Although you don't have to escape to an island to experience Borneo's coast, it’s a wonderful way to do it. There's something about sailing away into the South China Sea that gives a beach break a bit more of a buzz. The further you get from the mainland the more you'll realise the staggering depths of the ocean, where snorkelers and divers will be in dreamland. Inland wilderness tempts you away from the coast and into tropical hillsides where stilted villas look out towards Mt. Kinabalu.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
The first time you see a green or hawksbill turtle effortlessly gliding underwater, you'll have found your happy place. The diving and snorkelling around Borneo's Sulu Sea islands is exceptional. Even if you've never snorkelled before, the laid back salty, sandy ambience of these isolated islands is an ideal place to start. Experienced divers will be able to make the most of pristine coral reefs and colourful underwater gardens where seahorses, manta rays and large schools of tropical fish thrive in protected waters. Sipadan, Kapalai and Mabul islands, in particular, really appeal to divers. Although Gaya and Tiga islands, within Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine National Park, boast equally impressive underwater action.
Being marooned on an uninhabited island won't be everyone's idea of paradise, but for lovers of sandy barefoot adventure, Lankayan is unforgettable. Spend days busily doing nothing apart from padding across snow white sand and gazing out to sea. Comfortable wooden chalets open out directly onto the beach providing endless excuses to go for a dip or don a snorkel mask and flippers. Although Lankayan is a popular place for divers, it's much more than just a 'dive island'. It's about the whole island experience. It's somewhere to make fresh footprints, find out more about sea turtles and conservation projects, or just paddle off into the sunset on a sea kayak or SUP board.
You can lose yourself on Gaya Island, in every sense. Whether it's underwater, being captivated by clams, clownfish and colourful coral gardens, or hiking through jungles where monkeys, giant moths and bearded pigs may make an appearance, this is an island that sings with adventure but also allows you to unwind and enjoy some absolutely splendid food. You can stay in a hillside villa, surrounded by thick forest, or enjoy a rooftop dining experience under a blanket of stars. You can visit the Marine Ecology Research Centre or stroll across a sand-dusted pontoon and watch rays swimming underneath. Whatever you set your sights on, Gaya Island's an accessible option that ticks a lot of boxes.
Explore an untamed habitat concealing endangered animals, rare birds and plants with mysterious medicinal properties; all before steeling away for a remote island retreat.