The 4,929 ha Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park was named for Malaysia's first Prime Minister and comprises a group of 5 islands (Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug) off Borneo's north-east coast fairly close to Kota Kinabalu. 
 
Gaya Island's name comes from the Bajau word "Gayo" ('Big') - it is the largest of the 5 islands. Gaya Island covers an area of 15 km2 (3,700 acres) and has an elevation of up to 300 metres: several ridges rise over 600 feet (180 m), up to 300m along its backbone. Sandstone of the coastline forms cliffs, caves, honeycombs and deep crevices. It is swathed in tropical rainforest and has some 20km of hiking trails. Infrastructure for tourists includes two 5 star  resorts: Gayana Eco Resort is where the Marine Ecology Research Centre is located and the Bunga Raya Island Resort on the north-east part of the island.
 
Sabah Parks administes the area and has an office is headquartered on the south-eastern part of Gaya Island in a bay shared with the Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures dive station. A development on the edge of Gaya island nearest to Sapi island is also used by Sabah Parks and offers a small, quiet beach for public recreational use. Scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities in the area are wonderful. 
 
Gaya island is also known for the picture-perfect beach by Police Bay which fronts Bunga Raya Island Resort: this 400 metres stretch of powdery fine white sand gently slopes out to the sea and makes Police Beach ideal for swimming in warm, gin- clear waters. Coral reefs along the coast of Gaya island are in healthy and vibrant condition, making it a very good diving destination.
 
The islands are easily accessed by boat from Jesselton Ferry terminal in Kota Kinabalu. 
 

Jack Brooker

Travel Specialist

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