THE GAYA ISLAND STORY


Tucked amidst protected mangroves, sheltered coral reefs and curled around the pristine sandy coast of Malohom Bay rests Gaya Island Resort.

Set on an island within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, discover a sanctuary nestled in the hillside of an ancient rainforest with a stunning outline of Mount Kinabalu on the horizon.

With its youthful vibe and sun-dappled moments, this beachfront resort blends harmoniously with the natural environment featuring a collection of hillside villas with views that range from mangrove forests and the surrounding canopy to the outline of Mount Kinabalu. Villa interiors are contemporary and elegant, eco-luxury yet respectful of Sabahan elements.

Discoveries, authentic experiences and a sense of intimacy with the natural world all prevail across the land and seascape of this resort offering travellers and families an escape that is distinctively Borneo.

The resort is committed to ecologically-sustainable practices to minimise its carbon footprint within the environment. Therefore, it is a walking resort with minimal motorised vehicles used for operational purposes.

NATURE


Set within a marine park, Gaya Island Resort is located in an area where human activities have already been restricted, but the resort has always aspired to embrace a proactive role in embarking on conservation programmes to preserve the beauty of its natural environment, better protect the local wildlife and raise awareness for sustainable seafood choices. With the help of a passionate and dedicated team, the resort has several eco-friendly initiatives in place that range from conservation through education to rescue programmes.

GAYA ISLAND RESORT MARINE CENTRE


Gaya Island is set within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a group of 5 islands located off Kota Kinabalu, each with fringing coral reefs. Nestled on Tavajun Bay, Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre is accessible either by a 5-minute boat ride from Gaya Island Resort’s jetty or through the 45-minute Tavajun Trek.

Since its launch in October 2013, the marine centre has rescued, treated and cared for multiple endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and one critically-endangered Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). To date, the centre has released four turtles - Bobby, Ninja, Carmen and Nick Jr. all of which have undergone rehabilitation and research. The marine centre is also home to four coral reef display tanks for educational purposes as well as producing coral fragments that will be returned to the sea. Outside the turtle rescue centre is a 14,000-litre recovery tank, which provides a safe and stable environment for sick or injured sea turtles to have the best chance for survival. This recovery tank also houses a coral nursery that establishes an artificial environment to aquaculture coral fragments that will be returned to the sea to help rejuvenate and enhance the natural reefs.

Committed to leading the community in marine conservation, the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre advocates three conservation pillars – Turtle Rescue, Coral Reef Restoration and Conservation through Education.

The marine centre's programmes were conceptualised and are being implemented by Scott Mayback, the resort's Resident Marine Biologist.

Turtle Rescue
This programme sees to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sea turtles that the resort receives from the Sabah Wildlife Department and other conservation agencies. Operating a Turtle Hotline at +60 13 899 9509, the marine centre is notified whenever there are injured or sick sea turtles in need and provide them with a safe environment in which to recover and be treatedwith the assistance of Dr. Nicholas Pilcher, Founder and Executive Director of the Marine Research Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Kota Kinabalu. Dr. Pilcher played an instrumental role in the creation of the marine centre and the recovery and release of Gaya Island Resort’s first rescued sea turtle, "Bobby".

Coral Reef Restoration
The marine centre’s coral nursery provides an on-land opportunity for guests to become engaged with coral reef conservation. It also provides a controlled environment for freshly planted corals to recover. This initiative is carried out in collaboration with Reef Check Malaysia, a non-profit organisation. Activities include the collection of broken or non-viable coral fragments, their attachment to coral blocks or artificial reef structures, placement in the nursery for observation and their return to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park to rehabilitate damaged areas.

Conservation through Education
This programme aims to lead by example; by not selling endangered species like sharks and humphead wrasse, but by choosing products that have minimal impact on the environment, and by providing engaging education opportunities for guests and staff to further their appreciation of conservation. The resort has weekly conservation talks, a Marine Biologist for a Day Programme and it encourages guests to become involved in future external outreach programmes as volunteers or sponsors. The marine centre also provides outreach to the local fishing communities by training the fishermen in using less harmful fishing practices, educating on the benefits of conservation and implementing a recycling programme to reduce floating debris.

In a combined effort between Reef Check Malaysia and YTL Hotels, the resort also conducts a school outreach programme with the local primary school. Using a combination of audio-visual materials, creative activities and fresh pastries from the resort, this programme seeks to engage the children while at same time educating them on recycling and the need for conservation.


The resort's Resident Marine Biologist is also the first to be posted in the YTL Hotels group. Scott Mayback was born in New York City, but grew up in Long Island and he attributes his passion for marine life to the island's beautiful beaches and estuaries he explored as a child. Before he joined the resort, Scott spent three years in Sabah helping to set up a marine conservation centre and aquarium while gaining hands-on experience in both coral reef restoration and turtle rehabilitation. His work there had also brought him the opportunity to dive and survey reefs from Kota Kinabalu to the Tip of Borneo and beyond. Scott received his formal education at the University of Oregon, and spent a year at the university’s own marine lab, Oregon Institute for Marine Biology. He brings with him the invaluable knowledge and experience he gained while studying there, and while working to fund his education at the University's Neuroscience lab, and local aquarium outlets.

As the Resident Marine Biologist, Scott oversees all the operations of the Water Sports Centre as well as the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre. There, he shares his passion for the marine environment with the resort's guests and local students in his education and outreach program he started with Reef Check Malaysia.



MARINE RESCUES


Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre plays its part in the protection of sea turtles by rescuing and rehabilitating injured or sick sea turtles, the first of its kind in Malaysia. This project was initiated with research results showing 6 out of 7 species of sea turtles are endangered or critically endangered worldwide, mostly due to fishing, over-development, pollution, or turtles getting stranded, caught unintentionally by fishermen or becoming sick or injured.

Turtle conservation efforts are led by the resort's Resident Marine Biologist, Scott Mayback and focussed on the 3Rs of Turtle Rescue. The 3Rs consist of Rescue (identifying and acquiring turtles at risk by establishing a Stranding Network), Rehabilitate (providing sick or injured turtles with a safe place for recovery and administration of care), and Release (rehabilitated turtles will be released with GPS trackers to ascertain their progress, and contribute to ongoing turtle research).

The marine centre's first successful rescue was Bobby, the sea turtle found floating, unable to dive down or even eat due an intestinal blockage that was caused by an infection. With much care, Bobby was rehabilitated within five months and released into the sea in conjunction with the marine centre's launch. This was followed by Ninja, found malnourished and covered in barnacles, eventually nursed to health and returned to sea after being verified fit and healthy. The marine centre's efforts in turtle conservation continue with further turtle rescues and caring for turtle hatchlings received from Sabah Parks.



GAYA ISLAND RESORT WILDLIFE CENTRE



Borneo, the single largest stretch of rainforest left standing in Southeast Asia and the third largest rainforest on earth, is an isolated land that is perhaps the most biodiverse. The Heart of Borneo, a conservation agreement initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature, was signed in 2007 by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia that share the island to protect a 220,000km2 forested region on Borneo that is known as Asia’s last great rainforest.

Borneo is home to over 288 mammal species, 600 birds, 100 amphibians, 105 lizards, 160 snakes, 394 fish and a multitude of insect species, many of them endemic. Within the Heart of Borneo, there are 10 primate species, over 350 bird species and 150 reptilian and amphibian species. The large continuous tracts of mostly unexplored virgin montane forest holds potential for new unrecorded discoveries. 15,000 plant species, of which over 5,000 are endemic, can be found in the swamps, mangroves, lowland and montane forests of the island. The Heart of Borneo is home to around 10,000 of these.

Gaya Island, the largest of 5 islands forming the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park in Sabah, has been a forest reserve since 1923. Measuring 1,483 hectares, the island was gazetted as Sabah’s second National Park in 1974. The island is largely owned and managed by Sabah Parks and has a rare intact primary forest classified under the protected Coastal Dipterocarp Forest with diverse flora and fauna.

Committed to leading the community in ecological conservation, the Gaya Island Resort Wildlife Centre advocates three conservation pillars – Proboscis Monkey Preservation, Nature and Wildlife Conservation and educational Nature Trails.

Launched in October 2016, Gaya Island Resort Wildlife Centre were conceptualised and implemented by Justin Juhun, the resort’s Resident Naturalist, and his team.

Proboscis Monkey Preservation
Assessed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the proboscis monkey is protected by law in all regions of Borneo. Gaya Island is blessed with a few harem of proboscis monkeys of about 100 individuals residing in the rainforest. Our team of naturalists have been researching the harems to analyse their habitat, diet, movement patterns and population.

Since 2012, Gaya Island Resort in partnership with Sabah Parks and Sabah Wildlife Department, has also worked tirelessly with displaced proboscis monkeys as rescue, translocation and relocation is a project dear to the resort’s heart.

Nature and Wildlife Conservation
In sync with Sabah Parks and the Sabah Wildlife Department’s vision of nature conservation in Sabah, the wildlife centre uniquely introduces the diverse species of wildlife found on the island, fossil and specimen displays, on-going nature and wildlife preservation initiatives and biological station featuring research, study and rescue or caring of wildlife species, with special focus on the proboscis monkeys.

Nature Trails
Discover an exceptional botanic reserve, diverse wildlife and a rare, undisturbed mixed dipterocarp forest, found only on Gaya Island. Two trails have been crafted by the resort with varying difficulty levels leading through a dense tangle of vines, looping rattans, palms, shrubs and massive hardwood trees with camouflaged wildlife around. The nature walks offer an environmental education voyage with our Resident Naturalist where limited guests are allowed daily to minimise human impact to the wildlife and their habitat.


Born in Tawau, a town located on the south-eastern coast of Sabah, Justin Juhun, the resort’s Resident Naturalist is of mixed Kadazan, Indian and Chinese descent. Coming from a family of wildlife enthusiasts, his childhood was spent on the surrounding plantations and he began exploring the tropical rainforests of Borneo with his father from the early age of 3. His family were awarded a license by the Sabah Wildlife Department in 1980 to foster wildlife rescued from within the parameters of the plantations. This was key to igniting his love and interest for wildlife care. It has always brought him a sense of joy and contentment to witness the healthy growth of the wildlife under his care and he is equally passionate about conserving and preserving the balance of their natural habitat. He has nurtured more than 50 local wildlife species, including orang utans, Borneo Pygmy elephants, Borneo gibbons and maroon langurs.

As Resident Naturalist, Justin is responsible for the resort’s 7 Wonders of Gaya project that creates experiences that allow guests to engage with the island’s natural environment and local wildlife. He also guides guests on nature walks at Gaya Island Resort which are both intriguing and educational. The walks vary in terms of distance and difficulty to satisfy guests’ different interests. But regardless of which walk they choose, guests will discover a botanic reserve exceptionally rich in endemic plants enhanced by Justin’s enthusiastic and insightful commentary.



WILDLIFE RESCUES


Gaya Island Resort's surrounding jungles are places where natural wonders thrive. The resort's Nature team, led by Justin Juhun, the Resident Naturalist, rescues and rehabilitates local wildlife that are found injured, sick or abandoned. The team's first rescue was Ninox, a Boobook owl, found as an abandoned juvenile and unable to neither fly nor fend itself but was eventually nursed into a full grown wild owl and released into the island's surrounding jungles. This was followed by Pinky, the Pink-Necked Green Pigeon, found on the resort grounds suffering a concussion after flying into a wall. With much care over two months, Pinky was deemed fit and released into the surrounding jungles.





7 WONDERS OF GAYA

Experience a distinctive journey of exploration through natural encounters within the resort.


Proboscis Monkeys
The proboscis monkey or long-nosed monkey, known as the bekantan in Indonesia, is a reddish-brown arboreal Old World monkey that is endemic to the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. Guests will have the chance of a lifetime to see this rare and unique species in the jungles of Gaya Island Resort. Our Resident Naturalist takes guests out on the Proboscis Monkey Jungle Trail to the observation platform to try to catch sightings of these beautiful primates, that happen mostly between April to early July.



Red Giant Flying Squirrels
While on a walk around the Kinabalu Villas and resort gardens in the evenings, guests occasionally witness the Petaurista petaurista gliding from one tree to another. Our Resident Naturalist takes guests on an evening walk to see these beautiful mammals and witness their gliding skills from one branch to another, foraging for food which consists mainly of berries, young shoots and the occasional insects or bird’s eggs for proteins. They live in hollow trees that are more than 25 metres above ground. In support of this nesting habitat, Gaya Island Resort builds artificial nesting boxes and installs them on trees within the resort's grounds.



Twilight Fireflies
Gaya Island Resort is trying to establish a firefly habitat around the resort grounds, for guests to experience fireflies at their doorstep in the near future. Extensive research conducted prior to the project found the main host plants for the Pteroptyx fireflies, namely the Excoecaria indica plant. Seeds were collected and planted on resort grounds since early November 2014 and the plants thrived well within the allocated habitat. Height of these plants range from 3 to 9 feet tall at 11 months old. These plants achieve maturity at 6 to 7 years old before flowering and fruiting. The Pteroptyx fireflies are attracted to these plants’ nectars for proteins and foliage for nesting.



Elephant Foot Yam
Amorphophallus paeoniifolius or the elephant foot yam is a unique and bizarre-looking plant. It consists of more than 150 species, with the Amorphophallus being the biggest unbranched inflorescence flower in the world. Our Resident Naturalist has been collecting and planting the Amorphophallus seeds within the resort grounds. Maturity of these plants depends on the species itself and the Amorphophallus paeoniifolius matures at 6 to 7 years old before producing a single inflorescence followed by a solitary leaf. The solitary leaf resembles a small tree which will remain in bloom for about 115 days before withering. The plant itself is deciduous, dying back to a large underground corm after the growing season. The corm will stay dormant for another 7 months before flowering again, with each flowering season representing 1 year.



Mangrove Kayak
Mangroves are various large and extensive types of trees that grow up to medium height and thrive within saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and sub-tropics mainly between latitudes 25°N and 25°S. Blessed with a 100-year-old rare mangrove jungle here at Gaya Island Resort, our Resident Naturalist shares this wonder of nature with our guests on a daily basis. Kayaking into the 100-year-old mangrove forest occasionally surprises guests with the appearance of mangrove crabs, the oriental pied hornbill, monitor lizards and many more beautiful creatures.



Bearded Pigs
Meet Timmy and his family – the resident wildboars of Gaya Island Resort who visit the private beach of Tavajun Bay in the evenings. Timmy's species, the Sus barbatus is found in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and offshore islands nearby. Roaming around Tavajun Bay as the sun sets and occasionally during the day, Timmy and his family combs the beach for food, mainly tubers, fallen fruits and plants.



Nocturnal Wonder
Ninox, the Boobook juvenile owl was found abandoned on resort grounds by one of our maintenance staff. This nocturnal wonder was immediately brought to our Resident Naturalist as it was a juvenile and unable to fly. With much care from the whole team with daily feedings and rehabilitation, Ninox developed well into a fully grown wild Boobook owl. He was released back into the jungles of Gaya Island Resort in February 2015. While Ninox was the first successful avian rehabilitation programme of the resort, our Resident Naturalist has following this rehabilitated a pigeon, followed by another owl. You might just catch sight of a nocturnal wonder during your stay with us.


Born in Tawau, a town located on the south-eastern coast of Sabah, Justin Juhun, the resort’s Resident Naturalist is of mixed Kadazan, Indian and Chinese descent. Coming from a family of wildlife enthusiasts, his childhood was spent on the surrounding plantations and he began exploring the tropical rainforests of Borneo with his father from the early age of 3. His family were awarded a license by the Sabah Wildlife Department in 1980 to foster wildlife rescued from within the parameters of the plantations. This was key to igniting his love and interest for wildlife care. It has always brought him a sense of joy and contentment to witness the healthy growth of the wildlife under his care and he is equally passionate about conserving and preserving the balance of their natural habitat. He has nurtured more than 50 local wildlife species, including orang utans, Borneo Pygmy elephants, Borneo gibbons and maroon langurs.

As Resident Naturalist, Justin is responsible for the resort’s 7 Wonders of Gaya project that creates experiences that allow guests to engage with the island’s natural environment and local wildlife. He also guides guests on nature walks at Gaya Island Resort which are both intriguing and educational. The walks vary in terms of distance and difficulty to satisfy guests’ different interests. But regardless of which walk they choose, guests will discover a botanic reserve exceptionally rich in endemic plants enhanced by Justin’s enthusiastic and insightful commentary.



WILDLIFE RESCUES


Gaya Island Resort's surrounding jungles are places where natural wonders thrive. The resort's Nature team, led by Justin Juhun, the Resident Naturalist, rescues and rehabilitates local wildlife that are found injured, sick or abandoned. The team's first rescue was Ninox, a Boobook owl, found as an abandoned juvenile and unable to neither fly nor fend itself but was eventually nursed into a full grown wild owl and released into the island's surrounding jungles. This was followed by Pinky, the Pink-Necked Green Pigeon, found on the resort grounds suffering a concussion after flying into a wall. With much care over two months, Pinky was deemed fit and released into the surrounding jungles.

SIGNATURE EXPERIENCES

The first breath of inspiration drawn from our plot of paradise infuses the very spirit of our resort — traditions are embraced, colours absorbed, stunning scenery folded into every encounter. We celebrate the magic of our locale and impart slices of enchantment in uniquely curated signature experiences to create treasured memories.



7 wonders of gaya

This unique nature offering in Sabah aims to preserve flora and fauna, and wildlife that are fast facing extinction. Experience signature encounters featuring a focus on Proboscis Monkeys, wildlife sightings, a mangrove tour, rare flora and fauna, and educational programmes through the efforts led by our Resident Naturalist.

the singgah singgarung night

Gain insights into the Borneo way of life through a Singgah Singgarung prelude experience that showcases native arts, activities and delicacies before your tribal-style beach mangrove barbecue dinner. Melodious Kadazan music sets the mood as you feast on skewered fish grilled campfire-style and fresh produce served with the famous local rice wine, lihing.

coral garden marine expedition

Another wondrous world lies beneath the gentle waves of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Explore the clear waters surrounding the Mamutik and Sapi Islands guided by our Resident Marine Biologist. Drift over lush coral gardens and discover the wealth of marine life amidst an array of hard and soft coral that form intricate and fragile labyrinths across the seabed.

CRAFTED EXPERIENCES

Encompassing the vibrant culture, raw natural beauty and captivating people of the area in which it resides, these experiences celebrate all that is inherent to the resort. Here the curious can choose to actively engage or just peacefully absorb all the destination has to offer as they embark on their own personal journey of discovery.



sunset cruise

Get a taste of the seafarer life on a cruise to neighbouring islands on board our private yacht, Little Princess, as the evening beckons. A complimentary soft drink or house wine will be served as you admire the stunning kaleidoscopic golden sunset hues and watch the city skyline lighting up like glittering jewels in the distance.

gaya snorkelling exploration

Explore the hidden wonders of the marine world guided by our Resident Marine Biologist, and appreciate the need to protect our environment. Discover the beauty and intricate life beneath the sea without the use of fins to avoid damage to our house reefs. Snorkellers are limited daily to ensure that the marine life is not overwhelmed by human presence.

the north borneo straits tiffin

Our timeless tiffin draws inspiration from its north Borneo history of the land and the convergence of old trade routes of the East and West, resulting in the renowned Straits cuisine. Land Below the Wind authored by Agnes Newton Keith in 1939, completes your night with its humour and pervading charm of the then-North Borneo country and its people.


the bajau laut beach barbecue

Inspired by Mat Salleh and his rebellion on Pulau Gaya, this beachfront experience draws from his Bajau Suluk ethnicity. Fresh bounty from land and sea grilled over hot coals served with vegetables and delicacies celebrates the cuisine of these sea-faring tribes. Wander the twinkling night sky through a telescope and pay homage to their nomadic nature.

tailored trails of borneo

Borneo is a land blessed with nature, culture and a rich tapestry of history. Allow your eyes to become the window to the soul of Borneo with these personalised tours of the enchanting place, and discover the many delights it has to offer you.

The way to Kinabalu Park is dotted with rustic villages and stalls selling fresh farm produce, handmade products or local delicacies. Meet Dusun natives at Kampung Himbaan Kundasang and explore trails at the Kinabalu National Park. Stop for lunch before heading to the Botanical Gardens to discover exotic tropical blooms and rare flora found within the park.
Expect a fascinating exploration of the Borneo countryside, cycling through beautiful scenery and local villages with this guided tour. Weave past plantations, low land trails, streams and suspension bridges while sampling traditional delicacies along the way. Replenish with a local lunch at Tamparuli after visiting the Dusun community at Kampung Tombungan.

the borneo culinary journey

Explore the depths of Sabahan cuisine with a cooking class hosted by our skilled chef. Experience an introduction to local ingredients and fresh produce followed by an interactive cooking session to provide insights into authentic recipes handed down over generations from various ethnic groups. The journey culminates with a communal-style tasting.

FACILITIES

h3 class="titleH">conference room
Our 90 square metre Conference Room located amidst landscaped gardens on the upper level is suitable for business meetings and private functions with a capacity of up to 100 persons. Private events can also be arranged at Tavajun Bay or at the surrounding gardens and grounds.

FIND OUT MORE

swimming pool

The resort has a 40-metre lap pool with floating cabanas fronting the beach and a wading pool for kids. Towels and deck chairs are available for sun lovers. If shaded seclusion is preferred, relaxation chambers are located nearby. Refreshments are served at the Pool Bar & Lounge.

gymnasium

Keep up with your daily exercise regime in our fully equipped gymnasium fitted with cardiovascular and weight-training machines, free weights and treadmills, or enjoy the rainforest surroundings and accompanying sounds of nature on a brisk 2-kilometre jog around the resort grounds.

library

Located in a quiet, cosy area between the gymnasium and Feast Village, a wide variety of literature on Borneo, magazines and multilingual novels can be found here.

chimes

Situated beside the reception, Chimes carries an array of gift items sourced based on the five human senses. Local handicraft, accessories, works of art, tea, spices and Spa Village products are available for purchase and can be easily personalised as gifts.

SERVICES


  • Private dining menus are available for you to enjoy meals in the privacy of your villa.



  • Butler service is available for the Suria Suite to assist with accommodation and entertainment requirements.



  • A local tour service is available at a fee should you wish to visit selected attractions in Kota Kinabalu. Car rental services can also be arranged for you to explore the local city sights at your own leisure.



  • Check for flight departure times, book your flight home or even make further travel arrangements with us.



  • We have key staff members who are certified to provide first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the Heimlich Maneuver, should an emergency arise. A medical doctor is also available on call from the mainland for a fee.



  • Babysitters can be arranged for you at a fee.



  • Stamps and postcards are available at Chimes while arrangements can be made for other delivery services such as overnight mail, courier or express services.



  • Capture special moments or events during your stay as a treasured keepsake by commissioning services of a photographer or videographer with us.



  • Other services available include the Concierge, Foreign Exchange Counter, Laundry and Valet Services, Limousine Service and Photo Processing Service.

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villa service

Private dining menus are available for you to enjoy meals in the privacy of your villa.

butler service

Butler service is available for the Suria Suite to assist with accommodation and entertainment requirements.

tours & car rental

A local tour service is available at a fee should you wish to visit selected attractions in Kota Kinabalu. Car rental services can also be arranged for you to explore the local city sights at your own leisure.

airline reservations & ticketing

Check for flight departure times, book your flight home or even make further travel arrangements with us.

medical service

We have key staff members who are certified to provide first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the Heimlich Maneuver, should an emergency arise. A medical doctor is also available on call from the mainland for a fee.

babysitting service

Babysitters can be arranged for you at a fee.

postage & courier services

Stamps and postcards are available at Chimes while arrangements can be made for other delivery services such as overnight mail, courier or express services.

photography & videography

Capture special moments or events during your stay as a treasured keepsake by commissioning services of a photographer or videographer with us.

others

Other services available include the Concierge, Foreign Exchange Counter, Laundry and Valet Services, Limousine Service and Photo Processing Service.

LOCATION

A YTL LUXURY RESORT