If you’re looking for that Castaway feeling, Lankayan Island is the place to go. Tucked away in the Sulu Sea between Malaysian Borneo and the Philippines, it’s a secluded tropical paradise home to just a handful of beach bungalows. Spot brightly coloured fish darting between coral, relax on the soft white sands… and you can even adopt your own nest of turtles!
Here are Emma’s top 5 reasons to visit this little slice of heaven…
1. There are turtles. Baby turtles.
Lankayan is home to the Reef Guardian, a marine protection NGO that ensures the coral reef around the neighbouring islands are safe from harm (taking steps to protect against climate change causes and drag net fishing etc.) They also provide a safe haven for sea turtles, running a 24 hour patrol to keep nests safe. As soon as the eggs have hatched the staff will take them straight down to the beach and release them into the sea (keeping a keen eye out for any pesky birds who fancy a turtle snack).
The project is based in a little hut on the island and is open to visitors. Remember to pop your turtle signs outside the door to ensure you’re alerted when the turtles are about to be released. If you don’t manage to see a hatching, there’s a good chance that you’ll spot a couple of wild turtles who swim close to the seabed. You can even adopt a nest to fund the great work that the charity does in Borneo.
We adopted our very own Rickshaw turtle nest when donating the contributions sent in by our customers! Watch the video below to see our new hatchings make a break for the big blue…
2. It’s Paradise
Just an hour and a half boat ride from Sandakan, Lankayan Island emerges from the horizon like a scene from Castaway. As the friendly staff unloaded our bags from the small vessel we gazed at our home for the next three days and couldn’t believe our luck! With the jetty and restaurant located on wooden stilts into the shimmering ocean, you can chill out with a nice glass of vino and feel a million miles from home.
3. There’s nothing to do
Well that’s a lie. You can spend all day diving, snorkelling, swimming, reading, strolling… But that’s about it! On this Borneo beach escape there is so much beauty surrounding you that it’s easy to relax into island life and enter a state of total relaxation. Bliss.
4. Fresh seafood is abundant
A definite highlight of staying on Lankayan is the amount of eating you’ll be doing. With all meals included in the price of your stay, it’s hard not to take advantage of the delicious buffet that greets you morning, noon and night. Fresh seafood is always on offer, alongside traditional Malaysian dishes and other world cuisines. The restaurant features a wraparound terrace where you can eat and drink with a great view.
5. There are only 26 bungalows on the island
So expect a chilled out atmosphere – this is not somewhere you come to party! We enjoyed meeting the other guests on our stay, most of whom gather at the restaurant area to enjoy the incredible sunsets, but at no time did the island feel crowded or touristy. All of the wooden bungalows face out towards the sea so you’ll wake up to a beautiful view and fall asleep to the sounds of the waves. These aren’t your average beach bungalows however, all come fitted with air conditioning and fans as well as immaculate wooden interiors, some even featuring outdoor showers for a truly tropical experience!
It doesn’t get much better than this!
We recommend visiting Lankayan Island between March and September when the weather is mainly hot and sunny. Read more about our 3 days / 2 nights trip to the island.