Gaya Island Resort
Nestled on the largest of the islands that make up Tunku Abdul Marine Park, lies this luxurious eco-resort, fringed by golden sands, verdant tropical rainforest and sheltered, colourful coral reefs.
Chic hillside villas overlook the serene surroundings and offer peaceful accommodation to compliment the four restaurants, outdoor infinity pool and serene spa. Of course, the main appeal of a destination such as this (when you aren’t relaxing on the stunning beach) is the wildlife and with an enticing array of naturalist-led activities, there is no shortage of opportunities to get up close and personal with the local wildlife, which includes quite a few cheeky monkeys, who will happily relieve you of your balcony belongings!
Facilities & Activities
With an emphasis on conservation programmes, the resort is perfectly positioned in this natural and pristine environment. Home to cheeky Proboscis monkeys, red flying squirrels, hornbills, mouse deer and a happy family of bearded pigs (often seen sauntering by the sea) the weekly activities menu is stuffed full of activities to see this unique island at its best. Choose from guided nature walks, trekking through the mangrove swamps or take to the water and enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkelling in the vibrant coral reefs. Finish off the day with sunset cruise and a movie under the stars. And if total relaxation is your thing, then have a dip in the pool and indulge in some yoga before heading to the tranquil spa to have a healing treatment based on the ancient traditions of the local people.
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Regional dishes are prepared by skilled chefs and served up in a choice of four restaurants.
Feast Village is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serves a huge range of Japanese, Korean, Asian and Western fare against a stunning backdrop overlooking Mount Kinabalu and the beach.
Fisherman’s Cove is slightly more sophisticated and offers a spectacular view from the rooftop and specializes in seafood dishes (min age 12).
Omakase is nestled within ancient rainforest overlooking Malohom Bay and serves up welcoming Japanese dishes.
The Pool Bar is a great stop for a sun downer and lighter dishes, overlooking the infinity pool and cabanas. Or if you fancy a change of scene, then Tavajun Bay is a private beach found just a 5-minute boat ride away. Enjoy a specially chosen dish cooked carefully over charcoal embers or order a personalized gourmet picnic and settle in for the day.
And if dining solo is more appealing, then have a picnic in your favourite spot or simply let it be delivered to you to enjoy on your own private veranda.
The elegant villas have been built to compliment the lush rainforest surrounds and offer plenty of contemporary space with a choice of spectacular view.
The Bayu Villas are found at the lowest level within a tropical mangrove setting and jungle views. The peaceful Canopy Villas are further up the hillside within the forest canopy and overlook the mangroves, while the furthest up are the Kinabulu Villas. These beautiful villas are a quite a trek (read workout) up the steep jungle hillside, but the breath-taking views over the South China Sea more than make up for it and you’ll really, really enjoy that cold glass of recovery wine.
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Children of any age are welcome here and there is a children’s activity program. They’ll love the pool, the snorkelling and exciting wildlife explores through the jungle. The ocean is calm and shallow, perfect for families with smaller ones. And they will love making friends with the resident snuffling pigs.
The villa bedrooms are comfortable but don’t have space for an extra bed – one child under 12 can share on a day bed on the end of the wooden platform for the king bed. However, if you have younger travellers in tow, make sure you ask for rooms on the lower levels as it’s quite a trek to the highest villas for small legs.
There are a few sets of connecting rooms (but not at Canopy level) which can be requested but not guaranteed at time of booking. Further, twin beds can only be provided in ‘Hollywood’ style ie side by side on the same base.
The Surai Suite is a luxurious two-bedroom option at the top of the hillside with breath taking views. It features a lounge and dining area on the ground floor with the bedrooms on the upper floor.
All the restaurants welcome children and offer plenty of options, but Fisherman’s Village only allows those over the age of 12
Gaya Island Resort believes tourism is a positive platform for wildlife education, as long as it’s conducted in a careful manner. Visitors can experience the resort’s mangrove conservation efforts through the guided Mangrove Kayak Tour and guided nature hikes and snorkelling excursions are offered to a limited number of participants to keep from overwhelming or damaging the surrounding environment. Through the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre (GIRMC), Gaya Island facilitates education programs in the area’s schools to teach students about the local sea turtle populations, coral, and the importance of keeping the ocean clean. In addition to their education initiative, GIRMC works closely with a leading turtle conservationist and is the first turtle rescue centre in Malaysia to successfully rescue, rehabilitate, and release endangered sea turtles.
Gaya Island is the largest of the five islands found just off Kota Kinabalu with Mount Kinabulu rising up in the distance. The island is a National Park, home to a diverse and protected array of flora, fauna and wildlife and makes a great stop off point. The closest airport is Kota Kinabalu and from there it’s a 20-minute transfer to the port, before a 15-minute speed boat transfer to the smiling, welcoming staff on hand to assist you into the resort.