spunktitud3

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Chasing Nature at Gaya Island Resort

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Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Brilliant Green Throated Lizards and more exotic creatures await you on Gaya Island Resort’s daily Nature Walk

Darren & I recently went on a getaway to nature’s paradise in the form of Gaya Island Resort, a newly opened five-star retreat located off the coast of Kota Kinabalu on the shores of Pulau Gaya, the largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Sabah/Borneo. Being nature lovers, this was the perfect location for us surrounded by untouched tropical rainforests and mangroves lovingly preserved for thousands of years complimented with the majestic view of Mount Kinabalu. Borneo is also home to many rare species including the orangutan, proboscis monkey and pygmy elephant.

We were thus naturally excited to go on the resort’s guided nature walks (9am daily lasting about 1hr; complimentary for guests) led by their in-house naturalist Justin Juhun – what an adventure! We couldn’t wait to discover the island’s distinctive flora and fauna hidden in the rainforest, and hear the stories he has to tell about them. We hear that a family of proboscis monkeys have been spotted in the jungle too, so we were even more eager to spot them on our walk.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Get wild with Gaya Island Resort’s Resident Naturalist Justin Juhun
Born in Tawau, a town located on the south-eastern coast of Sabah, Justin was raised in a family of wildlife enthusiasts who owned an animal sanctuary in their backyard. Justin’s thus no stranger to wildlife as he has been hand rearing orphaned infants from an early age.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

On our way into the rainforest just behind the resort

Tips for surviving a jungle walk:
– Beware of commando-trained mosquitoes: wear a long sleeved shirt (I brought detachable sleeves) and pants, or prepare to be human buffet for the mosquitoes.
– Slather on insect repellent especially on the uncovered body areas.
– Keep your mouth closed. You’ll know why later on.
– Talk softly else you will scare away all the animals and insects, and your companions.
– Wear proper shoes as there may not be proper walking paths (we are in a real jungle, not theme park).
– Try to stay with the group or you may become the next Survivor wannabe – by yourself.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

In awe of nature’s sculptures

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Justin’s pretty much a modern-day bushman
He prances like a nimble monkey, crouches to listen to nearby animals like a leopard and mimics the calls of birds. Darren tried to do the same bird calls later, but all he attracted were mosquitoes.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

A man’s favourite plant – Tongkat Ali
Nature’s aphrodisiac was aplenty on the island; we saw one of these every five steps we took. The Tongkat Ali root has been said to boost male virility, although Justin said this is not scientifically proven. Instead, he has been using this as a medicine for cancer.
I learnt a trick on how to identify  a Tongkat Ali plant – the leaf texture is velvety, and it doesn’t break when crumpled unlike other plants.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

A butterfly (to-be) did this
Justin taught us how to identify wildlife by the traces they leave – poo, foot trails, half-eaten leaves and in this photo – the larvae of a leafwing butterfly (so named because their wings mimic dead leaves) rolling itself up in a leaf which acts as a temporary shelter. They secure the leaf with silk they produce.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Husk of a molted cicada
Cicadas molt (shed their skins) on a nearby plant when they are about a year old and emerge as adults. The abandoned exoskeleton remains, clinging to the bark of trees or on leaves. There must be millions and millions of cicadas in the rainforest, cos’ they were noisy as hell.
And remember why I said not to open your mouths in the rainforest? Raise your head up and you will see romantic trails of water dripping from above. It is not morning dew. It is cicada pee.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Close-up of a cicada

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

The rainforest flora is as fascinating as its fauna

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Green Pit Viper curled up in the tree
Snakes apparently make home at a specific spot – Justin knew exactly where to find this fella. I was filled with trepidation as we trekked towards its location. I was honestly scared to death as I had never seen one outside of glass enclosures. It was quite happy to mind its own business while we ogled – or shrieked – from below.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Termite hill

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Termite’s Recreation Centre
Termites do not stay in this ball-like structure – it’s sort of a recreation centre where they hang out to socialise and maybe date, and then move on to their housing quarters which is the giant terminate hill just below.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Mini termite hills – nature does have its own humour

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Bioluminescent mushroom
Something tells me I shouldn’t eat this. Perhaps I should ask Justin to conduct a jungle gourmet tour since the greedy me kept looking around for things to eat :p

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

A really pretty lizard well-camouflaged by the tree bark
We would have missed it if Justin didn’t point it out to us. It seemed that the urbanites in us were blind to many things around us despite being so enthusiastic to spot wildlife. This walk actually me to slow down a little in life, to just quietly observe my surroundings. I have come to realise I see more now, and am able to give more creative ideas when I invest in few moments to really listen and think, instead of scurrying through life.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Flying Tree Lizard

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

What a cutie!

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Banana Flower

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Fruit of the Nutmeg Tree
Finally something I can eat! Nutmeg is used for flavouring many dishes, in perfume and medicinal oils. An extremely useful plant to have around.

Gaya Island Resort

Reishi Mushroom, more commonly known as Lingzhi (ganoderma lucidum)
The jungle is full of medicinal treasures too! This tiny little lingzhi took about 2 years to grow, no wonder they are so expensive. Justin told us that he had spotted another piece nearby which is over a hundred years old, and its value would have been about US$45,000 a few years back.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Even the birds came to sing

Gaya Island Resort nature Walk

Chat with the bushman
We were fortunate to have lunch with Justin after the walk and got to know him better. It was intriguing to hear him talk about his lifelong interest in wildlife, and about his ambition to start his very own wildlife reserve and conduct more research on flora and fauna’s useful properties as well as conservation.
While he was really serious and alert as a panther on the walk, he was very chatty during lunch, and almost like a little boy when talking about his future wildlife reserve. He was the one who set up the jungle walking paths at the resort, and I could sense his eagerness to get back into the jungle after lunch for more exploration. He shared that he is building an observation tower near a family of proboscis monkeys he discovered so resort guests will be able to see those precious creatures during future nature walks. I want to come back!!

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Discover nature’s wonders for yourself
We had an enlightening experience – and an awesome good workout (Darren was dripping sweat and showing too much through his white linen shirt, not that I mind haha) during the nature walk. It is definitely an activity that I would recommend going for when you are at Gaya Island Resort (and it’s complimentary for goodness sake!) I think it may change the way you look at things.For a more exclusive exploration of the forest (or if you want to do a walk in the nocturnal evening), Justin can be booked via the resort at RM150 per person in the group, and the walks can tailored to varying difficulties and distance to suit one’s ability and interests. And I am looking forward to the day the bushman finally has his very own jungle. 

More on Gaya Island Resort:
Gaya Island Resort – Romancing Sunset
Gaya Island – Private Paradise at Tavajun Bay
Gaya Island Resort – Finding Zen at the Spa Village

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Author: spunktitud3

A little post by a fun-loving spunky gal in love with the quirky, the artsy and anything which inspires new creations. Read about her adventures on: spunktitud3.wordpress.com

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