By 9am it’s already too hot to wander along the beach without burning your feet and getting hot and sweaty. So at 7am, before breakfast, we got up and out early for a pleasant beachside stroll. The tide was on its way out, leaving behind its treasures. In the sand we tracked lizard and snake trails, following the marks until they disappeared in the grass. But the romance ended with the onslaught of sandflies and a lack of insect repellant.
After a buffet breakfast feast we lounged in the early morning sun near. On a whim we paid to ride Segways around a dirt track circuit. Neither of us had been on one before. You lean forward to go forward, and lean back to stop, turning is as simple as leaning left or right. It’s all about centre of gravity, and once you’ve got it it comes naturally. But until then it’s a little jerky, and Sam’s hilarious and calamitous forward-backwards-somersault off the front is testament to that. But we were soon zipping around the circuit, taking corners at speed and splashing through the track’s water hole.
It gave Sam an adrenaline rush, and on the back of that she rushed over to the water-sports shed looking for more activities. She came bounding back, “Let’s go parasailing!”. Given that Samantha is scared of heights, and tends to shy away from crazy activities, this came as a surprise. We had to do it now she said, so she wouldn’t have time to think and back out of the whole thing.
10 minutes later we’d scrambled onto a boat, been strapped into a harness and were flying in the air beneath the rainbow colours of a parachute. Tied to the boat by a metal cable, it unwound, sending us higher and higher. We could see for miles, the expansive sea opened out in front of us, and behind us the peak of Mount Kinabalu poked out from above the clouds, detached from anything else, like a floating fortress.
This is all perfect preparation for a spa day. From the boat, pumped full of adrenaline, Sam sprinted to reception to board a golf buggy, destination: The Chi spa. Splashing out, she chose the Marine Elixir “chi journey”. That’s a 3h30 session with pampering foot ritual, body wrap with mask and steam room. It continues with a luxurious seaweed (and rose petal) bath, a full body massage and a revitalising facial.
Meanwhile I embarked on a fully personalised nature tour; I walked where I wanted to looking for animals. By the golf course the lotus flowers looked spectacular, and at the Ocean wing sunbirds danced about the pink flowers (they’re almost as tiny and as nimble as hummingbirds), by Coast I found a frightened baby scops owl that had fledged its nest too soon (it was soon in the care of the park ranger), and out the back of the hotel, with our friends from the Orangutan sanctuary, I found a giant golden orb-weaver spider. The more you look, the more you see, and for a quick midday wander I found a lot to talk about and photograph.
Rejuvenated, and somewhat calmer, Sam returned from her spa and we shared a greek wrap by the pool. Waiting for sunset and our pre-booked firefly tour, we played boules.
The firefly trip is a minibus out to a nearby river, then an hour long boat journey in pitch black. It was overcast but dry, perfect viewing conditions. Obviously at night and by water there will be many mosquitos and bitey things, so we wrapped up head-to-toe in wet weathers and trousers, and covered the rest of ourselves in deet. Sat two-by-two down a wobbly wooden boat, we peered into the dark searching for signs of light. The green light of a firefly in the distance is almost imperceptible, but when they’re together in trees, pulsating in competition, the place lights up like a Christmas tree. We pulled in close, and our guide brought a few onboard, flying by our noses for us to see up close. Looking into the water you can also see the faint glow of luminescent plankton. The boat turned around and we headed back, waving goodbye to the faeries.
Back at the hotel we had a quick Nasi Goreng from the Coffee Terrace and went to bed. With the lights off, looking up at the ceiling, a faint green light flashed, and it seemed to move too. “Look Sam, a firefly is in our room!”, we got excited and I turned on the lights to get a better look. “Nope, it’s just the fire alarm”.