NEW LUXURY ON SABAH'S ISLAND PARADISES
New Luxury on Sabah's Island Paradises - Luxury Travel Magazine
New Luxury on Sabah’s Island Paradises
|By: Lucy Jones, Issue 45 – Summer 2011|
|ON THE LUSH NORTHERN TIP OF THE ISLAND OF BORNEO THERE’S A REGION THAT HAS PRISTINE BEACHES, TROPICAL RAINFORESTS AND EXOTIC WILDLIFE, ALL CONVENIENTLY ALONGSIDE SOME BRAND NEW LUXURY RESORTS. LUCY JONES DISCOVERS SABAH. |
|Kota Kinabalu (or KK to the locals) is the Malaysian state of Sabah’s capital city and the first port of call for most visitors to the region. It’s a transport hub (with direct flights from many Asian centres, including Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong) and the gateway to the paradise islands of the Tunku Abdul Ramen National Park. This modern city was almost entirely rebuilt after the Second World War and has an engaging mix of shopping malls, markets, restaurants and the ubiquitous Malaysian kedai kopi (coffee shops). Malaysian street food is legendary and in KK you can find some of the best in the country. With a population made up of more than 30 different ethnic groups, snacks with Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai and Indian influences can be found on almost every corner. Freshly caught seafood is also a specialty of the region and you pick your own lobster, crab, shellfish and fish straight from the tank at a number of restaurants around the city.|
There are stunning beaches a short distance from KK, such as Tanjung Aru about six kilometers south. This white sand, two-kilometre beach is lined with waterside cafes and restaurants and the Shangri-La Hotel sits at the north end on a private stretch of beachfront. A two-hour drive from KK you can climb the UNESCO World Heritage listed Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest peak. The mountain houses 326 species of birds and 100 species of mammal, many of which are not found anywhere else on earth. Further afield the historic city of Sandakan in the north east of the state is the gateway for eco-tourism in the region. Look for endangered green and hawksbill turtles in Turtle Island Park, explore the riverine forest on the banks of the Sungai Kinabatangan river and see Asia’s only great apes at feeding time Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary.
While mainland Sabah offers some attractions, the region’s island paradises are a short boat ride away. There are five islands in the Tunku Abdul Ramen National Park off the west coast of KK – Manukan, Mamutik, Sulug, Gaya and Sapi – and all are a 10 to 20 minute boat ride away from the mainland. Gaya Island is covered in rainforest stretching down to pristine beaches and clear water. It’s home to Gayana Eco-Resort and its sister property Bunga Raya Island Resort, both luxurious resorts with overwater bungalows and hillside villas overlooking private beaches. They are the only properties of their kind to feature an on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre dedicated to propagating endangered giant clams and restoring natural coral reefs. Guests are encouraged to participate in marine conservation activities such as coral planting and both resorts operate under the values of sustainability and environmental protection.
To the east of Sabah lies Sipadan Island, which is considered among the top five dive sites in the world. Sipadan is tiny, less than 30 acres in total, but the surrounding sea is home to more than 3,000 species of fish, hundreds of species of coral, a 600 metre reef wall and a labyrinth of underwater limestone caves. The island is a conservation area so there are no dive centres and you can’t stay there, but visitors can stay on nearby islands. Mabul Water Bungalows is a luxury floating dive resort on Mabul Island, around 20 minutes from Sipadan. The Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort is 15 minutes away on a mile-long white sandbank with many of its own dive sites swimming distance from the resort. Other top Sabahan dive sites include Lankayan Island, just over an hour’s boat trip off the north-east coast, and Layang Layang, a coral atoll to the north west that is a one hour flight from KK.
|Malaysia Airlines flies daily to Kota Kinabalu via Kuala Lumpur from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane and four times a week from Adelaide. Return economy class fares start from A$1,627 and return business class fares start from A$4,756. |
From 15 January 2011 Malaysia Airlines will also operate direct flights from Perth to Kota Kinabalu three times a week with return economy class fares starting from A$653 and return business class fares from A$2,064.
|Where to stay|
GAYANA ECO-RESORT AND BUNGA RAYA ISLAND RESORT
|Malohom Bay, Gaya Island, Tunku Abdul Rahaman Park, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah |
+6 088 442233
|Rates BUNGA RAYA: from MYR 1,281 (around A$424) per room per night including breakfast, boat transfers, non-motorised watersports and Marine Ecology Research Centre tour|
Rates GAYANA: from MYR 905 (around A$299) per room per night including breakfast, boat transfers, non-motorised watersports and Marine Ecology Research Centre tour.
|MABUL WATER BUNGALOWS|
|Mabul Island, Sabah +6 088 486389|
|Rates: from US$850 (around A$889) per person for 2 days/1 night including three boat dives per day, unlimited jetty dives, all meals, nonalcoholic drinks and transfers. Nondivers from US$510 (around A$534).|
|SIPADAN-KAPALAI DIVE RESORT|
|Kapalai Island, Sabah +6 088 238113 (via Dive Malaysia)|
|Rates: from US$750 (around A$785) for three nights including three boat dives per day, tanks and weight belts, all meals and transfers.|
|When to go|
|Sabah doesn’t have distinct wet and dry seasons. It’s generally warm and humid all year round with occasional tropical storms and rain. The best time to visit is between March and October when there is less chance of heavy rainfall, though Malaysian school holidays can bring crowds in July and August.|