The Datai Langkawi Raises The Bar On Eco-Initiatives
The Datai Langkawi Raises The Bar On Eco-Initiatives
By Don Mendoza
When The Datai Langkawi reopened in December after an extensive renovation project—its most substantial enhancement since its opening in 1993—some had remarked how, at a glance, not much has changed. But that was partly the point. “The vision was very clear from the start and even before renovations commenced,” shared the resort’s general manager Arnaud Girodon, adding how they had intended to maintain the signature “Datai DNA” and celebrate its unique location on Datai Bay, which National Geographic once declared one of the top 10 beaches in the world.
They had even appointed its original designer, Didier Lefort of DL2A in France, to lead the project. He stressed how the refreshed look is purposely unassuming, from the structure’s natural finish and artwork to the ergonomic design of the bath tubs. Nature also forms the base of the spa and well-being programmes, which include specially crafted holistic activities and wellness and beauty treatments complemented by internationally renowned experts Bastien Gonzalez and Phyto5.
The resort's Spa Villa boasts calming views of the surrounding mangrove
The most significant aspect of the redesign, however, are even less obvious, but they are the most remarkable and necessary. The resort's renewed commitment to protect this unique natural habitat made sustainability a key component to its strategy, which included an obligation to consume less energy, water and single-use plastic.
Recycling and upcycling plants, a bottling plant and a permaculture garden have been created, alongside initiatives to protect the coral reef and surrounding areas. These include its Fish for the Future initiative, which involves building artificial reefs monitored by its dedicated group of marine biologists from The Nature Team; engaging the local community and its fishermen; and a Coral Nursery where corals are to be transplanted back into the ocean when they mature and can be propagated.
Reflecting the urgency of adopting programmes that promote a more sustainable development, The Datai Langkawi also sets itself the goal of achieving the Earth Check Certification by the end of the year. In a recent catch-up, the sustainability team—made up of notable consultants Piet Van Zyl, permaculture expert Mark Garrett and led by Head of Sustainability Remi Giromella—confirmed that The Datai is certainly on track. The annual benchmarking data will be submitted by the end of October, after which the certification audit will be initiated in November. Soon after, the certification—the first ECO Certification issued by EarthCheck for a terrestrial (land-based) tourism project—will be granted. The resort is also on track to achieve its targeted ‘zero waste to landfill’ status by the year-end, as the team, shares Giromella, is currently achieving almost 80 per cent diversion from the landfill.
“The concept of ‘zero waste to landfill’ has been implemented to ensure that none of the resort’s waste becomes pollution in a landfill where it will continue to cause pollution,” he explains, noting how it is crucial they improve the situation and not just decrease pollution.
“Operationally it is a mammoth task of sorting all waste on site into various categories and sending the recyclable materials to recyclers and finding ways to refuse, reduce and reuse all the waste, including upcycling what cannot be recycled,” Van Zyl affirms.
Recycling and upcycling plants, a bottling plant and a permaculture garden (pictured here) are key to helping the resort meet its conservation goals
“The main challenge has been keeping organics like food waste out of the solid waste stream—clean waste has value but contaminated waste and plastic in particular has no recycling or upcycling value.”
To assist in the research portion of the program, he clarifies, the resort is currently building a Wealth Of Waste workshop, that aims to create something of value out of the waste stream, citing the current creation of the stepping stones from crushed glass and shredded plastic for the Denai Trail, as an example.
“This workshop will complement the existing Organic Wealth Centre, where we turn organic waste like landscape and food waste into compost and have a worm farm to produce worm castings for seedlings (an organic liquid fertiliser to replace the use of chemical fertilisers at the property),” he notes.
Completing the circle is the resort’s Permaculture Garden, which the team hopes will eventually provide at least 55 per cent of its capacity by December, as the bigger trees like citrus, papaya and other tropical fruits take time to achieve full production.
“We hope to provide the hotel with most of its herbs, spices as well as some exotic vegetables and fruits but not all of its demand,” Giromella declares, emphasising how they will also need to work around the indigenous animals in the area and look into how they can produce substantial quantities of the foods they prefer. The “monkey forest” that grows around the garden, for instance, provides food for the monkeys, which help distract them from venturing into the Permaculture Garden, but they also have to deal with monitor lizards, wild boars, birds and bats.
“We do hope that other hotels will adopt similar goals but this will depend on the vision of the general manager, the conviction of the management and owners, and their willingness to budget funds, time and having the right motivated people for the cause.”