Borneo seemed to be a heavenly destination that is so beautiful, yet sometimes out of reach somehow. Little did we know that we would be spending the first three months of 2015 on the third of the biggest island in the world, surrounded by a captivating rainforest over 130 million years old? Our adventures in Borneo started when we visited Brunei on last year’s September. And when I returned in December, I made a promise to myself that I would try visit as much of the island as possible before returning back to Europe in the spring.
One of my first intrusive thoughts began with wellness in Borneo. With that entire lush green forest bionetwork and a profusion of fauna and flora, I imagined the spa viewpoint to be distinctly in touch with nature. Thus in my opinion the best place to discover the truth would be to escape to one of Borneo’s newest boutique resorts in Malaysia– the Gaya Island Resort.
THE NEW ECO HOTEL ON THE BLOCK
Just opened in August of 2012, the hotel is located on Pulau Gaya, the largest of a cluster of five islands that form the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, off the north- east coast of Borneo, close to Kota Kinabalu within the region of Sabah Malaysia. From Brunei, it’s only a 35-minute plane journey, so I didn’t need to travel far to experience my spa escapism.
MANGROVES AND SPA BLISS
When I arrived after by 15-minute boat ride from harbor, I find myself to be easily captivated by the island’s serene aura and the relaxing shades of green shrubbery swaying softly in the light breeze. It’s hard to imagine that the conservation area covers 15sq km of untouched thick rainforest and boasts the best coral and virgin beaches in the entire park, just all on one island. The resort’s spa village, nestled between the interlacing mangroves, feels as if it goes within the nature of the island. Designed in local Sabah style, the interiors are fashionable with a simplistic touch – shades of brown and beige contrasting beautifully with the surrounding green rainforest.
My anticipating spa experience began in the pre-treatment lounge where I was served a stimulating elixir made with guava, lime, pineapple, star anise and a splash of chilli, along with a cold towel to refresh myself. Although moisture levels on the island are generally high at around 80%, I didn’t feel very much uncomfortable with the heat. It was more a draining feeling like when you spray Evian water mist on your face. The concept of spa in Malaysia has a very interesting concoction of cultures due to its historical past with Indian and Chinese traditions. Nethertheless, the spirit unites to one philosophy – to restore balance to the body and soul.
INDIGENOUS HEALING TRADITIONS
I was greeted by my therapist, a Malay local, who led me to one of the verandas to begin my first part of the treatment. My feet were washed with a combination of fresh ginger, chili and salt – ingredients frequently used in Sabah culture. With a spring in my step (thanks to the chili), we went to the room where I would have my Deru Laut treatment, inspired by locals called Bajaus, indigenous locals who’s lives are dedicated the love of the sea. So imagine yourself in a sunken bath filled with organic seaweed, a rich collagen plant full of enzymes and vitamins, and your face coated with extract of sea pearls. There seemed to be no doubt in my mind that all of these natural ingredients were going to do wonders for my skin. The final part of my treatment involved a rhythmical massage called rolling waves, releasing the tension away from my rock-hard muscles using hand pressure that I had not experienced before. By using the forearm and knuckles, I could feel my body slowing falling into a peaceful slumber. With the healing sound of the waves gently washing up onto the sand, and the wildlife in the rainforest playing its sundown musical repertoire, I had never felt so rejuvenated. You can’t get more distinctly Borneo than that!