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Slung below the typhoon belt and known by seafarers as the ‘Land below the wind’, Sabah remains relaxed, yet gloriously exhilarating. After visiting Kota Kinabulu, board a sailboat to Gaya Island, in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, less than 20 minutes from Jesselton Point.

Stay at …. Gayana Eco Resort, a sustainable retreat set in a lagoon, against the edge of thick, tropical jungle. Much of Gayana Eco Resort sits on stilts so it occupies very little land which in turn adds to its utterly gorgeous Robinson Crusoe feel. Each of the villas are made from local wood and have natural thatched roofs. I chose to stay in an overwater Bayu Villa and was delighted to have my breakfast delivered by water taxi to my private deck.




Go green ….a highlight of any stay at Gayana Eco Resort is the impressive 5,000 hectare  Marine Ecology Research Centre at the heart of the resort. Launched almost a decade ago, the centre runs a comprehensive giant clam breeding and coral restoration programme where guests can gaze on a nursery of miniature clams, visit nursing seahorses, attend a lecture about seagrass, or assist with coral replanting. Gayana Eco Resort employs 99.5per cent local staff and regularly hosts marine park clean-ups. The resort also provides employment opportunities for the ‘sea gypsies’ who have made their home in the nearby waters.

Why not ….indulge after a day of kayaking, paddle boarding or underwater frolics with foot reflexology by the marvellous Alisha at the Solace Spa. My initial squirms and squeals, were gradually replaced by sighs, then after less than 60 minutes I felt like I was floating on air.

Sundowners at the upper level Latitude Lounge are obligatory (after all the first one is free) and provides an ideal vantage point opportunity to salute Kota Kinabalu before she disappears from inky skies as the sun slips away.