My palms are sweating, yet the sea breeze feels soothing as it caresses my face. Perhaps, I have underestimated this sport.God knows how many times I have swung the club, but the balls refused to go far. So, for the umpteenth time, I muster my utmost concentration and repeat the basic steps again by parting my feet just enough, dipping the knees down slightly and swing! This time, as if the Angel of Golf has finally taken a pity on me, the ball shoots triumphantly over the undulating course.
“Hey, there you go! That’s a nice one,” my coach cheered.
I am in Desaru Coast now. I’ve never been to this part of Johor before; the destination is almost in its own bubble: beautiful, clean, and filled with premium hotels, perfect for a family holiday, a romantic getaway or for solos seeking solitude. This coastal area, which is about an hour’s drive from Johor Bahru, boasts a ribbon of white sand that stretches 17 kilometres long. And as for those coming from Kuala Lumpur, they need to drive for about four to five hours to reach Desaru Coast by taking the North-South Expressway heading towards Johor Bahru and then turn on to the Senai-Desaru Expressway.
Desaru Coast on its own has plenty to offer, from premium stay, rejuvenating spa session, unique rock & roll experience to water sports galore. If you are keen to experience them, I suggest that you make your bookings via Klook Malaysia, where travellers can find all-rounded packages that include accommodation, attraction passes, and food and beverage credits at selected restaurants. These packages are available at attractive prices too.
My abode in this exclusive holiday resort hotspot is none other than The Westin Desaru Coast Resort, where guests are promised a sun-drenched refuge from the stress of everyday life. Design is kept minimalist and inspired by the ocean. Across its bright and airy lobby, the waters of the South China Sea open up and greet the horizon. The beach is only steps away from the resort, but don’t forget to alternate your lounging time with swimming in the pool because the atmosphere is simply right – after a few laps in the pool together with the occasional visit to the beachside bar, you’ll notice that all your worries evaporate into the salty ocean air.
The resort has 275 well-appointed rooms and suites with either garden or sea view. All of them are equipped with standard amenities including the award-winning Westin Heavenly® bed. I love the fact that the hotel ensures that its rooms and bathrooms are friendly for the disabled. For those who like to remain active while on holiday, the resort has a RunWESTIN™ programme that offers guided run led by the resort’s Run Concierge, including Westin Gear Lending with New Balance®. For a little more variety, enter the 24-hour WestinWORKOUT® Fitness Studio that contains an excellent selection of fitness equipment like treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes and the signature TRX Suspension Trainer.
The food here is what you expect from a five-star resort: delicious and well-presented. The all-day dining restaurant, Seasonal Tastes, boasts an array of international and local offerings. My personal favourite from the restaurant is the freshly baked croissants, which are incredibly fluffy that a single serving won’t be enough! Come dinner time, excite your tastebuds with authentic Italian flavours at Prego, helmed by Chef Massimiliano Ascione who hails from Abruzzo in Southern Italy. Crowd-favourites include the house-made pastas, the stone-fired pizzas, and the salt-crusted seabass.
Besides The Westin, other reputable properties located in Desaru Coast are One&Only Desaru Coast, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas, and Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, which bagged the ‘Best for Families in Malaysia’ title during the prestigious TripZilla Excellence Awards 2019 and can be considered as Desaru Coast’s coolest kid on the block.
I make a quick visit to Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast due to its close proximity to The Westin, and join the complimentary memorabilia tour, done upon request, which suits diehard music fans or fashion observers in general. The whole experience is filled with fun music trivia and opportunities to view some incredible collections up close, including iconic fashion pieces worn by music legends. I go gaga over Elvis Presley’s gold suit, the Native American-style jacket owned by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and the lace wrap worn by Rihanna in her California King Bed music video.
Apart from the above experience, guests of Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast get to rock it out by listening to carefully-curated playlists, tuning in to a selection of vinyl players and classic records, or borrowing one of the 20 Fender® guitars from the menu for a day, all in the comfort of their own rooms – how cool is that?!
Right next to the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast sits the 21-acre, family-friendly Adventure Waterpark that boasts more than 20 fun rides, the largest wave pool in Southeast Asia and a white sandy beach stretching 170 metres long. The Kids Ahoy zone proves to be the most popular among the young visitors when I’m there, with a total of 13 age-appropriate water slides to keep the little ones entertained and occupied, while the Surf Wall zone attracts aspiring surfers who want to learn several tricks on a safe and high-energy surf simulator. But if you are looking for the adrenaline rush, be sure to experience The Tempest (55-foot tube slide that incorporates a sudden 24-foot drop), The Riptide (three steep twisters) and the Kraken’s Revenge, the first water roller-coaster in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.
But if those splashing good times are not enough, you can beat the tropical heat further by trying out water sports along Desaru Coast made available by Dash Outdoors. Established since 2018, the operator is responsible for providing a variety of activities such as jet-skiing, kayaking, surfing and sailing for visitors to Desaru Coast. Most importantly, the operator is fully insured and all activities are supervised by trained experts, so visitors can enjoy the activities with peace of mind. Nevertheless, do be careful if you were thinking of swimming in the sea because the current along the coast is strong.
On the other hand, those who are interested in mixing education with pleasure should consider paying a visit to Desaru Fruit Farm. This award-winning 180-acre agro-tourism attraction is a treasure trove of knowledge concerning local fruits and vegetation, from old wives’ tales about the plants grown in the farm to time-tested methods of how to successfully cultivate the fruits. Master Gardener Ms Norhayati leads the interactive walking tour that I participate in, which is likened to a crash course on over 100 species of tropical fruit trees grown in the farm. At the end of the tour, guests are treated to a banquet of freshly picked fruits from the farm and a variety of fruit-infused dishes. If you were to visit the farm between mid-June and July, a free flow of durian servings await!
For more adventurous souls, Desaru Fruit Farm offers exciting tours too. Guests can choose from either the ATV ride or the jeep tour, and they will never look at a fruit farm the same way again. Elevate the whole experience by booking a sky mirror package through Desaru Fruit Farm as well, which takes guests to a nearby beach to photo shoot the mirror-like reflection of the sky seen during low tide. However, guests need to be aware that the trip to sky mirror is subject to weather conditions.
My last stop is none other than The Els Club Desaru Coast. Let’s be honest: no trip to this coastal town will be complete without a few swings at this world-class golf course designed by a former World No. 1 golfer, Ernie Els. It boasts three equally beautiful courses named the Ocean, Ridge and Lake, all designed with various skill levels in mind, and in accordance with strict environmental practices. Interestingly, this golf club also caters to private weddings at the Ocean Course, overlooking the mesmerising South China Sea.
After saying the above, it is easy to feel intimidated by the scale of these gorgeous courses if you were a beginner like me. Luckily, this is where the Els Performance Golf Academy comes in handy. Classes are organised in either small groups or individually and coached by qualified and ever-supportive instructors who are PGA or LPGA members. Case in point: my one-hour introductory class with the golf pro, David Lamprecht, is a great mixture of insights and joy. He makes sure that his students are first comfortable with the unfamiliar gears and surroundings, before introducing the ropes of the game. I must say that the class is an eye-opener – who knew it takes only one lesson to spark a newfound interest in me? So, does this mean I’m set on a journey to become an avid golfer myself? Watch this space…
To conclude, it is clear that Desaru Coast is created for all kinds of travellers: couples, families, solos, sun seekers, and resort retreaters. It can keep you and your travelling companions busy, if you choose to, because most of the activities mentioned in this article are available all year round.
Consider booking the packages via Klook, as this booking platform offers not only exclusive discounts, but also the chance to accumulate Klook credits that users can redeem for their next purchase.