Gayana Eco Resort, Kinabatangan River Borneo, Borneo (Sabah)
Gayana Eco Resort has access to some of the best diving off Pulau Gaya and a big focus towards preserving and regenerating marine life. The over-water bungalows showcase a variety of views from mangroves to rainforest and the ocean, and the natural environment is a constant throughout the entire experience.
Only a 20 minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalau, the main draw for Gayana Eco Resort is not lounging on the beach (in fact its beach, though perfectly formed, is rather small), the under-water life is the trump card. Snorkellers and divers will find enormous clams, seahorses and other sea life aplenty in the surrounding water.
For those who'd rather feel the sand between their toes, there is a beautiful beach operated by the Sabah Parks Authority a 4km jungle trek away. The Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) is based here, and is mainly focussed on conserving the giant clams which are locally endangered however you might also be lucky enough to see the pregnant male sea-horses and mothering bamboo sharks when you visit. This is a great centre to learn about the environment and you can also take part in some coral replanting sessions, as well as diving, kayaking and jungle trekking.
The hotel has two excellent restaurants and a lounge bar, Latitude. The Macac restaurant serves up some great Malay/Western fusion dishes whilst overlooking the turquoise lagoon whereas the Alu Alu Seafood restaurant boasts some fantastic Malaysian-style seafood, with the fish coming direct from the hotels own organic fish farm.
The 52 over-water rooms cover a variety of categories, all linked by a series of wooden over-water walkways. With views ranging from the mangroves to the lagoon and jungle, some even offer up views of the distant Mount Kinabalu. Ocean Villas offer direct access to the water via your private balcony so are great for lovers of an early morning swim.
This resort is a great example of how tourism and conservation can complement one another and needn’t mean staying in a musty basic shack! Making a great spot for couples and groups of friends, the diving here is world class.
Eco/Adventure - This category covers gorgeous lodges in the jungle, comfortable safari camps and dreamy, but simple, beach cabanas. These places defy conventional categorisation: what is communing with nature to one person may be terrifying bugs to another! Many of these places are very comfortable and the service generally of a very high level - but please read the website review carefully and/or talk to us and be sure to have understood what you are letting yourselves in for!
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We all remarked on how well tourism blended in to the local community in a positive way. At no point did we ever feel exploited or taken advantage of. We felt privileged to visit the Penan tribe in Mulu and enjoyed the market there without any pressure to spend money. Visiting Abai village and planting the trees was also a great experience for all ages of our party. Again, a privilege.