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.

YTL Life - - Contents - Words RENYI LIM

“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

Justin Juhun guides guests on na­ture walks at Gaya Is­land. In­trigu­ing and ed­u­ca­tional, the walks vary in terms of dis­tance and dif­fi­culty to sat­isfy dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests. Guests will dis­cover a botanic re­serve that is ex­cep­tion­ally rich in en­demic plants,

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