Hibiscus Beach Retreat (Kudat/Sabah)
The days leading up to our stay at this incredible place were trying for us. We arrived in Kota Kinabalu anxious to get to our hotel and shattered after a restless nights sleep in Kuala Lumpur International airport. Borneo had been on our list of destinations to visit after seeing google images of exotic beaches and a number of wildlife documentaries featured in the country.
At first glance, Borneo was not what we were expecting. We made our way through the bustling city on a highway along the coastline which didn’t seem to have much beach (and was not of the standard we had seen on the internet). The hotel we checked-in to was budget to say the least and we were cautioned by family members of terrorist activity which the area had a history of. The thought of it and the fact that we were among few other travelers that we had seen made us feel like we had made a mistake coming to the country.
After a week in the city we discovered scenic rooftop views of the bay, the crystal-clear water and marine life of the neighboring islands and interesting local markets… Borneo was not so bad. But our idea of Borneo changed drastically as we set eyes on the road ahead towards our next destination, Kudat. A 20 minute drive outside the city and we already found ourselves winding through jungle and palm forest with stilted villages along the way, this is what we were after !
The excitement of passing by the scenery turned our three-hour drive into what felt like a moment. We had soon reached the tip of Borneo, the northernmost point separating the Celebes and the South China Sea. It was also our spot for the next week, Hibiscus beach retreat. A sudden right turn into the thicket and few hundred meters onwards we met the beach and nestled next to us was a chalet with an unobstructed view of white sand and ocean. It was more then what we had seen on the internet. This was paradise and it was our own. There was nothing in sight to spoil it. We went to bed that night watching the waves roll onto beach no more than 20 meters in front of us with the feeling that we had struck a goldmine.
The days to follow consisted of exploring this unspoiled paradise. The area is isolated without phone signal to distract us from enjoying the place. Some mornings only our footprints were left on the beach from the day before. We spent most days snorkeling along the reef looking for turtles (There is a turtle hatchery on the neighboring beach). The reef also makes for some small but fun waves to surf during the day and in the evenings the ridge above the beach was our favorite sunset spot boasting one of the best sunsets we have seen yet.
Hibiscus retreat is one of those places we wish to return to for years to come. We found Hibiscus retreat on Airbnb and the host, James, left us with a lasting impression. His friendliness and passion to conserve the environment was refreshing and made our stay that much more memorable. The managers, security and cleaning staff made us feel at home and we left Hibiscus with new friends made in all of them.The staff are from the local Rungus tribe and we gained so much from hearing their stories of their families and the land.
We had fallen in love with Borneo. But the adventure was not over and we were in for one more surprise…