Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On Tour In Borneo - Gaya Island Resort

The words “only accessible by boat” can mean only two things for holiday goers; 1. A tropical island paradise the likes of which you’ll not soon forget or 2. A nightmarish freezing cold, sickening, rickety boat ride where you come to believe your last piña colada was truly your last. Fortunately for us, the first destination on our Asian tour was the former -though that’s not to say we haven’t (a few times) experienced the latter…

Just off the coast of Sabah in Malaysia lies a group of tiny islands at the foot of Borneo, one being Gaya Island and home to the brand spanking new resort of the same name. As soon as we landed in Malaysia, we knew this was not only a spectacular place but a very special people as well.

Gaya Island Resort had been open around 6 months – enough time for the staff, grounds, monitor lizards and cheeky monkeys to settle in, whilst still feeling new in every sense of the word.

Accessible only by a short boat ride from Sabah, and of course – greeted with fresh aloe face towels and guava juice – the first time you see the resort is from the long pier that leads you from your boat to the reception building. And it’s spectacular.

The resort is backed up into the lush jungles of Borneo and fronts a beautiful white sand beach – palm trees, blue-green water and all. A setting unlike any we’ve experienced. Straight away, the one thing that hits you is silence. No cars, no noise of any kind. Awesome.

Getting to our room upon arrival (even at 11pm) was a trek, but the good kind – I mean, we ARE in the jungle. After a warm reception in the building appropriately named ‘Reception’ we we’re shown through the long pavilion which fronts onto the massive daybeds IN the pool that’s right – in! The swim up bar (Katinka’s favourite), the queen size cabanas with proper beds, fans and curtains – WHAT!!

From there, past the library, fitness centre all with water views of course and through the main restaurant, across a lantern-lit bridge and boardwalk and finally up a winding path to our digs – 4 stories up in the jungle and facing out to what became a spectacular sunrise over the water and Mount Kinabalu – Malaysia’s biggest mountain.

Our days at Gaya were spent lazily. Swims and naps, snorkelling right off the resort’s beach on a fantastic reef, a Malaysian cooking class, a picnic on a private beach – and this is a good place for a handy travel tip: Don’t kick sand in a monkey’s face.

EVEN if he’s advancing slowly toward your picnic basket. EVEN if he bares his rabies ridden fangs and beady little death eyes – as it turns out, sand in the death eyes only makes him stronger!!

At some point someone – I really hope it was Tinka – yelped like a girl and two of the resort staff came running, brandishing rocks and yelling something in monkey which saved our lunch and our lives. Phew.

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