Land

Cherating Beach has long been a favourite holiday destination, and Club Med was the first facility built here 40 years ago on the southern headland (Hijjas worked on this project too). At the northern end of the beach at a village known as Chendor, the tidal Pak Siak River meanders through the forest behind the Kasturi Resort to its estuary, creating a long spit of land where the beach is backed by coastal forest with the river behind. A rich mix of species was identified by FRIM botanists before the project began, and every effort has been made to protect as much of the site’s rich biodiversity as possible. Some wildlife, like mosquitoes, the macaques and wild boar, are controlled, but there are also regular sightings of the shy and engaging leaf monkeys in the trees.

Guests have the opportunity to see coastal birds like Southern pied hornbills, giant sea eagles and tiny forest species. A highlight of many visits is the family of sea otters that regularly fish the river and bask on its banks, occasionally playing long games of catch with any dog that might accompany you on your walk.

The Hatchery

Literally between land and sea is the Rimbun Dahan turtle hatchery. This rather rough and ready structure on the beach is revamped each year after the monsoon, but it was the first thing to be built when we started the resort in early 2014, as Hijjas’ wife Angela wanted the site to have some positive environmental values to compensate for the inevitable damage that building would involve. Our model for the hatchery is a simple one: buy the eggs that local boys dig up from nests during the turtle landing season and rebury them in the hatchery until the babies emerge about 6 weeks later. All hatchlings are released within 24 hours of surfacing, with many visitors participating in sending them off with a prayer for their survival. Our famous hatchery manager, Pak Su, is a local character who works tirelessly for the welfare of these tiny creatures; in the 2016 season he bought and reburied 25,278 eggs, about 250 nests, as well as raising much of the money to do so: this middle aged kampong man is a whizz at social media!

Sea

Turtles and an abundance of fish are just out there beyond the breakers. We don’t have the luxury of a coral reef, but there is no large fishing fleet in the vicinity, just the small prahu’s operated by the local fishermen, who can be seen off the beach most mornings casting their nets. The range of the catch is impressive: mud crabs and cockles from the rivers, stingray, lobster and everything in between from the sea, to be found in the local markets, where they are bought by our chef for a daily choice of seafood delicacies. The water is quiet for most of the year, only during the monsoon are we likely to have big seas, and then there is a surfing carnival on the southern end of the beach. The resort stays open during the monsoon, as this is the time of year when impressive weather events are interspersed with the clearest skies and superb weather. The coast is rarely affected by air pollution, making it a superb place to escape SE Asia’s infamous “haze” season.

Cultural Attractions

Life cycles on the east coast are driven by the weather: going to sea and drying fish in the off-monsoon, repairing boats and nets when it’s unwise to go out. Apart from fishing and farming, the local Muslim community heeds the calls of the azan from the Chendor mosque. The Kasturi has a Malay gamelan set especially commissioned from Solo in Java, which staff and neighbours are taught to play and enjoy, and guests may also join classes. A residency programme invites artists to stay at the resort to be inspired by the environment, and guests can visit the studio and see work in progress. Rimbun Dahan is well known in Selangor and Penang for supporting artists, so the east coast is a new frontier. A local nature guide conducts nature walks, and cultural tours are lead by people with deep local connections.

Dining

The Kenyang Restaurant takes its name from coriander. This most useful of spices comes in several forms, as a dry spice with a strong pungent flavour that is an essential ingredient in curry, while the leaves are used as a herb liberally scattered over salads, a favourite in Malaysia and Thailand. Located in the main building, guests may sit within the air conditioned interior, or outdoors on the verandah overlooking the beach and the lake behind the dune. The cuisine is ‘fusion’, celebrating traditional Malay cooking, especially the kerabu salads, Nyonya cooking, and who else can cook seafood so well as the Cantonese? Our food is as varied as Malaysia, and dependent on local bounty. A special menu for in room dining enables guests to enjoy the luxury and privacy of their own chalets where they can be indulged with good food and superb ambience. Beach barbecues are another feature of the resort.