These are the places that make waves when it comes to swimming, surfing, speedboat rides and scuba dives…
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Step off the grid in Sabah, an island where crystal-clear waters, primeval rainforest and untamed fauna beckon the wild at heart.
With its untouched, dramatic landscape, this north-eastern pocket of Malaysian Borneo is a place for adventurers. Idling the days away on pristine beaches and in bath-warm waters may be tempting, but its vast wilderness lies waiting to be explored. This is a playground for eco-adventurers: active types can enjoy river cruises, white-water rafting and caving. Don a snorkel from the dive shop at Bunga Raya or pick up a PADI license to explore the reefs around the islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (+60 (0)88 523 500), which is home to jungle-clad Gaya Island where you can spy giant clams and blue-spotted rays. Back on dry land, hang out with gentle ginger giants at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (+60 (0)89 531 180), see pygmy elephants at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (+60 (0)88 267 266) or trek up the daunting, Unesco-protected slopes of Mount Kinabalu.
I would love to mount an expedition looking for the night parrot. This small and secretive bird is ground-dwelling and nocturnal, and was thought to be extinct until a handful of confirmed recent sightings. It’s the definition of enigmatic and even if we didn’t find it, all that time searching in the dead of the night in the bush would be bound to reveal plenty of other amazing species. On a more practical note, I’d love to see and swim with the gentle whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, home to shoreside, safari-style stay Sal Salis.
Laid-back Bunga Raya boutique hotel and spa in Sabah, Borneo, is a tropical-island paradise without the schlep. Its powdery white beach, rainforest backdrop and endless ocean views will ensure you’ll feel miles away from the real world, even though the airport is just half an hour away. Your villa is a cool enclave of simple luxury from which you can step directly onto the beach or into the jungle.
Just-remote-enough Japamala Resort on tiny Tioman Island is the ultimate back-to-nature escape. Joined by a series of canopy-skimming walkways, the hotel's luxury treehouses and cliff-clinging chalets are secluded and serene, promising rainforest-ringed privacy and vertiginous vistas of the South China Sea.
Camps Bay is a 15-minute drive from downtown Cape Town, a lively stretch of Atlantic seaboard that is definitely no secret. But the way to dip into all the action is with a stay at Atlantic House is an amble from Camp’s Bay. Have a go at sea kayaking – also known as surf ski paddling. Adventurers will also love kloofing – also known as canyoning – where guides take you up into the mountains and you dive through waterfalls, off cliffs and down canyons. Not for the faint hearted.
Ecology is at the heart of romantic Gayana Eco Resort in Sabah, a South China Sea-meets-jungle getaway a short hop from Singapore and Hong Kong. This green-minded hideaway features a flock of stilted villas set on a peaceful lagoon, and even has its own marine research centre. Comfort and style haven’t been neglected, with overwater bungalows offering pared-back luxury.