While the other islands get their fair share of visitors, Pulau Gaya has been overlooked despite it being the biggest island in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. Police Beach, on the northern coast, has one of the nicest beaches and its location on the far side of the island ensures plenty of privacy. Getting here by boat though costs more because of its distance. At the moment, a new resort is under construction on this beach. Gayana Resort is also located on this side of the island and this recently renovated resort with rooms above the water is now much better than before.
However, the majority of day-trippers to the island are here more for the jungle than the sea. Unknown to even some local Sabahans is the fact that Pulau Gaya actually is the nearest place to Kota Kinabalu for jungle-trekking activities. Established as Sabah’s first forest reserve in 1923, Pulau Gaya preserves one of the few remaining areas of largely undisturbed coastal dipterocarp forest left in Sabah. (A Guide to the Parks of Sabah by Anthea Phillipps).
There are three trails marked out for visitors. Visitors can arrange to be dropped off at either Padang Point or Base Camp. Both areas are located near Sapi Island. The trail from Base Camp to Police Beach is 3.25km and will take a few hours at least. For a less strenuous hike, take the trail from Base Camp to Padang Point (1.95 km), and arrange for your boatman to pick you up from the other side so you don’t have to walk back. This trail takes about 45 minutes and can still be quite tough for those who are not that fit. The great thing about this trail is that you get to see a dipterocarp forest as well as a mangrove forest. Combine that with a swim at Pulau Sapi and you get a 3-in-1 deal.
Although a logging concession was granted way back in 1879, the forest does not appear to have been disturbed much. Hornbills, monkeys, wild boars and monitor lizards are some of the wildlife that can sometimes be seen while trekking in the jungle. The only wildlife I managed to see were bats hanging on the underside of a rock. But freshly-dug ground suggests that wild boars are common. There are also sightings of proboscis monkeys, but you would have to be very lucky to see one.