From Borneo With Love

The rich diversity of ethnic cultures on this magical island has given birth to a multiple award-winning day spa that will make its first opening in Peninsular Malaysia at the Future of Wellness.

A simple quest to discover and to promote therapies and remedies of the local indigenous communities in Sabah has led Datin Jeanette Tambakau and Jennifer Chan to launch one of Malaysia’s most unique and highly regarded day spas – Jari Jari Spa. 

Since 2005, Jari Jari Spa has remained the first and only Malaysian spa that offers wholly unique Borneo treatments that have been passed down from generations. Living amidst an abundance of natural rainforests and splendid landscapes, the people are highly in tune with the rhythms of the natural world.

We have such a rich fabric of indigenous groups, each with their own distinct culture and healing traditions that we are very proud to share.

Massage is an integral part of the Borneo culture. They are conducted at dawn before the people head out to hunt or to work, and in the evening when they return home. Both the young and the elderly regularly incorporate various forms of massage as part their daily routine of health and self care, which fosters a sense of well-being leading to longevity and vitality. 

“We have such a rich fabric of indigenous groups, each with their own distinct culture and healing traditions that we are very proud to share,” explains Datin Jeanette.

“Jari Jari Spa is the only spa in Sabah to promote the treatment of the Dusun Lotud, of which is a derivative of a tribal Borneo group whose home is in the northern regions of Sabah. 

“Paying further homage to our heritage, we utilise only locally sourced ingredients that are today scientifically proven to be highly effective in combating all sorts of ailments, such as cinnamon and moccoca that are harvested in the verdant interiors of Sabah, fragrant pandanus leaves, and turmeric and lemongrass, both of which have amazing antibacterial properties.”

Touch therapy

Walk into Jari Jari Spa, and you would immediately be transported into a healing haven of relaxation, decked out in elegant hardwoods, sandstone, and green plants, with the sound of water gently gurgling in the background. Essential oils of lavender and lemongrass further enhance the ambience.

“We are very proud to offer the same menu of some 40 unique treatments as our spas in Sabah, but with the unique exception of incorporating sound healing into each treatment,” says Datin Jeanette.

Jari Jari Spa’s signature treatments are drawn from the rich cultural heritage of the Dusun people that include the Dusun Lotud Inan, which won the Best Traditional Treatment award at the 2006 Malaysia Spa & Wellness Award, and again as the Best Traditional Local Folk Treatment in 2011.

“The Dusun are tough, hardy people and many are rice farmers,” explains Datin Jeanette. 

“After a long day of manual labour out in the rice fields, they require a very strong deep tissue massage to relieve their aches and pains. Rice planting is hard work with a lot of movements throughout the various stages required until harvesting. As such, the massage technique utilises a lot of strong thumb kneading and pressure to relieve even the stiffest necks, shoulders and backaches.”

In comparison, the second signature massage, the Palad, is derived from these gentle folks that incorporate light, relaxing strokes, which is beneficial to elderly folks or those suffering from insomnia. 

The Tanggara is a technique derived from a group living on the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, as such, it is concentrated on the lower limbs, which is especially heavenly for those who have braved the climb up South East Asia’s highest peak!

“We discovered that right here in our backyard is one of Malaysia’s largest cinnamon producers in the Keningau district,” says Datin Jeanette. 

“We combined it with local rice crushed into a powdered form that is used as a body scrub treatment and the results are wonderful. We also purchase local coffee from farmers in the Tenom district, who produce excellent coffee beans. In those early days, nobody used coffee as a scrub! But coffee is rich with antioxidants with a layer of oil that moisturises the skin beautifully.”

The reviews and feedback from customers are a testament to Jari Jari Spa especially for its signature treatments and especially the warm, genuine service, of which Datin Jeanette is very proud of.

“Our very own Spa Academy has trained over 1,000 therapists for the Malaysian industry,” she says.

“We have a strong recruitment and training scheme to encourage and empower the local women to take up careers in the spa industry. Our training is very thorough because this is a service industry, so a therapist must have the heart to serve a guest and to help them walk out of the spa feeling healed, refreshed, and invigorated.”

Datin Jeanette is excited about opening the first spa in the Future of Wellness hub as it marks a footstep into Peninsular Malaysia.

“As the first integrated wellness hub in Malaysia with nine service providers, each distinct yet united in a common goal within a holistic ecosystem, the Future of Wellness will be able to offer a complete package to anyone. We are very excited because we promote wellness, and it’s part of a process of healing.

“With sound healing incorporated into our massages, guests will be transported into an even deeper state of rest and relaxation to thoroughly benefit from these treatments. With Visit Malaysia Year 2020 beckoning next year, we look forward to introducing our unique Borneo treatments to more visitors and it is also our way of preserving a wonderful healing tradition from the local people.”

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