Borneo without the backpack – Gaya Island Resort
This summer, a stylish new resort opens up Borneo’s little-known Pulau Gaya to travellers looking for barefoot luxury. Until now, the few visitors to the island have been limited to rustic beach huts; but Gaya Island Resort is set to change that.
The contemporary resort sits on Malohom Bay, on Pulau Gaya, a forested island off the north-west tip of Borneo. Each of the 121 villas is designed with nature in mind: wooden furniture complements the earthy colour palette – slate, burnt orange, chocolate brown – while verandahs look out over the South China Sea, the surrounding forest or Mount Kinabalu. Modern comforts include a flat screen television with satellite channels in each room. There’s also a swimming pool and three restaurants: the rooftop Fisherman’s Cove, where guests can have their own catch-of-the-day cooked in the kitchen; a pool bar; and Feast Village, where chefs fuse Malaysian, Korean, Japanese and Western cuisine.
Gaya Island is part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park reserve, and the coral gardens here are relatively unspoilt and home to fish in myriad shapes, colours and sizes – excellent snorkelling is virtually guaranteed.
On dry land, guests can join a resident naturalist in search of mischievous macaques and the humorously named ‘bearded pig’ – the name describes the whiskered creature well. Birders might see Borneo’s 32 indigenous species among the 600-odd that fly from tree to tree. There’s cookery, handicraft and art classes to keep the mind active; while treatments in the spa village keep the body relaxed.
February to April is the best time to visit, when the humidity is bearable and days are warm and dry.