaks are available to explore the clam waters and conditions make it a dream paddle for event the least experienced. A small island juts out from the south end of the beach perfect to circumnavigate at a leisurely pace.

Opposite the island is a deserted beach wonderful for pulling in to and having a swim or admiring the huge pieces of driftwood adorning the shore. Mangroves look like they are trying to walk off the beach on their tentacle like roots as kites fly over head scanning for prey.

A distinctive aspect of the resorts location is the coral reef right off the beach. A buoy marks the spot where to swim out to and underneath the water lies a tropical coral wonderland where clown fish dart in and out of soft coral, huge groupers cruise along the bottom and giant brain coral offers a backdrop to schools of parrot fish patrolling the area.

The culinary aspect to the resort is like heaven for this foodie and the array of healthy options added to indulgent menu offerings, strikes a balance between holiday and wellbeing.

With four restaurants to choose from offering distinctive cuisine styles you never need leave the sanctuary for dining variety.  The Pavilion restaurant, which opens for dinner, sits high above the forest floor on 30-meter high stilts giving the appearance of floating in the canopy with views all the way to the Tarutao islands. If that’s was not remarkable enough the food is a feast of the senses. Lobster, in my opinion is like sensible underwear under a short skirt, it should simply never be missed.


DSC_0039The stir-fried black pepper and capsicum Andaman lobster is nothing short of a religious experience. A stunning balance between the Thai flavours and the creamy texture of the lobster meat and served back in the shell making the presentation artful and the dish insanely delish!

Breakfast poolside at ‘The dining room’ offers exotic fruit plates, bespoke omelettes and most importantly excellent espresso. The pool area upstairs is a quiet sanctuary for adults as it’s a kid free area of retreat. The day spa, another grown ups only sanctuary is a haven beside a stream, deep inside the rainforest and the punctuation to your de-stress makeover. The signature hot stone massage is divine with the only disappointing aspect being that it had to come to an end.

My only real negative experience was leaving. I white knuckled the doorframe reluctant to leave rainforest paradise, which was awkward for my husband at checkout. He reassured me we would be back as it would be a crime not to share this with our children and it was only then I begrudgingly got in the car to leave. Some places are lovely; others relaxing and then some leave an emotional mark. Unlike so many large resorts, The Datai has a soul, which makes resisting a return futile.







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