There is an overwhelming sense of peace and calm the moment you enter the lobby of One&Only Desaru Coast. The first sight to greet you is a view of the infinity pool that looks out to the vast South China Sea. Surrounded by dense rainforests, the resort has left visitors in thrall with its beauty the moment they walk through its doors. It’s no surprise why most of the guests here are returning visitors who come seeking peace and privacy.
Designed by the late renowned architect Kerry Hill, One&Only Desaru Coast presents luxury living in a way that is attuned to its surroundings. Rather than letting man-made work completely overtake the natural surroundings, Hill envisioned a way that could preserve the ancient trees in the area by working them into the design of the property. “Most of the large trees here are preserved rather than being torn down,” says the resort’s resident naturalist, Khairulizwan Bin Ismail (or Wan, as he’s fondly known). He signals my attention towards the tall white walls that were built around a giant Pulai Tree, telling me this is just one of the many species indigenous to the land that the resort has painstakingly safeguarded.
Over a morning stroll through the resort, Wan fills me in on the many hidden wonders to be found on the 128-acre property. “This area was once also known as Bandar Penawar,” he says. The name, roughly translated from Malay to ‘antidote village’, aptly refers to the hundreds of plants and herbs that serve as traditional medicine for all kinds of ailments.
As we walk along the shoreline, Wan picks a bud from a shrub called Pokok Merambung, a plant abundantly found in this part of the region. He then squeezes it to release a clear gel-like substance. “When seafarers came back from being at sea for months, they would use this as a kind of eye-drop to treat irritation.” He adds that the leaves of this plant could also be used to treat symptoms of seasickness. “There are so many varieties of herbs here that we’re only just discovering their uses today, it’s almost as if this knowledge is lost to us today.”
The traditional art of wellbeing, however, is not lost at the resort and is emphasised at Chenot Spa, where traditional and modern techniques are fused to create personalised treatments. An ancient Banyan tree stands majestically as the centrepiece of the pond outside of the spa. One wonders if it could be seen as a symbol of enlightenment that could possibly be achieved after a relaxing session here.
For a place that offers exclusivity, the rooms, as expected, are not overtly decorated. Rather, the suites are kept minimal with refined touches highlighting the Malay heritage with accents of songket and batik in the interiors. The timber-lined window panes create beautiful streaks of light at different hours of the day adding to the remarkably quiet atmosphere where you can only hear the gentle sounds of crashing waves and the little chitter-chatter of birds in the distance.
As much as nature plays a big role in the resort’s atmosphere, the flavours of the region are also beautifully captured in the resort’s dining establishments where many of the fresh herbs are picked directly from the on-site chef’s garden.
The open-air Ember Beach Club, strategically located by the poolside, serves up barbecued dishes curated by Michelin-starred Chef Andrew Walsh. Expect lunch here to be served with a platter of grilled delights from wood-fired oven pizzas, fresh salads and the freshest seafood with hints of Asian influences.
There is also Ambara, located near the hotel’s lobby, offering a Mediterranean and Asian-inspired menu. The laksa Johor here is not to be missed and the rack of lamb showcases the grilled meats selection is just as well done as its seafood offerings. For omakase lovers, Hoshi offers a tantalising array of delights from the sea. What’s unique about the omakase menu here is the combination of fresh ingredients served with toppings to create unique textures and flavours not often found in traditional omakase menus. The brilliant combination of ingredients such as the Japanese cured wasabi relish with king squid and the sea bream combined with uni showcases the chef’s skills in fusing ingredients to surprise and enchant the palate.
There’s no doubt that the resort’s soul is beautifully intertwined with the nature surrounding Desaru Coast. Like most guests here, I leave with a palpable sense of having been one with nature and with a reignited admiration for the rich biodiversity to be found right on our doorstep.
For more information, click here.