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Borneo, one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, is an ecotourism haven. With an abundance of habitats and wildlife, including endangered species, sustainable tourism should be everyone’s priority. Discover our top ecofriendly hotels in Borneo, from isolated bungalows to hotels built using recycled materials to help conserve this beautiful environment. All can be booked through Culture Trip.
Shrouded in trees and perched on a narrow ridgeline, this sustainability-minded resort is the perfect base for you to explore the surrounding rainforest and get close with indigenous wildlife such as proboscis monkeys, orangutans and estuary crocodiles. Drawing on principles of vernacular design, the three duplexes (six rooms) and three longhouses (36 beds) are built with mostly reclaimed wood and local bamboo, and with as little interference to the natural landscape as possible. While there is air conditioning, you might just want to enjoy the cool breeze as you sip on a freshly squeezed fruit juice on your private balcony.
Gaya is the largest of five islands in Kota Kinabalu’s Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. A total of 52 overwater bungalows sit inside Malohom Bay on the eastern shores. Inside this ecofriendly resort, guests have views of either the mangroves, jungle or the South China Sea. But the luxurious experience isn’t the only factor driving tourism. The on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre focuses on regenerating and preserving the coral and endangered giant clams of the region. Expect the ultimate relaxation, pampering at the spa, world-class food, all combined with the chance to learn about critical conservation efforts.
For a relaxing retreat to a secluded beach resort near Kota Kinabalu, head to Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria. Located along Pantai Dalit, or Dalit Beach, the resort offers home comforts and nature activities. Expect the highest level of service from the professional and attentive staff who are passionate about their guests and protecting the environment. The beach here is pristine, the golf courses are ecofriendly, and you can visit the nature reserve or join night treks in search of the rare pangolin.
Sharing similarities to a ‘Sea Gypsy’ floating village, Kapalai Sipadan provides an ideal location for a secluded island getaway. Outside, a sandbank stretches in both directions forming a turtle nesting ground. The nearby dive spots rate among the best in the world. Non-divers don’t despair – snorkelling in the surrounding waters reveals a plethora of vibrant coral and fish. Kapalai Sipadan provides ecofriendly accommodation for a romantic getaway, diving enthusiasts and anyone who wants an experience like the incredible beauty of the Maldives in Sabah.
With 30 individual eco-sensitive chalets and catering to a maximum of 60 guests at any one time, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge near Danum Valley offers the ultimate jungle getaway. A long drive along trail roads is the only way to access one of the most ecofriendly resorts in Borneo. Each chalet has an outdoor bathtub providing a place to relax while enjoying views of the surrounding rainforest. Lucky tourists might spot some of the 320 species of birds or 124 types of mammals from the comfort of their room or bathtub.
For a minimalist and ecofriendly hotel in Borneo, check out Tabin Wildlife Resort located inside Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The reserve, the largest by area in Malaysia, on the eastern tip of Sabah near Lahad Datu provides 20 simple bungalows and chalets with just the necessary facilities for a comfortable and green stay. Tabin Resort offers a range of activities including tracking orangutans and hiking.
Sarawak has its fair share of ecofriendly resorts, and the Highlands Resort is one of the best. Promoting itself as a wellness sanctuary and offering 30 rooms and 10 jungle cabins, the resort caps guests at 60 each day. With a prime location at 1,000m (3,281 feet) above sea level in the Penrissen Range, the accommodation doesn’t just provide a relaxing getaway, it also offers a cooler and more comfortable climate. Chefs cook meals from using ingredients from the resort’s organic farms while the expert horticulturist staff educate diners.
Few ecofriendly resorts in Borneo offer the same experience as Aiman Batang Ai Resort. The 100-room retreat nestles in the heart of Batang Ai National Park, a stone’s throw from Sarawak’s border with Kalimantan. Traditional longhouse-style rooms offer a cultural experience like no other. An outdoor swimming pool next to the jungle is a highlight, as well as the cocktail bar overlooking the lake. But the environment isn’t the only way Aiman Batang Ai offers an ecofriendly retreat. Motion-sensitive light bulbs reduce their energy consumption in common areas. Resort activities range from visiting tribes and longhouses to fishing, trekking and canopy walks.
Covering 44 (18ha) acres, the Permai Rainforest Resort provides an ideal spot for a retreat near Kuching. Just 25km (15.5mi) north of the capital, the resort sits at the base of Mount Santubong. Carefully designed rooms and facilities reduce their environmental impact while the back-to-nature approach encourages conservation. You can marvel at the surroundings, or go birdwatching, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.
Against the backdrop of Sarawak’s Mount Santubong and offering views of the South China Sea, Damai Beach Resort provides a luxurious retreat within 40 minutes of Kuching. The hotel has a total of 242 modern rooms and chalets and promotes itself as one of the top ecofriendly resorts in Borneo. But don’t take their word for granted; spend a few nights and enjoy the seclusion, views of the lush jungle and the sprawling green landscapes on its doorstep.
Samboja Lodge in Kalimantan is built from recycled materials, has traditional handicraft decorations and uses hand-made cosmetics from local Dayak communities. Each room in this resort 35km (22mi) north of Balikpapan comes with a balcony overlooking the rainforest. But the biggest highlight in this ecofriendly hotel in Borneo is the ongoing orangutan project. You have the chance to learn from expert conservationists about how to protect the rainforest wildlife. Visiting Orangutan Island’s sanctuary is a highlight too.
Vanessa Smith contributed additional reporting to this article.