Nature rambling with Gaya Island Resort’s senior resident naturalist Justin Juhun
Going on a nature ramble with Justin Juhun, Gaya Island Resort’s senior resident naturalist, isn’t a mere walk in the jungle.
“All forests are unique,” says Justin Juhun, as he leads the way through one of Gaya Island Resort’s nature trails, following a path that winds around enormous hardwood trees and past densely tangled vines, looping rattans and sprawling palms.
The resort’s senior resident naturalist is one of a handful of individuals capable of unlocking the many secrets that Gaya Island’s dense and richly diverse coastal dipterocarp forest holds. As the largest of five islands that make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park in Sabah, the 1,483-hectare island has been a forest reserve since 1923 and is a veritable jewel box of rare flora and fauna, offering sanctuary to wildlife species facing rapid extinction.
Juhun embodies YTL Hotels’ philosophy of ‘conservation through education’. On any given day, he can be seen tracking down families of long-nosed proboscis monkeys in the name of research, keeping his eyes trained on the rainforest canopy for red giant flying squirrels that glide from branch to branch, or patiently collecting and planting elephant foot yam seeds. Setting out on an early morning guided nature walk with him is a highlight of the resort’s PURE activities programme every guest should try at least once.
Kayaking through the oily, brackish waters of the mangrove forest just next to the resort is an adventure in itself, where Juhun will point out crabs slowly emerging from the twisted roots or an oriental pied hornbill perched on a branch in the golden afternoon light.
Would-be explorers who aren’t afraid to tough it out may want to take up the challenge of attempting to cross the island on a private trekking experience with Juhun. To this day, no guest at Gaya Island Resort has successfully completed the walk, which takes seven to eight hours.
“Along that track, we might spot Pteroptyx fireflies, a tiny frog the size of your fingernail and huge spiders. And be prepared to climb over big boulders while using vines as a rope to haul yourself up. Everyone who’s been on that trek can’t believe what they’ve seen.”
For more information, please visit www.gayaislandresort.com