Enter one of the nine villas set into the steep rainforest at Teluk Baru and immediately you are given views across the Straits of Malacca towards the other 98 islands that make up the Langkawi archipelago: a string of pearls in the warm azure seas west of Malaysia and just south of Thailand.
On the horizon, one uninhabited island, Pulau Dayang Bunting, looks like a statue of a reclining pregnant young lady. It’s name translates as ‘Isle of the Pregnant Maiden.’ If you take a boat trip or even better a jet ski, to the island, legend has it that swimming in the island’s spring water lake boosts fertility.
Every villa is a naturalist’s hide in a wildlife documentary. There’s a gentle hum of insects, nattering monkeys and the flapping of a hornbill’s broad wings. Ambong’s provision of nesting boxes attracts Oriental Pied Hornbills, Great Hornbills and Wreathed Hornbills.
Forest-watching becomes compulsive. Relaxing on a daybed provides a break from first world pressures, looking out for some of the rarer species: flying lemur, slow loris and the rarely spotted civet cat. Monkeys are seen more regularly, sometimes entering the apartments in hope of helping themselves to a beer from the fridge. Ambong management have installed fridge locks – and in keeping with their conservation ethos – giant soft toy crocodiles and tigers are strategically placed to discourage intruders.
The name Ambong comes from the shoreline plants whose roots bind the beaches. For guests, the best option is a walk down to the beach and then a phone call for one of the Ambong Pool Villas’ 4 x 4 vehicles to take them back up the steep hill to their villa. So steep is the terrain that most guests call a vehicle for trips from their villa to the Rimba Restaurant or Ishan Spa.
Few guests travel far from the relaxing rhythms of the rainforest and luxury of the villas. Repurposed railway sleepers, from Langkawi’s colonial days as part of the British Empire, form the steps to every villa. Interior design, with recycled dark woods, continues the theme of conservation. One villa has a tree, within a glass well, designed into its architecture as part of the objective of working with the forest’s natural topography.
Tall walls of glass infuse light and welcome the forest into rooms decorated with a sense of tropical chic. Brightly coloured cushions on both king size bed and sofas, plus photographs of fertile jungle plants bring flashes of colour to the decor. Vividly patterned sarongs and fisherman’s pants encourage guests to relax into their environment. Though the 42-inch HD television screens, Nespresso coffee-makers and minibars provide familiar comforts. Bathing can be an indoor or outdoor treat. On the patios, there are deep tubs and exterior showers as well as an infinity pool for every apartment.
At Ambong Pool Villas, you can ask for the Ishan Spa to come to you. Some of the local herbs, spices and fruits used in the treatments come from Ambong’s own gardens, the spa’s menu includes coconut, black rice, cinnamon, ginger and frangipani treatments. Other routes to inner peace and tranquillity are meditation and yoga at a lanai of a studio, open to the cicada chorus of the jungle.
At the bar, as you search the rainforest for dusky leaf monkeys, long tailed macaques, giant squirrels and white-bellied sea eagles you could relax with a cocktail or mocktail from mixologist Wan. The Ambong Sundowner is an exotic flavour explosion blending tequila, angostura bitters and strawberry purée with apple cider vinegar, pineapple juice, egg white and cloves.
The Rimba Restaurant, open and light, provides panoramic views. Its specialities of Ambong signature skewers, squid ink sambal spaghetti and whole fish bakar with air assam attract many non-residents too. Serious foodies can opt to take a cookery lesson with Ambong’s chefs, learning how to prepare northern Malay dishes.
Ambong Pool Villas is run by two brothers, Amran and Ahmed, who enjoyed idyllic childhood holidays on Langkawi. Through their university days in Bristol and whilst embarking on their careers, they could never escape their memories of Teluk Baru. Now they have achieved their dream of a luxurious and serene rainforest resort which celebrates and conserves a wildlife-rich environment.
In a nutshell
At one with nature in a stylish rainforest resort. Cookery, meditation, swimming and yoga in conservation-conscious luxury. Astounding sunrise or sunset views from your villa.
Villas with breakfast and return airport transfers, start from around £500 per night.
Address: JL Teluk Baru 07000, Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
Phone: +60 (0)4 955 8248