Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya), Sabah: Travel Guide (2024)
Gaya Island is a beautiful spot located just off the coast of Borneo in Sabah. Also known as the largest island in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Gaya Island is serene and peaceful, perfect for a relaxing vacation. It is also a popular destination for snorkelling, diving, and hiking.
The island is an important stopover for migratory birds. Its coral reefs are home to a rich diversity of marine life. For those looking for a more adventurous experience, this island also offers excellent hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting opportunities.
What to Expect in Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya)
What to Do on Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya)
1. Snorkelling and scuba diving
Gaya Island is home to some of the best snorkelling sites in the world. The island is situated within The Coral Triangle, the world’s marine epicentre. This underwater realm is home to diverse marine life, including over 75% of all known fish species. The coral gardens are just 20 metres from the shore, making it the perfect place to explore the underwater world.
If you’re a beginner, don’t worry! The resort offers paid snorkelling and diving programmes around five islands within the marine park. These programmes are the perfect way to experience all that the island provides. You have the choice to learn how to scuba dive, request guided snorkelling, or try diving. What’s better? You can also get certification once you’ve completed the courses!
2. Jungle trekking
Gaya Island is the largest island in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. It is also home to the most significant island forest and a dense tropical rainforest with wildlife. The 4 km-long jungle trail is the perfect way to explore the island. Due to the path not being flat, you would need more than 2 hours to complete the trek.
Along the way, you’ll spot plenty of hundred-foot-tall trees, rattan, mushrooms, fungus, bugs, and lizards. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a hornbill!
Additionally, the jungle trail offers an incredible workout while enjoying scenic views of the majestic Mount Kinabalu. There are several lookout points where you can take a break, enjoy the view, and catch your breath before continuing. Jungle trekking in this island’s jungle trail is not for the faint of heart. Still, it is an unforgettable experience that will leave you feeling accomplished and invigorated.
When to Visit Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya)
The best time to plan your trip is from May through October, when the weather is warm and dry. You’ll avoid school holidays and higher hotel rates, making it easier on your wallet. Plus, the chances of rain are less likely during this time but remember that Gaya Island is in the tropics, so thunderstorms can still occur.
May is the ideal month to visit if you want to experience world-class snorkelling and swimming. The sun is shining brightly, and the water temperature is perfect for spending hours in the crystal-clear waters.
How to Get to Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya)
The only way to reach the island is by ferry. The Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in downtown Kota Kinabalu is the departure point for all ferries heading to the islands in the marine park. The journey from Kota Kinabalu to Gaya Island will take about 25 minutes. Visitors can enjoy the city skyline and majestic view of Mount Kinabalu in the distance during the ride.