A friend and I stayed at The Datai back in August. It was an absolutely memorable trip. Service was impeccable, and the setting was breathtaking. At the main lobby level, you look out past lush rainforest surrounding a pool, and beyond that to the sparkling sea. To the right of the main pool there is a large fig tree so I spent all my time at the main lobby looking out for hornbills and was rewarded on a few occasions.
It's even better when the fig tree is fruiting....I have seen Great Hornbills there before on a prior trip, flying from branch to branch.
A leisurely walk down to the beach will take you past the spa and some mangroves, before emerging from the trees onto a secluded bay with a long stretch of sand. The Datai has a chilled out beach club and swimming pool there. We spent a few hours lounging under the trees, reading, napping and snacking. But look out for jellyfish....we got stung a little while swimming in the sea and immediately went to the beach club where the friendly staff had some vinegar on hand to pour over the sting.
One of the best things about The Datai are the nature walks by Irshad Mubarak. Irshad is one of those people whom you wished was one of your personal friends because an hour with him increases your IQ tremendously. He regales hotel guests with stories not just about nature, but in many ways how they are related to key historical and political events. He conducts the morning walk at 730 or 8am and an evening walk at about 6 ish. These walks are around the hotel grounds as well as a short stretch outside the hotel on the main road.
It was amazing how much we saw and learned in those few hours, even if the location was only around the hotel. We saw alot, from dusky leaf langurs, to asian fairy bluebirds, white bellied sea eagles, brahminy kites, to the very rare and reclusive resident tarantula (!!) and Colugo (a kind of lemur). Irshad also gave wonderful insights to the plantlife around the hotel and pointed out some very interesting flowers....like a type of orchid where, when in bloom, resembles pigeons!
It was unfortunate my stay was short, otherwise Langkawi has much to offer the nature lover. In a previous trip I climbed up the Seven Wells and to my delight at the top there were many hornbills circling around. There were also several hiking trails near The Datai that I would definitely do on my next trip, but in dry weather when there are fewer leeches.
The Datai was sold recently to a local Malaysian company, so I really hope they upkeep the standards there. It would be a real pity for that property to fall into a state of poor maintenance typically associated with locally owned hotels (no offence to Malaysians, but I think you would agree with me).
Also, with the recent announcement of the Malaysian government wanting to promote Langkawi strongly as a tourist destination, hopefully it will not mean development at the expense of the island's ecological richness.
AL :-Thanks for sharing you honest experience.