Shangri-La Rasa Ria
The resort is set beside the beautiful Pantai Dalit beach, north of Kota Kinabalu, and surrounded by lush tropical forest.
Most rooms are in the main Garden Wing of the hotel, with a smaller number in the Ocean Wing; all come with a private outdoor area or balcony and satellite TV.
Dining options include Malaysian, Indian and Western cuisine in a variety of settings, including a beach bar. The resort also has two swimming pools, an 18-hole championship golf course and a spa offering a range of treatments.
Rasa Ria Resort offers a wide range of activities on land and water. Guided walks with professional rangers will introduce you to some of Sabah's other indigenous flora and fauna, including long-tailed macaques, civets, bearcats, monitor lizards, pangolins, and 63 species of birds.
Why We Love It
The Rasa Ria is one of those rare resorts which is perfect for both families and couples looking for some post-rainforest R&R. For the kids, there's a kids club, pool and miles of sandy beach to run around on, while for the couples, the Ocean Wing offers spacious rooms with huge balconies - complete with bathtub - and romantic beach dinners can be arranged in private cabanas at sunset.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Borneo Rainforest Lodge is located in the heart of the Danum Valley Conservation Area - a remote 200 square mile area of tropical lowland rainforest in Sabah province.
Arriving there involves a two-hour drive from the nearest town of Lahad Datu along a sometimes rough and bumpy road, but for anyone with an interest in exploring the fauna and flora of Borneo, the journey is well worth it.
The lodge can accommodate a maximum of 62 people in 24 bungalows built on stilts and strung out along the Danum River. Rooms are basic and rustic but have balconies and private bathrooms with hot showers. The bungalows are connected by a wooden walkway to the central lodge building which features a spacious veranda, dining area, small library and a well-stocked bar.
The Danum Valley was set aside as a conservation area in 1981 because of its outstanding biodiversity. One of the oldest virgin rainforests in the world, it contains over 320 species of tree, some of which tower 50 metres above the jungle floor, plus orchids, ferns, creepers and all kinds of other interesting tropical vegetation. Activities include guided trekking along jungle trails, swimming in natural river pools and night drives in search of nocturnal animals. There is also a treetop canopy walk for a different perspective on the rainforest.
Why We Love It
The pristine environment of the Danum Valley is home to over 100 species of mammals, including the rare Sumatran rhino and our distant cousin the orang-utan, as well as over 275 species of birds.
Lankayan is a tiny island in the Sulu Sea, off the northeast coast of Borneo, reached by a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride from Sandakan, sitting within a vast Marine Protected Area.
Unpopulated apart from the small resort, the island is covered by think tropical vegetation and ringed by a white-sand beach.
Accommodation is in simple wooden chalets, built on stilts right on the seafront, all with private balconies overlooking the beach and direct access to the turquoise-coloured ocean. Meals are served in an informal atmosphere at the central building, with its open-air terrace surrounded by swaying casuarina trees. There is also a sunset bar where you can enjoy evening drinks and barbecues with panoramic views.
There are no fewer than 14 dive sites dotted around the island, boasting healthy reefs, unbelievable colourful marine life, and two fascinating wrecks. Green and hawksbill turtles use Lankayan as a nesting site, and in season (March to May) there are also regular sightings of whale sharks. Watersports gear and equipment for diving, snorkeling and ocean kayaking are available for rental at the resort's dive centre.
Why We Love It
An ideal destination for those in search for tranquility and relaxation in a pristine natural setting, Lankayan Island is also one of the hottest diving destinations in South East Asia.
Shangri-La Tanjung Aru
For sheer ease of access alone this resort hotel is worth considering. Just ten minutes from Kota Kinabalu Airport Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru is also within easy reach of the city centre and several pristine coral islands.
There's nothing shy and retiring about this hotel - think 492 rooms, seven restaurants, spa, golf, tennis courts and watersports galore, two pools and a wading pool for children. The rooms are decorated in a contemporary style and with the Bornean textures and colours in evidence throughout the hotel. All the rooms have private balconies and the hotel itself sits in 25 acres of landscaped gardens and has an excellent beach.
Why We Love It
Rooms and suites in the Kinabalu Wing have memorable views of the sea or south east Asia's tallest peak, Mount Kinabalu.
Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Reconnect with nature in a private eco-resort of just 20 bungalows nestled in Malaysia's largest wildlife reserve, and by large we mean twice the size of Singapore. Tabin Wildlife Reserve occupies an expansive area of dipterocarpaceae rainforest in the eastern part of Sabah, and is coloured in beautifully diverse flora and fauna.
Timber boardwalks lace through the Malaysian jungle connecting ten hillside and ten riverside bungalows, authentic in design and using materials that blend into the surrounding environment. Rooms are basic but complete with their own en-suite bathroom and private balcony overlooking the hillside forest or Lipad River.
Follow the boardwalk and you'll come across the hotel's Sunbird Cafe serving local and western cuisine, as well as drinks and snacks throughout the day.
Knowledgeable guides are on hand to enhance your experience, ready to point out and educate on flying squirrels, exotic birdlife, pygmy elephants and other unusual flora and fauna that makes up this extraordinary rainforest. Hiking and night drives both offer incredible opportunities to spy macaques, wild boar, orang-utans and, if you're really lucky, the rare clouded leopard. Meanwhile twitchers will be in their element with sightings including the Bornean bristlehead and all eight local species of hornbills. Nature lovers, adventure seekers and photography aficionados of any kind will be spoilt with what Tabin has to offer.
Why We Love It
You don't have to venture further than your balcony to feel surrounded by lush forest and its inhabitants!
Myne River Resort
This boutique jungle lodge is made up of rustic chalets dotting the hillside on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. The natural beauty extends to the lodge being backed by a wildlife reserve of Borneo jungle. All the key ingredients to an animal-lover's paradise really...
There are 12 detached and two semi-detached chalets to choose from here that embody the resort's organic and back-to nature approach. On the basic side perhaps, but each one is spacious and complete with its own en suite bathroom and private balcony.
All ventures into the great outdoors require a satisfied appetite so of course Myne River Resort has its own lounge grill and restaurant, serving locally sourced cuisine on its large deck.
Tempting as it may be to just linger on the deck or bask on your balcony, Myne Resort is really for those with a great appreciation of nature, curious to delve further into the luscious flora and seek out the local residents. Among these are, of course, our ginger tree-swinging relatives, the orang-utans, as well as proboscis monkeys, Borneo pygmy elephants and long tail macaques. The resort's guides are experts at spotting wildlife and are on hand to share their knowledge during jungle treks, river cruises and even night safaris.
Day-trips and nearby attractions include Gomantong Cave, Labuk Bay Probiscis Monkey Sanctuary, Lankayan Island, Sandakan Crocodile Farm, Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary and Turtle Island Park. As we were saying, animal lovers' paradise...
Why We Love It
This is arguably one of the best hideaway locations in the whole of Malaysia; right on the Kinabatangan River with amazing wildlife-spotting opportunities!