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Malaysia / One&Only Desaru Coast

After picking arguably the best spot in 128 acres of jungle, One&Only’s first Asian settlement has put Desaru’s tranquil beaches on everybody’s radar, from fly-and-flop families to ecological enthusiasts.

Locals have known about the allure of the ‘village of soft palms’ (the Malay meaning of Desaru) for decades, it’s their go-to summer holiday playground. But while we could draw parallels to our own seaside jaunts, there is one thing that this area has over our dear British coastal towns – it’s gloriously quiet. As the trees slowly become golden grains while weaving your way through One&Only’s woodland-enveloped walkways, the feeling that you’ve discovered your own secret spot is empowering. Designed by the late Kerry Hill – whose credits include several stylish and design-forward Carrier favourites, from Aman to COMO – the resort subscribes to his nature-loving ethos, with lofty rooms robed in greenery and symmetrical merbau wood lines. Ocean suites offer undeniably beautiful views of course, but rainforest rooms are where more privacy can be found.

Being in the heart of one of the country’s most popular yet low-key holiday sites and surrounded by indigenous wildlife means the resort brings a local flavour to its activities. Making it one of our favourite places to dip younger toes into Malaysia’s traditions, culture and ecosystem. Little explorers take part in science experiments and nature walks to spot dusky leaf monkeys alongside a resident naturalist; while grown-ups discover the ancient art of Silat Melayu defence and gather around a bonfire to the soundtrack of native music and storytellers’ tales passed down through the ages.

Travel notes:

  • 42 suites and a villa
  • Activities are aplenty including dawn walks with a naturalist and scaling the trees with a botanist
  • It’s home to the first Chenot Spa in Asia having partnered with the leading science-based health and beauty brand
  • The water is great for the likes of paddleboarding and diving, while two championship golf courses are next door
  • Three signature restaurants, a bar and a beach club make up the dining options here, led by Executive Chef David Dahlhaus
  • Singapore Changi Airport is 1 hour 40 minutes’ drive away

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When to visit Malaysia & Borneo

Malaysia and Borneo are generally very hot and humid all year. The winter months from November to April are the most popular time to visit Langkawi, with the monsoon season occurring from July to October. Most rain in Kuala Lumpur falls from March to April and from September to November. Borneo experiences sunshine and rain year round, but the heaviest rainfall normally occurs between November and April.

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