The Ultimate Guide to Malaysian Eco Resorts & Sustainable Accommodation.
When you think of an eco-tourism destination, does Malaysia come to mind? It will now! Malaysia has a great range of sustainable accommodation to enjoy: from farm stays to luxury beach resorts; from secluded rainforest retreats to mid-city hotels; from island camping adventures to durian tree-houses!
Malaysia is also home to some incredible wildlife and tropical forests, as well as world-class food that may not be quite the cheapest in South East Asia, but is still great value for money. And the mixture of cultures and rich traditions makes Malaysia a fascinating place, full of lovely people to meet, and activities that support local communities.
In addition, Malaysia boasts a bus system that put Australia’s to shame in terms of price, comfort, and availability, making overland travel easy and enjoyable. (Although we did happen to find the world’s grumpiest driver in Malaysia once, the rest of them were lovely!)
We spent two months in Peninsular Malaysia in 2017 and wished we had more time to head over to the Borneo side too. As you’ll see below there is a great range of eco-resorts and sustainable accommodation in Sabah and Sarawak, plus Borneo is an incredibly diverse ecosystem to discover. We will definitely be back to explore more of Malaysia!
These are our favourite sustainable accommodation finds, and further recommendations to check across most Malaysian states. I did a lot of research before our trip in 2017, and have completed even more for you to create this ultimate guide to Malaysia’s responsible accommodation providers. I have included links to other blogger’s posts and review scores for the places we haven’t stayed personally. All opinions are my own: we did/do not receive any discounts or remuneration from any accommodation in Malaysia.
- 1 A note on Homestays
- 2 A note on Greenwashing
- 3 SUSTAINABLE ACCOMMODATION BY STATE & CITY
- 4 Johor (Peninsular Malaysia)
- 5 Kedah (Peninsular Malaysia)
- 6 Malacca (Peninsular Malaysia)
- 7 Negeri Sembilan (Peninsular Malaysia)
- 8 Pahang (Peninsular Malaysia)
- 9 Pulau Tioman
- 10 Penang (Peninsular Malaysia)
- 11 Perak (Peninsular Malaysia)
- 12 Sabah (Malaysian Borneo)
- 13 Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo)
- 14 Selangor (Peninsular Malaysia)
A note on Homestays
Homestays are abundantly advertised in Malaysia, but we discovered that many of them are not what we expected, ie. the accommodation is not always within your host’s home. The Malaysian government offers incentives for homestay providers, so there is no shortage of homestay options throughout the country. It takes a little more work to ascertain which are ‘true’ homestays if that’s what you’re looking for, but they are available. Check out Homestay.com and the Malaysian Ibilik.com.my to search local listings.
A note on Greenwashing
As with everywhere, some businesses latch on to the concept of sustainability to attract more customers, without actually doing much of anything in a greener manner. Watch out for terms like Green or Eco in a name if you can’t easily find out what initiatives the accommodation is engaged with. Sometimes they refer to the activities surrounding the residence or its proximity to nature rather than actual eco-friendly policies.
Doing your homework thoroughly, including reading reviews or contacting the provider, will ensure you’re getting what you want. We had an instance of rushing to book somewhere in Malaysia, which became our worst accommodation experience so far! And our treehouse stay was nice, but wasn’t really sustainable accommodation in the end. I’ve included them both below so you can see what happened.
If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia, be sure to check out our travel insurance provider, World Nomads. They support responsible tourism, are super-flexible and helpful, and as a customer you can make a micro-donation to one of their community development projects, too.
SUSTAINABLE ACCOMMODATION BY STATE & CITY
Johor (Peninsular Malaysia)
This was a beautiful Bed and Breakfast that we really enjoyed staying in when visiting Johor’s capital. Eco BnB is a social enterprise that uses its profits to help the stray cats and dogs in the Setia Tropika region of Johor Baru, and in Singapore. The owners Keith and Jewel are ardent animal-lovers; keeping food in their cars at all times in case they come across hungry strays. They have adopted many animals and some cats live at the Eco BnB, so if you’re allergic or have an aversion, perhaps it isn’t the best place for you!
Eco BnB uses locally-sourced and upcycled products, and provides fully vegetarian — and absolutely delicious — breakfasts on weekends, by request. They also employ a local staff member and strive to minimise their carbon footprint.
Eco BnB’s sustainable initiatives:
- Profits used to assist stray animals
- Local pallets sourced for some furnishings. Painted in low-VOC paint.
- Local organic food used where possible
- Reminders to switch off appliances and use less water
- Strives to minimise their carbon footprint
You can book the Eco BnB via Air BnB, or directly through their website. On AirBnB, you can book the swing bed room here, book the twin rocking beds here, or for a large group book the whole complex here.
If you’re new to AirBnB, use this link when booking to get $55AUD off your first trip of $110 AUD or more.
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Thumbs up for the awesome brunch we had here this morning! Organic, fermented waffle batter, home made chocolate hazelnut paste, delicately cooked apple with cinnamon and raisins, and a mushroom omelette to top it off. When this #eco_bnb serves waffles, people come from afar especially for them! Thanks again Keith and Jewel! I have a new post on our blog today, about all of the mistakes we made in setting off on this trip. Hope it helps anyone setting off travelling too! The direct link is in our bio. . . . . . . #smallfootprintsbigadventures #smallfootprints #bigadventures #vegetarianbreakfast #thebestwafflesever #ecotravel #ecoblogger #greenbloggers #greenblogger #sustainabletravel #sustainableliving #travelwithkids #kidswhotravel #kidstravelblog #sustainability #ecotourism #worldschoolers #worldschooling #malaysia #johorbahru #greentravel #greentraveller #greentraveler #greentravel #ecotravel #brunchisserved #brunchismyfavorite
Kedah (Peninsular Malaysia)
We were disappointed in this popular island. Langkawi hotels abound yet more are being built right on the shores, with no care of their environmental impact. We found people there quite unfriendly sometimes, and most of the island felt overcrowded, which are both signs that too many tourists have descended upon it. The beaches are now not very nice in most parts and are host to huge amounts of watersports which are polluting them further.
That being said, there are some sustainable activities to discover, and some dedicated sustainable accommodation too. We were unwell for our first two weeks in Langkawi, but once we recovered and found some fun things to explore, we enjoyed the rest of our time on the island. Our Mangrove Tour in the Kilim Geoforest Park was amazing, and a great example of tourism being fun and responsible.
We booked our stay at the Green Village in rather a hurry, and took it as it appeared to be eco-friendly and was within our budget. It was a huge mistake not to read the reviews. We arrived to what seemed ok on the outside, but when we got to the room, it was awful. It looked nothing like the pictures on their website; no pretty decorations or even nice bedspreads, the walls were filthy and there were mosquitos everywhere inside. We requested another room and while it was a bit cleaner and not infested, the shower head was broken, and the TV was connected from a low-hanging extension lead; through the bathroom door, outside to another room!
They would not give us a refund for even part of our stay, but the staff did work with us to fix everything up so it was at least safe. Most of the staff were nice and tried to be helpful, but we never felt comfortable there. The food was average and very repetitive, although the cook was lovely and tried hard. I think she had a very limited budget to work with, and perhaps all departments did, resulting in their very poor maintenance. Many reviews warn that The Green Village is not what is appears online, and many also say money was stolen from them while staying there. We later discovered that some US dollars went missing from my backpack, and we suspect it had the same fate. Needless to say, stay away from this place.
Another budget sustainable option in Langkawi is Tropical Eco Camping, located between the sea and the Teluk Dalam rainforest. With a private beach and many animals to spot in the surrounding water and forest, it is a beautiful position to really enjoy nature in Langkawi.
Tropical Eco Camping
is an ongoing effort to revive the place, building a campsite, maintaining its natural landscape with plans to grow more mangroves while nurturing current ones. Our ECO landscape project includes growing local fruit trees and restoring the river to attract variety of bird species and other habitants.”
As we were unwell for most of our time in Langkawi we weren’t keen for a camping experience, otherwise we would’ve liked to try it.
Reserve Tropical Eco Camping with Wotif.com.
We ate at a great restaurant called The Kasbah several times in Langkawi, and loved their eco-initiatives as much as their food! They now have backpacker accommodation too; definitely worth checking out for a budget option.
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We found an awesome restaurant last night that rent out reusable containers when the night market is on nearby; for free, just asking for a refundable deposit. They also serve with reusable straws, they first place we've seen do that in Malaysia! Plastic containers and straws a such a big issue, it's wonderful to see places taking a stand like this. Well done Kasbah! And your food was amazing too! . . . . . #smallfootprintsbigadventures #smallfootprints #reusables #reusablestraw #reducewaste #waronwaste #environmentalism #environmentallyconscious #environmentallyfriendly #takeastand #bedifferent #leadingtheway #itseasybeinggreen #greentravel #ecotourism #cleantravel #partofthesolution #kasbahlangkawi #plasticiskillingtheocean #loveourplanet #gogreen #responsibletourism #responsibletravel #beresponsible #shiftingtosustainability #greenliving #sustainableliving #greencafe #ecorestaurant #conserveourplanet
The Fifth Estate and many others recommend The Frangipani, an award-winning 4-star resort.
The Frangipani’s sustainable initiatives:
- 100% natural water filtration system
- Energy-efficient lighting and solar water heating
- Organic garden and produce used in restaurants
- Composting and worm farms
- Recycled and repurposed materials used throughout
- Staff and guest education programs
- Plants used to deter insects naturally
Luxury Collection Resort The Andaman is another upmarket option on Langkawi recommended by various websites and bloggers. It was built with minimal interference to the surrounding rainforest and has its own private, unspoilt beach. The Andaman runs a coral nursery that guests can get involved with, and they have resident naturalist and many nature activities to choose from. Old posts about the resort detail many other environmental initiatives, but they are not listed on The Andaman’s current website and I am unable to verify them. Please contact The Andaman directly to enquire.
Malacca (Peninsular Malaysia)
We were hoping this homestay was in the same building as the host family, so we could get to know them and have a proper homestay experience. It wasn’t, which led to our understanding of the homestay situation in Malaysia!
Despite that, we enjoyed our stay at Klick Klock. The room was very spacious for the price and it was a great location for us to explore beautiful the UNESCO World Heritage city of Melaka.
We stayed for a week and enjoyed many activities there, but if you only have a few days to explore, check out this Two Day Melaka Itinerary for all of the highlights and some unique things to do.
The King’s Green Hotel in the city centre is a 4-star hotel with excellent eco-credentials. Blogger Choi Yen has a detailed review of her family’s stay there in early 2018, which they found restful and enjoyable.
The King’s Green Hotel’s sustainable initiatives:
- Compliant with the Malaysian Green Building Index
- Rain water harvesting
- Actively reducing power and water consumption
- Recycling and composting systems
- Charging facilities for hybrid cars
- Bicycles for rent
Negeri Sembilan (Peninsular Malaysia)
We had hoped to visit The Dusun en route to Tioman Island, but ended up choosing a different path. The Dusun is about an hour from Kuala Lumpur but is very far from city life, with 6 stunning bungalows set amongst fruit orchards and adjacent to the pristine Berembun Rainforest Reserve. The Dusun is a member of responsibletravel.com and strives to support the local community and the surrounding ecosystem.
Their reputation as one of the very best resorts in Malaysia was recently cemented, as the Dusun won Luxury Eco-Friendly Hotel of the Year 2018 (awarded by The Luxury Travel Guide Awards).
The Dusun’s sustainable initiatives:
- Traditional Malay building techniques minimise heat and maximize airflow, naturally
- Recycled and repurposed materials used
- Zero waste policy, with guest education and systems in place to manage all waste products
- Salt water swimming pool
- Reverse osmosis-filtered drinking water provided
- Staff hired from the local community only
This eco-resort has two accommodation options to choose from: rustic wooden villas within the Resort, which are naturally ventilated; and air-conditioned villas with private pools within their Estate. The Shorea Retreats were built with locally-sourced natural materials, including recycled shorea tree timber and reclaimed roof tiles.
The Shorea’s sustainable initiatives:
- 100% of staff are Malaysian, and most originate within Negeri Sembilan
- Rainforest trekking to educate visitors about Malaysia’s natural wonders
- Salt water pools
- Rainwater catchment system
- Edible Garden that supplies organic produce to their kitchen
- Food Aids to the local Orang Asli (Indigenous People) Village
- Engaging the local villagers via English Lessons to their children via the Government supports (JAKAO ~ Department of Development for Indigenous People)
- Educational aids to the Kampung Pantai and contribution to the Local Youth Football Games
Pahang (Peninsular Malaysia)
This organic rice farm is a wonderful place to stay for families and groups. Set in a peaceful rural atmosphere, KOREF has many activities to engage in, including helping to plant or harvest rice, a water obstacle course, and searching for animals to observe at night in the surrounding rainforest.
I have a detailed post about our stay at KOREF if you’d like to read more about it, though we stayed at their Kahang premise which has closed since our visit. Their other farm and accommodation option KOREF Desaru in Kota Tinggi is open, which has stone chalets and treehouses to stay in.
KOREF’s sustainable initiatives:
- Grows and uses organic produce
- Provides free filtered water refills for all guests
- Accommodation made from recycled/sustainable materials
- Water is reused around the farm
- Supports locals and people living in the surrounding rainforest
The plastic-free Rimba Resort is locally-built with all natural materials, in a Kenyan-hut style that is very open. No doors or windows, and no air-conditioning needed! They also operate a turtle hatchery to help sea turtle populations recover. Miss Filatelista has a review of Rimba Resort that details more.
- Beach clean-ups
- No air-conditioning
- Food cooked from local ingredients
- Operates a turtle hatchery, from eggs purchased from local fisherman
- Discourages sea shell collection
Tioman Island is a popular and beautiful destination, and most of the island is still pristine. We loved visiting Juara Bay and experiencing such natural beauty, yet were saddened to see rubbish piling up around several large accommodations. When you visit Tioman (or any place) it is important to be responsible for your waste, and supporting eco-friendly accommodation providers ensures that your stay is sustainable in further ways too.
Tioman Island resorts range from rustic and simple to exclusive luxury, so you are sure to find something that suits you!
This “fashionably rustic eco-luxe” 4.5 star resort has a range of accommodation options, for travellers who want to get away with all of life’s luxuries and relaxation offerings. From treehouse or seacliff chalets to secluded jungle sarangs, each room at Japamala Resorts offers breathtaking views of Pulau Tioman’s natural wonders, and each is built only with reclaimed timber.
Japamala Resort’s sustainable initiatives:
- Salvaged timber used for all buildings
- Other natural materials used throughout
- Spa treatments use natural ingredients and pure botanical extracts
We volunteered here for a week to help with the Project’s many tasks, as they accept families for volunteering stints. It was wonderful! We hoped to be able to make a small difference as we travelled through SE Asia, and to get close to wild animals without disturbing them.
Juara Turtle Project is professionally-run by passionate staff, and their volunteering program needs helpers to do many unskilled tasks. We helped with the general running of the project, clean-ups and turtle activities, including transferring eggs to their hatchery and releasing baby hatchlings. It was a real highlight of our trip.
The Project is consciously managed with a view to minimal impact on the environment, and to help the community. The accommodation is simple and clean, with separate rooms for small families/groups that have attached bathrooms. JTP employs local staff members and encourages Malaysian volunteers with discounted rates. And their location is unbeatable! It’s nestled in between the forest and the most beautiful beach in calm Juara Bay, with several excellent snorkelling locations very close to the project. We felt extremely lucky to have access to such a pristine part of the ocean.
JTP’s sustainable initiatives:
- Turtle and coral conservation work
- Education for visitors, school groups and the community
- Free filtered water refills for staff and volunteers
- Weekly collection of Juara Bay recyclable trash and beach clean-up
- Saves power with no hot water for the showers or air conditioning. Fans are provided.
- Employs local staff and encourages Malaysian volunteers
- Recycling and reusing wherever possible
Contact Juara Turtle Project directly to book: Email is best at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +6 09 419 3244 or +6 017 438 3038.
At the other end of Juara Bay, Riverview Chalets is the responsible accommodation choice to enjoy the best of beautiful Juara beach, if you don’t want to volunteer with JTP. We relaxed there for several nights after our week of volunteering and loved the laid-back, communal atmosphere, and the stunning setting. Our chalet was wedged in between the beach and a mangrove river, which we kayaked down a few times to spot sleeping pythons and monkeys.
Riverview is closely connected with JTP and the Juara Lagoon outdoor education centre, supporting the efforts of both. They also own much more uninhabited land than the chalets are built on, to prevent it from being developed. It is leased only to locals so they can use it to earn income.
Riverview’s sustainable initiatives:
- Free reverse-osmosis water refills
- Proper collection of trash for recycling and various projects
- Support of the Juara Turtle project and broader conservation efforts
- Employs local staff
- Member of Reef Check Malaysia
- Traditional kampong-style buildings naturally allow air-flow, so no need for air-conditioning
- No hot water in the shower (you don’t often want hot water on Tioman Island!)
Contact Riverview directly to book: email email@example.com or call +60 (0)19419 3168 or +60 (0)19730 55047
This family-friendly eco-resort is on a different part of the island to Juara Bay. Melina Beach Resort is secluded and committed to preserving Tioman’s natural wonders, with rustic accommodation and a relaxing atmosphere.
Melina Beach’s sustainable initiatives:
- ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ philosophy in all operations
- Repurposed materials used throughout the resort
- Guest conservation education, including guided treks and snorkels with a biologist at certain times of the year
- No pier at the actual resort, so as to not disturb nearby coral reefs
Penang (Peninsular Malaysia)
This is an eco-retreat on an organic durian farm, so durian lovers, you’re in luck! Green Acres has more than 32 different durian cultivars to sample, some from trees over 80 years old. The accommodation is in sustainably-built lodges, some as treehouses, using durian-wood as well as recycled timber.
Lindsay from the Year of the Durian blog has a great post about her time at Green Acres.
Green Acres’ sustainable initiatives:
- Organic farming techniques
- Recycled timber from old village houses and unproductive durian trees used to construct the accommodation, with traditional methods
- Solar electricity
- Members of the International Slow Food movement
- Spring water pool
Bookings are made through Green Acres Penang’s website.
Johanna Read at the Wayward Post recommends Hotel Penaga, a compilation of sustainably-restored colonial buildings. Owned by an architect and an environmentalist, Hotel Penanga has been awarded a Gold Rating by the Malaysian Green Building Index for its commitment to sustainable operation and good conditions for workers.
Hotel Penaga’s sustainable initiatives:
- Recycled and repurposed materials used throughout
- Local workers favoured for the restoration work
- New materials often handmade locally
- Solar hot water heating and electricity
- LED lights used throughout
- Salt water lap pool
- Mostly indigenous plants in the garden, which is watered from rain-catchment
Perak (Peninsular Malaysia)
Green Pearls scores the Belum Rainforest Resort very highly for its environmental protection, being local, providing authentic experiences, giving back and cultural commitment. The resort includes a conference room and a day spa.
Belum Rainforest Resort’s sustainable initiatives:
- Nature walks and wildlife spotting
- Water sports and activities (non-motorised)
- Education and research initiatives
- Sustainable and recycled materials used throughout
- Development planned around existing buildings to minimise land clearing
- Energy- and water-reducing systems in place
We enjoyed our stay at this resort, as we got to stay in a treehouse! Dante and Allegra were very excited to do that, and while the treehouse chalets are actually built around durian trees, not on them, it was still fun. The tree is not touched at all by the dwelling; thick perspex encloses the chalet fully, so you can see the tree but not touch it. We were initially disappointed by that, until we had a monkey hopping on our roof in the middle of the night! I am sure it would’ve been able to get inside had the chalet not been enclosed. We had some fruit in the room that probably attracted it.
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We stayed in an actual treehouse! This was our stop-over accommodation in Ipoh. It was a great experience, and so beautiful there. The accommodation is carefully built around existing trees. I was surprised to discover that the hole around the tree was fully enclosed from the inside. Initially I was disappointed, until we realised why: a monkey that hangs about the area was tap dancing on our roof during the night! It could've gotten in if the hole was open! Apparently it's always looking for food, so it probably sniffed out our fruit stash. Much as I love animals, I'm not really sure I'd like a wild monkey inside our sleeping area at night! . . . . . #smallfootprintsbigadventures #smallfootprints #bigadventures #amazingplace #treehouse #ecotourism #ecotravel #ecotravelling #cleantravel #greentravel #naturesgifts #openmyworld #unusualaccommodation #travelgood #travelawesome #slowtravel #uniqueexperience #travellerlife #treelife #treelovers #treadlightly #treehugger #sustainabletravel #sustainable #sustainability #loveourplanet #ouradventures #travellingfamily #globalwanderers #funforallages
Though the monkeys were kept out, the mosquitos were not. The bamboo structure had many small gaps that mozzies could easily make their way through, which made our 2 nights’ sleep there not very peaceful. And though it is called an Eco resort, bottled water was provided and there was little we could see in terms of active sustainability measures.
The Roots Resort did have trampolines and a nice pool and it was located next to a river that you can swim in. The gardens were beautiful and well-maintained, and it would be great for groups to enjoy with or without kids. The resort is right on the main road so our treehouse did have some traffic noise. The food was good, although please note they only provide evening meals by prior arrangement.
Sabah (Malaysian Borneo)
This is run by MESCOT, a community-based ecotourism cooperative, which also has a homestay program, several conservation projects, and volunteer work available. The Rainforest Eco Camp is comprised of 10 live-in jungle platforms that are paradise for birdwatchers, plus there are 4 lakeside observation platforms and more than 18km of nature trails, boardwalks and tree hides to discover the wonders of the Borneo jungle:
With five different types of floodplain forest, 208 species of birds, 10 primate species, orang-utan, gibbon, clouded leopard, otters, sun-bears, flying lizards, and a plethora of other wildlife, Tungog Rainforest Eco Camp offers a great platform for wildlife observation in a number of unique habitats”
Local nature guides are available to educate visitors and groups, and river trips, cave explorations, specialist wildlife observation, and conservation activities are on offer.
Tungog Rainforest Eco Camp’s sustainable initiatives:
- Designed to be zero waste and have zero chemical usage
- Maximum water conservation inherent
- Proceeds from guests support restoration projects for the Tungog Lake and orangutan habitats
- Local villagers hired as nature guides
- Forest conservation and restoration work
This award-winning resort next to the Danum River is run by Borneo Nature Tours. The Lodge has a range of different chalets to choose from, all with ventilation to replicate natural airflow and negate the need for air conditioning.
Since 2014 The Borneo Rainforest Lodge has been implementing a Green Practice Initiative, to do their part in preserving one of the last remaining lowland rainforests in Borneo.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge’s sustainable initiatives:
- Reducing plastic waste and maximising the reuse & recycling of waste
- Reduced chemical usage through use of eco-friendly repellants, toiletries and cleaning agents, home-made insecticide and natural fragrances
- Reduced energy consumption with solar panels, LED lights and energy-saving bulbs
- Encouraging environmentally friendly attitude & behaviour of guests and staff
- Measuring, monitoring and continuously minimising their environmental impact
Contact the Borneo Rainforest Lodge directly via their enquiry form or call +60 89 880 207.
On Gaya Island, just off the coast of Sabah, Gayana Marine Resort is comprised of 52 luxury overwater villas. Gayana was the first resort developed by the Echo group, and states that
the heart of the resort is the protection and regeneration of the island’s precious marine environment – the on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre, the only of its kind on an island resort, propagates endangered giant glams and coral reefs.
Visitors can get involved with marine conservation efforts while staying at Gayana, as well as trekking through the jungle, paddle-boarding, kayaking, snorkelling, or scuba diving with the resort’s own PADI certified dive centre (no experience necessary).
Gayana Marine Resort’s sustainable initiatives:
- On-site research and rehabilitation facility, hosting their Giant Clam Restocking Programme and Reef Regeneration Programme
- Preserving and conserving local ecology
- Bukit Therapan community donations
- Sources organic produce from a farm in Kinarut
- Sources chemical- and antibiotic-free fish from Borneo Eco Fish
This jungle camp is located in the primary rainforest at the foothills of Mt Kinabalu, on some private land owned by Sadib Miki from the Kiau Nuluh village. It was started by Mr Miki (a licenced tour guide) to help conserve the area, and he teaches visitors jungle survival skills that have been passed down from generation to generation. The accommodation is basic camping style, and I have read on reviews that it’s not for the faint-hearted! But it’s a wonderful option if you’re looking for an authentic experience in which you can learn real-world skills like jungle navigation, identifying edible foods and making campsites.
Miki’s Survival Camp sustainable initiatives:
- Conservation of the primary rainforest through tourism and education
- Local staff members employed
Contact Mr Tham Yau Kong at TYK Adventure Tours on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +60 88 232 821.
If you’re planning to hike the mountain while you’re in the area, check out this Ultimate Guide to Hiking Mount Kinabalu.
Along the banks of the Kinabatangan River, the multi-award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge is one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World. The Lodge embraces conservation and ecotourism, aiming to provide luxury comfort while preserving the Kinabatangan flood-plain. About 80% of their staff are from the local communities and the lodge was built by local artisans; ensuring sustainability for Borneans as well as the surrounding environment. MC Adventure blog has a great post about their time in Borneo and stay at Sukau.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge’s sustainable initiatives:
- Reduced power consumption via many methods for electricity and lighting
- 100% self-reliant for water with rainwater harvesting. Other water consumption reducing techniques and solar hot water heating also used throughout
- Free drinking water refills available for guests
- Low-noise and zero-emission boat engines used, to minimise pollution and wildlife interference
- The lodge is built on stilts to minimise the impact from annual flooding, and is built to only require low energy consumption via passive cooling
- Providing ingoing development opportunities for local staff members
- Naturalist guides and visitor education programs
- Contributions to community and environmental projects
Contact the Sukau Rainforest Lodge via their facebook page, or call the reservations office on +6088-438300.
Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo)
For a really authentic experience that supports local communities, there are longhouses around Kuching that are available for tourists to stay in. Most do not have phones or internet access, so arranging a stay is best done by contacting the Sarawak Tourism Board as early as possible before you arrive.
More tips and information about staying in a longhouse and visiting Iban people is available here from Trip Savvy, and travel writer Becki from Borders of Adventure has a great post about her experience staying in one.
In the centre of the city of Kutching, the family-owned Lime Tree Hotel was redeveloped to be modern and eco-friendly. It is a mid-priced option that is a great choice for travellers wanting hotel comforts and healthy food.
Read a review from Michael of The Bemused Backpacker’s time at the Lime Tree Hotel here.
Lime Tree Hotel’s sustainable initiatives:
- VRF inverter air-conditioning system used in all rooms
- Modern heating system technology used waste heat from the air conditioners to supply hot water
- Energy-saving light bulbs used throughout
- Mini-fridges use low power-wattage, and mini-coolers available for free loans
- Dispensers for shampoo and body wash used instead of single-use bottles
- Reduce, reuse and recycle principles followed
Located about half an hour from Kuching city, this secluded resort has camping sites, ground-level cabins and 20ft high treehouses to choose from! Permai Rainforest Resort is committed to preserving the Santubong Peninsular rainforest from unsustainable development. Their conservation efforts extend to maintaining the natural environment beyond their own acreage.
Permai Rainforest Resort’s sustainable initiatives:
- Reusing all waste as a first step, and recycling properly as a last resort
- Composting all food waste
- Growing own vegetables and using own fertilizer
- Use of energy-saving light bulbs
- Sourcing furniture from recycled timber, sawmill offcuts, or from sustainable forests recognised by the Forest Stewardship Council
- Community assistance via maintenance and rubbish collection on public walking tracks, and selling locally-made handicrafts with proceeds fed back into the community
Selangor (Peninsular Malaysia)
Less than an hour from Kuala Lumpur, this jungle retreat is a relaxing oasis and a gateway to a host of nature activities. Owners Kamal and Hawa have created accommodation that
embraces the concept of sustainable living and respect for Mother Nature with great zeal. This can be noticed by its eco-friendly buildings, facilities and the luxuriant verdant surroundings.”
Dusuntara only opens with a minimum of 12 guests to ensure the retreat can run sustainably. Hawa cooks all meals and everyone comments on how amazing her food is! Guests can go fishing in their freshwater lakes, pick produce from surrounding orchards, trek through the jungle and visit nearby waterfalls and natural hot springs.
Dusuntara Retreat’s sustainable initiatives:
- Salt water pool
- Eco-friendly buildings
- Local fish used in meals
Contact the Dusuntara Retreat directly to book: Email email@example.com Phone (Call Only): Kamal +6019-318-4189 or Hawa +6012-211-4189. Whatsapp Inquiries: +6016-2164189
Read reviews on TripAdvisor
We only stayed very briefly in KL when we first arrived in Malaysia, and had great trouble finding our accommodation. We booked an apartment that was advertised as eco-friendly, but once we finally found it we discovered that apart from the furnishings being made from old pallets, nothing about it was particularly sustainable.
We booked it because we found it hard to find eco-friendly accommodation in KL that was relatively inexpensive, and that was big enough for a family. Had we stayed longer I would have tried to find a true homestay using Homestay.com.
Container Hotel Group was the first company in Malaysia to use refurbished shipping containers and concrete tubing to create funky accommodation options for travellers. Each pod or container can accommodate a maximum of 2 people, and they focus on providing the essentials while taking up minimal space. CHG have a container hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and a capsule transit hotel at KLIA2 for a bit of quiet time between flights.
This hotel was the first building in Malaysia to be awarded the Singapore BCA Green Mark Gold: an internationally-recognised certification for environmentally-friendly building and construction.
G Tower Hotel is for business travellers, with state-of-the-art facilities and every modern comfort. Green Traveler Guides has a post about Sleeping around Eco-Luxe in Kuala Lumpur that reviews G Tower and other luxury destinations in Malaysia’s capital.
G Tower’s sustainable initiatives:
- Double-glazed low e-glass allows natural light in but minimal heat
- Air conditioning uses less energy than traditional systems
- LED lights used throughout
- The pool is conditioned with salt instead of chemicals, and heated via waste energy from the air conditioners
- Environmentally-friendly cleaning agents used throughout
- In-built green walls naturally purify the air in the building
- Rain water catchment waters the green walls and roof
- Low-VOC paint used throughout
- Furnishings are made from recycled or recyclable materials
- Active recycling policy and staff education program
I hope this post helps you to plan your sustainable accommodation throughout Malaysia with ease! It is a beautiful country and each time you support these providers with your money and time, you cast a vote for better treatment of all people, better environmental practices, and better tourism. Enjoy magnificent Malaysia!
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