Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gaya Island Resort - The Jewel of Gaya

YTL Hotels recently unveiled its highly anticipated development, Gaya Island Resort, in Sabah.

YTL Hotels has done it again. It has opened yet another potential winner to add to its fleet of luxury resorts across Asia and Europe.

Located off the coast of Kota Kinabalu and set on the shores of Pulau Gaya, the Gaya Island Resort is fashioned very much like Pangkor Laut Resort, but with a distinctive style of its own.

Opened in July, the group’s latest offering is every bit as luxurious and offers vistas of mountains and tropical rainforests. On a clear day, the silhouette of the majestic Mount Kinabalu can be seen.

It was a dreary, rainy day when I stepped off the ferry and walked into the resort last month. The smiley staff made up for the damp weather and escorted me with a huge umbrella into the lobby. My shoes were soaked and with the rain showing no sign of letting up, I sat to read through my itinerary.

As soon as the rain stopped, I ran to my room, dumped my backpack and was ready to explore. I wanted to experience as much as possible during my stay so my days were packed with activities. One I missed out on due to weather was the paddleboat surfing.

Whether you choose to lie in a hammock and watch the sunset (hey, that’s an activity, too!) or do a sunrise power walk or learn some craftwork, snorkel or dive, an assortment of activities awaits the traveller.

Designated snorkelling paths are located along Malohom Beach fronting the resort and at the soon-to-open Tavajun Bay, the resort’s private beach area. Resident marine biologist Scott Mayback is busy surveying the area to set up coral reef restoration and turtle rehabilitation programmes.

“We hope to put in three state-of-the-art coral growing tanks which will expedite the speed of coral growth so we can replant it in the sea,” says Mayback, who oversees all aquatic operations and activities at the resort.

Besides the complimentary snorkelling exploration that is offered daily, diving buffs must check out some of the dive sites in the area.

One evening, I was treated to a sunset cruise aboard Lumba-Lumba, the resort’s 64-foot private luxury yacht. Together with the delightful Tracy Khee, YTL Hotels’ director of public relations, we gingerly got into the vessel and took our positions on the open deck. The rest of the guests decided to sit on the covered upper deck to enjoy the canap├ęs and to keep dry as it was drizzling.

With the wind in our faces and the choppy waters of the South China Sea, balancing a glass of champagne in hand required much effort. Keeping your butt glued to the deck was a greater challenge.

If you’re lucky, you can spot hornbills and fish eagles circling in the skies. We got a stunning view of the sunset for a moment before it disappeared behind the clouds. By the time the clouds passed, the sun had gone down and the cruiser lumba-lumba-ed back to make it before the downpour.

When it’s cold and windy, there’s nothing better than a hot pot of soup. Foodwise, there is the Fisherman’s Cove, serving the best, freshest catch of the day and the all-day-dining Feast Village. A signature at the former is the Sinagang Steamboat, a mouth-watering fish broth blended with lemongrass, chillies, tamarind and ginger flavours loved by the Kadazans.

You can opt for your own private space on the pristine beach or at the rooftop of Fisherman’s Cove and embark on a romantic dinner under the stars featuring a uniquely crafted menu by your personal chef.

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