YTL has long held a reputation for luxurious escapes in lush natural environments around Malaysia. Their latest opening, Gaya Island Resort is no different. A 15 minute transfer from Kota Kinabalu airport sets you alight at Sutera Harbour. With views of a sapphire sea and envy-invoking ivory yachts, the YTL Lounge is a white bright cool haven from the outside tropical heat. A creamy calamansi sorbet refreshes while you’re seated on couches and the friendly staff organize your check-in. Soon you’re escorted to YTL’s speedboat, and a quick hair tanglingly invigorating ride later you arrive in a Bornean paradise. Set amongst the lush forest, rather than in place of it, Gaya Island Resort is a model of friendship between the natural and the man-made. Trees protrude through walkways, mangroves encroach on boardwalks and lush gardens frame communal spaces. While minimum plant life was touched to build the resort, an assertive planting program is in place to regreen the areas that now hold artificial structures. Vines are already making their way across cement walls and up metal supports. Before too long, it will be an extensive expanse of leaves, and villas will resemble floating tree houses ascending the hills.