Gayana Eco Resort
The Marine Ecology Research Centre is the heart and soul of Gayana Eco Resort. The MERC, as it's known, is a conservation and education facility that runs the robust Save the Giant Clams campaign, which over four years has nurtured 3,000 of these endangered mollusks that are vital to the local ecology. There's also a reef program that regenerates coral and plants artificial structures.
Head off of Malaysian Borneo into the South China Sea for close encounters with a cornucopia of plant and animal life: monkeys, wild boars and hornbills in the mangroves and rainforest; hundreds of species of fish in the aquamarine waters. Much of Gayana is on stilts, getting you as close as possible to the water, while also minimizing the place's impact on the environment. The local chef concocts fantastic Chinese and Western fare using organically farmed seafood and veggies. Sabah, home to Mt. Kinabalu and a rich cultural history, is just a short boat ride away.
The 52 thatched-roof, stilted villas—made of local, durable hard wood—offer jungle, mangrove, lagoon and sea views from their private decks. But if your focus is on the world below, book one of the new glass-floored palm villas.
Participate first-hand in the MERC’s work, by becoming a reef “foster parent” and planting your own coral frame, which will eventually get a new home in the sea, or by spending a day as a marine biologist, researching and learning about the ecosystem.