Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
A sparkling welcome to Gaya Island Resort by YTL

Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
“Distinctively Borneo”

By Monica Tindall

YTL has long held a reputation for luxurious escapes in lush
natural environments around Malaysia. Their latest opening, Gaya Island Resort
is no different.
A 15 minute transfer from Kota Kinabalu airport sets you
alight at Sutera Harbour. With views of a sapphire sea and envy-invoking ivory yachts,
the YTL Lounge is a white bright cool haven from the outside tropical heat. A
creamy calamansi sorbet refreshes while you’re seated on couches and the friendly
staff organize your check-in. Soon you’re escorted to YTL’s speedboat, and a
quick hair tanglingly invigorating ride later you arrive in a Bornean paradise.
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Sutera Harbour
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Borneo
Speedboat to Gaya Island Resort
Set amongst the lush forest, rather than in place of it,
Gaya Island Resort is a model of friendship between the natural and the
man-made. Trees protrude through walkways, mangroves encroach on boardwalks and
lush gardens frame communal spaces. While minimum plant life was touched to
build the resort, an assertive planting program is in place to regreen the
areas that now hold artificial structures. Vines are already making their way
across cement walls and up metal supports. Before too long, it will be an
extensive expanse of leaves, and villas will resemble floating tree houses
ascending the hills.
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Gaya Island Resort by YTL
The core common spaces are at sea level just off the jetty.
Open walls entice breezes and, alongside ceiling fans, are the preferred method
of cooling. Minimal complexity is evident throughout, freeing the mind from too
many details and encouraging appreciation of the island habitat.
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
A shady beach
The Pool and Bar provide multi layers of refreshment. The
upper level sports low tables, lounges and transparent chairs, aside a compact
bar with stools and high counters. Dropping down a level are cushioned
rectangular platforms protruding just above the water’s surface – perfect for a
few hours of lounging and dipping. Descending again is a lap pool complete with
swim up bar and, lining the edges are classic white sun umbrellas and deck
chairs. It’s as if the designer were planning a tiered theatre, ensuring the
whole audience has a clear view of the sea.
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Swim up bar
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Borneo
The pool
Destinations are linked by gardens and guests are enticed to
sit in any number of seating configurations along the way. Beginning at the
lobby reception, a pillowed lounge stretches from one end of the lobby to the
other. Between the pool bar and restaurants, relaxation rooms, fitted with
mattresses, cushions and wispy curtains, entice meditation or napping, again
with an outlook to the beach. A spiral staircase leads to an open walled
library, furnished with low sofa beds, books, fans and more views.
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Accommodation amongst the mangroves – beautiful
Feast Village, the all day dining location adjoins and is lined
with a cage of perpendicular wooden beams softly bent outwards at the middle in
a stance of cradling protection. Gentle wind blows through to the international
buffet that’s charmingly lit with lanterns made from traditional fishing traps.
It’s here that guests linger over breakfast, sipping on freshly brewed coffee
and munching on some of the best pastry items in the country. Up another spiral
stairway, Fisherman’s Cove offers fine dining under the stars. Intimate,
candlelit tables are separated with gardens and pebbled pathways. Borneo’s sea
creatures are deliciously showcased. In efforts towards a more sustainable
future, only line caught fish are sourced from local fishermen, reducing the
use of nets – which catch all in their way, rather than just the desired species.

Having just over 100 rooms, the food and beverage options
are currently limited to these three main restaurants, the Pool Bar and Lounge,
Fisherman’s Cove and Feast Village (also a small menu at Tavajun Bay). There
has been some discussion however of introducing another restaurant in the
future. Click here for our “must eat” list at Gaya Island Resort.

Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Feast Village
Moving further along the beach, hammocks and sun chairs
bedeck the tree shaded shore. Romantic dinners on the sand are popular
arrangements, encouraging couples to feast like chieftains. In Bajau Laut
tradition, land and sea creatures are barbecued on skewers over hot coals. While
the meal is readied, stargazing through the telescopes (thoughtfully set up
around the resort) should not be missed.
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Chairs by the sea
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Hammock on the beach
Set back from the public areas are the private villas. Not for the frail, Gaya
Island Resort is a ‘walking resort.’ Rooms are accessed either through wooden
boardwalks meandering through the mangroves or via relatively steep pathways
leading up the hills. Other than the van and motorbike used for transporting
luggage and cleaning supplies, there are no other vehicles on the island. The short
hikes between rooms and restaurants are ideal for waking up the appetite before
a meal or aiding digestion after. A little trekking is well rewarded with
captivating panoramas of sea and jungle.
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Gardens and green abound
All rooms possess their own balcony reaching out to the
shore and, early risers are usually awarded golden views of the sun rising
behind Mount Kinabalu (as the day progresses clouds often hide the peak). Essentially
the interiors are divided into three sections: bedroom with television; study,
mini fridge and walk in wardrobe and; bathroom with a king-sized tub, rain
shower, toilet and double basins. Frosted glass provides privacy but also
allows for natural light, adjustable with the aid of wooden blinds. Polished
marble and quality fittings finish the wet spaces. Dark timber and natural hues
mark the rest of the space.
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Backing the villas are forest trails and resident
naturalist, Justin Juhun, enthusiastically brings guests on guided nature walks
throughout the day and night. His passion is contagious and participants can’t
help but be enamoured by his child-like curiosity and wonder. The botanic
reserve is rich in native plants and wildlife. Shy proboscis monkeys, though
rarely seen, even make their home in this national park. Do remember to pack insect repellent as communing with
nature means embracing it all – including pesky mosquitoes.


Gaya Island Resort, Marine Park
Wildlife on the nature trails

Blessed with two biology experts, Gaya Island Resort, also
employs their own in-house marine biologist, Scott Mayback, who not only leads
snorkeling explorations, but too is overseeing the set up of a turtle rescue
and marine sanctuary. Sadly,
the waters surrounding Kota Kinabalu are strewn with trash. Turtles often
mistake plastic bags for their favourite food, jellyfish. Eating the rubbish
usually leads to serious illness or death. The
area will support the rehabilitation of injured turtles, sustain coral growth
tanks hoping to counteract the negative impact of human development and, offer
an education program. 
Click here for our list of “favourite activities” to do at Gaya Island Resort.

Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo,
Snorkeling in the Marine Park

After all of that activity, a spa treatment is in order and,
as expected, YTL’s Spa Village more than fulfills. Set in the mangroves,
there’s no need for nature inspired relaxation music as the cicadas and local
wildlife sing for you. With a core philosophy of honouring the healing culture
of the region, this spa pays tribute to the flora and fauna of Sabah – from the
mountains to the sea. Their aim to give guests a true Bornean experience is
achieved through employment of local Sabahans. Treatments reflect traditional
healing practices of the region and wholesome spa products are sourced locally.
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Spa Village, Gaya Island Resort
From sunrise over Mount Kinabalu to moonrise shimmering off
the waters of the Marine Park, Gaya Island Resort is a luxurious retreat for those
wanting a peaceful getaway and, nature enthusiasts alike. 
Gaya Island Resort by YTL, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Sunrise over Mount Kinabalu
YTL resort, Borneo, Kota Kinabalu
Map to Gaya Island
Gaya Island Resort
Malohom Bay
Tunku Adbul Rahman Marine Park
88000 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia
+6 01 8939 110
+6 03 2783 1000

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  1. Pingback: Our Favourite Places to Eat, Stay and Spa in Sabah, Borneo | The Yum List

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