Nestled in the northern part of Borneo, Sabah is not only a wildlife lover’s dream destination but also perfect getaway for lovers of all kinds. L. Christian Schmidt, Sales Manager of Diethelm Travel Malaysia, shares what it’s like experiencing the magic of Sabah for the first time complete with the ultimate surprise.
Many things feel like a dream, as the reality is sometimes just too good to be true. Having only found out the day before where our journey was heading, my girlfriend had little idea what was lying in wait for her, though I knew this trip would change our lives forever. As we sat together enjoying our flight, I could see the joy in her eyes as we flew our way to Sabah, a destination we had always dreamed of discovering.
Once arriving, in the hands of an excellent guide and driver, my girlfriend learned of our first activity – the Klias River Cruise to see proboscis monkeys.
Filled with excitement, we had our lunch while getting to know my colleagues, after which we continued on the road stopping for a refreshing coconut and some large clams. Reaching the river with its serene and natural atmosphere, I immediately found myself having a comfortable seat with a cool beer. After our refreshments, we headed onto the boat, hunting with our eyes for the elusive proboscis monkeys. Though we successfully spotted some, collecting of evidence in the form of clear pictures proved to be a challenge!
It was with the setting sun that we headed back to shore for a local buffet dinner before it was back unto the boat to watch the magical twinkling of the uncounted fireflies as we sat in the dark feeling rather enchanted.
The next day, we transferred to the jetty in Kota Kinabalu from where we would head to our next destination. Upon arrival we dropped off our bags and had oysters and more deliciousness for lunch while we waited for our boat transfer.
Though I had tried to leave my girlfriend in the dark, she managed to figure out that we were heading to an island and turned to me to ask, “Are we going to the Gaya Island Resort?!” It was impossible to hide the surprise any longer and it was great to see the excitement again rise in her eyes as we joyfully made our way to the boat that would take us the rest of the journey.
Upon arrival we were welcomed by the hotel staff with smiles and friendly words. Once again we breezed our way through the check-in process and were led on a mini tour en-route to the doorstep of our spacious 5-star Bayu Villa. Being wildlife enthusiasts, the experience was further enhanced for us with the added excitement of seeing a young wild boar just nearby – a regular but shy visitor to the premises.
Our day came to a slow and relaxing end as we enjoyed our meal with a delicious drink, sitting opposite of each other in soft candlelight.
The next day our schedule remained packed and we were strongly committed to keeping with it by starting the day watching the sun rise over Mt. Kinabalu in the distance. With the narrow sea lying in between the island and the mainland, the reflecting light of the sun seemed to show a road of gold that connected the two land masses giving us a perfect view to start the day with.
I had big plans for the day and we enjoyed our time in the pool and at the pool bar before heading out for a snorkelling trip. It was an excellent and refreshing swim with fish all around us, a true and calming experience for any island visitor.
After the tour we had lunch at Tavajun Bay, a private beach reachable only by boat or a nature walk. The day was going so perfectly that we didn’t notice the time flying past and all of the sudden we found ourselves back at the resort, getting ready for our special meal – a private beach dinner that I had kept secret from my girlfriend.
We realised that we had achieved almost all aspects that would be expected from an unforgettable holiday – great guides, pleasant drives, comfortable hotels, refreshing swims and excellent meals. Unfortunately a great holiday is never fully achieved without also a slight hiccup however, and on our way down to our special private dinner, my girlfriend felt a stomach bug creeping up.
The timing could not have been worse, but as she saw the amazing dinner set up complete with a heart made of sand in which our table was set, surrounded by four lanterns, and soft and inviting candle light, she forgot all about the stomach bug as the champagne arrived and I got down on one knee and proposed to her. It was a scene I thought was only possible in the movies, and when she said yes I felt as if I had already left Sabah and entered into the heavens.
The next day, we found ourselves back on the boat once again heading for the Kota Kinabalu city to our next destination, the Mari Mari Cultural Village.
Upon arriving at the mainland once more, it was an absolute delight to see one of my colleagues waiting to receive us at the jetty, and even more so when we found out that our first driver was back to take us to the village.
The Mari Mari Cultural Village was like a melting pot of the various tribes found in Sabah, complete with replica houses, cooking demonstrations, and even rice wine making and tasting. What caught us by surprise the most was an indoor trampoline found in one of the houses that the tribesmen used in order to show their skills, capabilities and worthiness of attaining someone else’s daughter for marriage. The different cultures and beliefs were fascinating and our guide provided the perfect mix of humour, information and stories that kept everyone captivated.
Too soon our day and tourwas coming to an end as we enjoyed a buffet dinner served right after watching a cultural performance held by the locals in full traditional costume, displaying and showcasing their skills and true tribal ceremonies.
It was no surprise that on the plane we spent much time reminiscent of the times we had spent in Sabah and marvelling at the fact that this single holiday had changed our lives forever – being now engaged and full of everlasting memories from a Journey of a Lifetime.