Gaya Island, Malaysia

Gaya means Big, so Pulau Gaya literally translates to Big Island. It’s 15 minutes to the west of the coast of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. After being broken by Rinjani, it was the perfect beach resort getaway. Gaya Island Resort (GIR) is a private beach resort on the northeast corner of Gaya Island. From Kota Kinabalu’s Jesselton Ferry Pier, you can take their speedboat that takes you to the resort. 

Gaya Island Resort is one of the best resorts I’ve every stayed at. It looked unreal approaching the resort. There were rows of villas on the hillside, and in front was a powdery white sand beach and crystal clear water. Upon arriving the resort, they give you wet towels and a chilled drink to cool off. We sat down to get checked in with one of the resort staff. He explained all the facilities, activities, and handed us a portable wifi device for 4G connection. Because it was only noon, the room wasn’t ready yet. We headed to their main restaurant to get some lunch. The Satay beef and chicken skewers were heavenly, the sauce was what made it so good! 

I forgot to mention. So After getting off the boat at the Gaya Island port (more like a tiny platform), you walk across a bridge on the ocean. You then go through some stone walled paths with vines all around it then you arrived at an open area covered by a roof, which is the reception. There were 3 desks, the main desk, restaurant booking desk, and the activities booking desk. If you turn left there is a gift shop, and more to the left, up the path is their Japanese teppanyaki restaurant and the furthest point is the Spa Village. If you turn to the right from the reception, you pass by the infinity pool, pool bar (live music playing at night), a resting area with private rooms covered in curtains overlooking the sea. Above that is a 24hr gym as well as a library. If you continue further you then enter the main restaurant, which also has an opened view to the sea. Then you are on wooden planks, which diverge into more paths to the various private villas. There’s also a BBQ station and some beach chairs set up along the coast. 

The room was unbelievable, it was so luxurious and spacious. The windows didn’t have curtains, but instead had sliding panels. There was a walk in closet which also had umbrellas, flip-flops, and a beach bag that for guests to use. There was also a really big almost squared shape bathtub which was right beside a large wooden window that you can open to look out onto the resort. I didn’t look at room pictures prior to booking this resort, but it definitely exceeded my expectations by a long shot. 

By the time we reached Gaya Island, I was pretty ill and tired as well from climbing Rinjani. I already always get sick when I travel, but with so much physical activity it was even worse, so I spent most of the first day in Gaya Island in bed unfortunately. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping outside but I could only just stay indoors, take meds, drink lots of water to get better. 

On day 2 I just managed to feel well enough to wake up in time for an amazing breakfast buffet, and then I took all the cold drugs I could and jumped on a boat to go snorkeling. It was at a coral garden near another island around 15 minutes away from the resort. The captain had to get some permits for us to snorkel since they only allow a certain amount of people per day, which is good to keep the habitat balanced and not overly crowded. It was maybe only 3 meters deep at the coral garden and the whole floor was covered in coral! I was so excited I jumped in first, but soon after my right contacts fell out! Because being in water kind of already changes your depth perception, it didn’t matter as much and I still enjoyed it. I wished I could’ve seen a cuttle fish since they’re such funny looking creatures, but I only managed to see some clown fish and some puffer fish. Just before we return the boat, one of the guides discovered a small shark, but it was swimming too far away too quickly so we didn’t get to see it. 

Being in water felt so good. I forgot how much I loved the sea. Plus my legs were so sore from trekking, I felt freed when I was in the water and could move around without feeling pain. Back on land, we chilled by the beach for the afternoon just reading and enjoying the sea breeze. I managed to book a last minute massage around 7pm to ease the pain in my sore legs. The massage was really amazing. First I was given some spiced cold drink to enjoy while they set up a room. It was in a really big opened room with ceiling to floor windows on 3 sides (surrounded by trees of course for privacy). There was a balcony where the masseuse first cleans your feet with some sea salt and herbs, followed by a shoulder massage. Afterwards you’re lead back into the room to get the full body massage. The traditional Malaysian massage really really helped my sore muscles and it was just such a relaxing environment. 

Thanks to the massage, on day 3 in Gaya Island I was able to make it to the morning guided nature walk. It’s a 1.5hr walk in the forest directly behind the resort. It was just the perfect amount to get some physical activity, but not over the top since after all, you’re on a private beach island resort to relax. Each guide took around 10 people with them, and for the most part we only saw reptiles and insects since the mammals are too shy to come out. At one point we did see a flying squirrel in action! 

It was time to leave Gaya Island, and today is the last day of 2015, it’s New Years Eve. Continue on the next blog while we journey to Kuala Lumpur to start the New Year.

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