Tucked away in the Malaysian rolling hills north of Cameron Highlands is a nature lover’s paradise waiting to be discovered in the rainforests of Lojing, Kelantan. Moonriver Lodge Founder Billie hopes to change this though as she continues to bid and build Sigar Highlands into a township. For now, the oasis remains widely off-the-beaten-path for tourists. The farm stay is outside of signal and has limited WiFi providing the perfect space to disconnect from technology and reconnect with Mother Earth. Yes, the lodge was named after the lovely Moon River tune made famous by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Moon River also happens to be one of my favorite songs.
Moonriver Lodge was built by Billie and her husband with the ethos is mind “for our children’s children.” The couple lives in nearby Ipoh, a major Malaysian city and sought to create a lodge where they could take their children to enjoy the wonders of nature, and retire someday. What turned into a family project quickly gained popularity amongst their friends and family and thus the farm stay was born and opened to guests. You can book a stay at the property on Airbnb and save $40 off your first booking of $75 by using my referral link.
Moonriver Lodge prioritizes the environment and believes in sustainable practices. The property was built to respect and reflect the surrounding jungle with the lodges built around the existing trees and additionally greenery planted to support the natural ecosystem. The rainforest here had been previously logged at least three times and a secondary bamboo forest took over the land. Moonriver is committed to bringing back native trees to the area and planted many around the property, and beyond, in hopes of conserving the rainforest for future generations and preventing future logging. Today about 30% of the forest is original to the land and forest 70% has been developed by the Moonriver Lodge team.
Many of the plants at Moonriver Lodge are actually edible, from the food tunnel where passion fruit grows in abundance to the living wall overflowing with fresh herbs. Meals are prepared with love by a sweet chef from Nepal who uses the herbs from the lodge to zest up fresh vegetables from the adjacent Food Forest Farm. It was amazing to know exactly where and how our food had grown. One evening Billie’s family joins us for dinner and her father-in-law brings a basket of strawberries he grew himself. Love really is the secret ingredient to delicious food.
We spent our mornings exploring the Moonriver Lodge property and enjoying the many flowers, waterfall, and bright cozy hammocks. The lodges seem to have grown right in the middle of a garden and beauty is nestled down every corridor and corner. In this eco-paradise, located far from the city center, and any cell reception, we were happily forced to go offline and reconnect with nature. We loved learning about Moonriver Lodge’s experimental permaculture methods and respect them deeply for discovering along the way what would and wouldn’t work for their earth and farm stay. Permaculture isn’t sustainable in a lodge environment, you can’t just let a tree fall onto the balcony and leave it there. But Moonriver Lodge has taken the best of their learnings to develop their own unique farming methods that are all natural and organic. Every space here has a purpose and that is the fundamental growing method of permaculture.
Moonriver Lodge offers many activities to guests to help them learn more about the local flora and farm culture. Do not miss the chance to trek in the jungle with a local Temiar guide in search of the incredible Rafflesia Kerrii. The Rafflesia is often referred to as the largest flower in the world and nicknamed the corpse flower due to a supposed awful wretch. We found neither to be true. The Rafflesia is actually an external parasitic plant, not a flower as it does not have leaves, stems, or roots. As far as the smell, none of those that we came across had a very bad odor, unless you stuck your face inside the plant where various insects had died in the stickiness and there was a slightly foul scent. We discovered all of this and more as we road winding country roads in the back of a pickup truck to the Lojing forest. A few of the Moonriver farming interns joined us for the trek. They each study local agriculture and were able to give us endless information about the various exotic plants we encountered during our hike.
We were very fortunate and saw a massive Rafflesia in full bloom, along with several others that had died recently and a handful of new buds that could bloom in coming months. This was lucky as the Rafflesia actually takes 9 months to bloom, and often only lasts for 3 days. It requires an almost impossible mixture of a dark, dry environment combined with direct sunlight in order to grow. The slightest moisture or rain can begin to disintegrate the parasites petals. When we approached the bloom it had been lovingly covered with palm leaves and other plants to protect it from the rain so that other travelers like us could enjoy its spectacular beauty.
Another one of our favorite activities was the guided tour of the Food Forest Farm which is also operated by Billie and her family. A visit to the Food Forest Farm is an immersive way to learn about how food is grown in a sustainable, healthy way. No pesticides or chemicals are used here, which is vastly apparent when eating cherry tomatoes ripe off of the vine without even the need to wash them off with water. That’s just how natural and organic the Food Forest Farm really is. The Food Forest Farm really lives up to their motto of safe, good food.
You’d think a girl from Kansas like me would know a lot about agriculture and the way food grows but I absolutely do not. For instance, I had no idea it was possible to grow pumpkins on vines that are protruding into the air, or that tomato vines can grow over two meters tall. They grow 60 products here, including 4 different types of lettuce! Personally, I couldn’t stop marveling at the beautiful edible flowers and odd heirloom tomatoes. The Food Forest Farm uses a hydroponic system for some crops and organic vegetable plots for others. Hydroponics is soilless gardening which provides extra oxygen that helps the plant’s roots absorb nutrients faster. The Food Forest Farm sells produce across Malaysia via truck transport, but meals at Moonriver Lodge are truly farm to plate.
It was an absolute joy to spend a few days at the Moonriver Lodge and become a part of Billie and teams farmily, a sweet term they made up. We loved the unique charm of the farm stay and welcomed the quiet and slow lifestyle of country living. There is no better place in Malaysia to disconnect and get dirty than the highland lodges that truly embody the vision of “for our children’s children.” Maybe we’ll get to bring back our own babies someday! After all, we’re just two drifters off to see the world.
Thank you, Moonriver Lodge, for collaborating with us and hosting us at your incredible farm stay. All opinions and photos are my own. This post contains affiliate links, please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information.