Two men and a girl are strapped on a harness and hanging precariously on a rope, attempting to climb a towering 60-year-old tree. It’s more challenging than it looks, requiring a substantial amount of body strength coupled with hands and feet coordination, but you’re guaranteed a wholesome load of fun. I’m told once you reach the viewing platform on top, the unparalleled panoramic view spans far beyond the lush canopy that surrounds the secluded coastline of One & Only Desaru Coast. Come sunset, the golden hour casts a warm glow on the pristine white sands and jagged remnants of volcanic rocks, setting the scene for a dramatic backdrop against uninterrupted nature.
An ultra-luxurious property spread across 128 acres of vast grounds that is home to lush rainforests and exotic wildlife, the only dilemma you’ll find yourself facing at One & Only Desaru Coast is how much is too much time spent outdoors, as the allure of nature beckons ever so enticingly. Ensconced on the south-eastern shoreline of Malaysia’s Johor state, the property is a first in Asia, bearing the distinctive One & Only brand hallmark synonymous with ultra-luxury hospitality.
Here’s where the resort’s experience takes you to new heights. From airport chauffeured rides in a Tesla Model X to the snazzy Ember Beach Club which serves as a haven for beautiful people to lounge, no expense is spared to create the ultimate luxury resort getaway. Intimate omakase dinners at Hoshi prepared by Uzbekistan chef Aziz Abduraimov whose credentials include Zuma in Dubai and New York will satiate curious epicureans alike. Discerned tastemakers with a air for exquisite, bespoke pieces will revel in a range of covetable delights at the gift shop including the limited-edition custom-designed Louis Vuitton Keepalls by Jay Ahr.
An emblem of architecture mastery developed by Kerry Hill Architects, the property closely showcases the tropical modernism air honed by the late Kerry Hill while preserving as much of the original vegetation of the area. Most of the structure melds harmoniously with the natural setting, as best exemplified by the signature 50-metre infinity pool that extends from a lush canopy of trees out to the sparkling azure waters of the ocean beyond.
The concept of luxury living is echoed throughout the 42 junior suites, two grand suites and the colossal four-bedroom Villa One. Kerry Hill’s modern interpretation of the traditional Malaysian kampung home is juxtaposed against touches of local heritage elements – handwoven throws, batik prints, songket woven headboards and rattan floors arts, all sourced in partnership with Sarawak-based atelier Tanoti Crafts.
The abundance of indoor and outdoor living spaces are designed to while the long afternoons away in comfort and private plunge pools offer a much-welcomed respite from the heat. From arranging your spa appointments to prepping a round of sundowners at your private veranda, the butler service eases your mind to enjoy the rest of the stay.
Over at the Chenot spa, the first of its kind in Asia, scientific diagnostics are fused with Chinese and alternative medicines to offer a holistic wellbeing experience. Personalised science-based treatments are only prescribed once a bio-energetic check-up is conducted. Pamper sessions at the spa extend beyond the regular facials to include a luxurious dry pedicure treatment by the award-winning Bastien Gonzalez which will leave you with gleaming toenails for weeks after.
To get kids (and adults) off their digital devices, sign up for a round or two of tennis or padel at the well-equipped Club One. While the adults battle out their competitive spirit, younger ones will be occupied at the KidsOnly club, immersed in activities designed to stimulate their interest in nature, education, local culture, sports as well as arts and crafts.
At sunrise, the forest comes alive and if you look closely enough, you’ll catch a fleeting glimpse of the white-bellied eagles, short-tailed babblers and even Finsch’s Bulbuls in their natural element. Greeting calls from the white- handed gibbons punctuate the silence of the morning, propelling you to jump out of bed, put on a pair of binoculars and set off in search of your next discovery.