Aerial view of Gaya Island

Gaya Island

With coral reefs, dense mangroves, sandy beaches and thick jungle, all just fifteen minutes by speedboat from Sabah’s capital, Gaya Island is a microcosm of the Borneo wilderness and a true tropical paradise.

Just 15 minutes by speedboat from the skyscraper forest of Kota Kinabalu, Gaya Island couldn’t be further in pace and atmosphere from the regional capital. With dense mangroves, coral reefs, sandy beaches and thick jungle, this is the edge of the Borneo wilderness – and you can tell.

Come for some excellent diving and snorkeling – the diversity of life beneath the waves here might even be more impressive than in the rainforests on dry land. Swim through coral gardens with waving anemones, giant barrel sponges and the bronchiae of feather-duster worms, while black-tipped reef sharks, painted wrasse and parrot fish float and flutter around you. As far as we’re concerned, in the humid heat of the afternoon, it's the only place to be (that or getting a massage in an air-conditioned spa).

Above the waves, Gaya easily competes with Bali or the Thai isles for sheer tropical beauty. Designated a nature reserve since 1923, the island is blanketed in forests, with mangrove-lined rivers and filled with naughty macaques, big-nosed proboscis monkeys, and the ceaseless chirping of cicadas. Surrounding all this are white sandy beaches where you can watch turtles hatch on the shores and gaze at Mount Kinabalu in the distance, before turning in to enjoy the evening at some of the best luxury resorts in all of Asia.

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