Gaya Island Resort
Gaya Island Resort is a tranquil sanctuary on the little-known island of Pulau Gaya off the north-west tip of Borneo, a short road and speedboat transfer from Kota Kinabalu. Set into the hillside on a stretch of rugged coastline, surrounded by protected rainforest and the coral-rich waters of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, it’s undoubtedly one of Malaysian Borneo’s most impressive hotels.
Villas are made from local materials and blend with the natural environment, scattered up the hillside or hidden among the mangroves near the gorgeous sandy beach. All are luxurious and come with private verandas with beckoning day beds. There are a few interconnecting villas and a two-bedroom suite that are perfect for families, and the higher up you go, the better the views of Mount Kinabalu across the South China Sea.
The magnificent Spa Village is a serene and natural space hidden among the mangroves. Just steps from the beach is the 40-metre pool. For dining there are Malay, Japanese, Western and Asian options, as well as rooftop Fisherman’s Cove, a smart seafood restaurant with breathtaking views of Mount Kinabalu, and Tavajun Bay, a private beach a short boat ride away, where lunches are cooked over charcoal embers.
The highlights of any stay here are undoubtedly the wildlife encounters. Guests can visit the on-site wildlife centre and hikes into the rainforest with naturalist guides, looking out for macaques and proboscis monkeys. At the excellent marine centre guests can see the marine turtle rescue program and enjoy complimentary snorkelling on the island’s house reef, accompanied by a resident marine biologist. Other worthwhile excursions include sunset cruises on the resort’s 64-foot motor yacht and mountain biking tours back on mainland Borneo. This is still the wilds of Borneo, just with the edges polished smooth.