Time Out Dubai's Luke Wilson has details on a marine biology holiday in Borneo and other ecotourism trips in Costa Rica, India, Cambodia and Zambia
While all luxury resorts pride themselves on offering the ultimate in rest and relaxation, one five-star destination is trying a different tack.
As its name suggests, the Gayana Eco Resort has saving the planet at the core of every little thing it does. Instead of simply giving guests the chance to recharge their batteries, the Malaysian resort is letting them take a very hands-on role in preserving the environment of which it is a part.
Uniquely, Gayana has its very own Marine Ecology Research Centre that offers holidaymakers the chance to become a marine biologist for the day, restoring the coral reef alongside its resident experts.
One of the stand-out packages available involves replanting coral fragments and, while underwater, monitoring the growth of “adopted corals”, tagging and removing dead ones and collecting the drupella snails that inhabit the reefs.
Another programme will see you tying coral fragments to the artificial biorock structure that uses mild electric currents to accelerate coral growth, thus helping to regenerate the reef.
Gayana prides itself on having a collection of seven of the eight giant clams remaining in the world, but instead of just maintaining the paltry stocks of this endangered species, the resort is taking the lead in regenerating them. And if your luck is in, you might even see them spawning the next generation.
Of course, there is no pressure on you to get involved in such eco projects, but at what other resort could you visit a maternity tank where pregnant seashorses rest beside mothering bamboo sharks, or adopt your very own coral and watch it grow? As for your accommodation, you’ll be staying in one of the 52 five-star villas perched on stilts over the South China Sea. Each is designed to make the most of the sound of the waves gently lapping against the shore, while views of Mount Kinabalu, one of Malaysian Borneo’s most famous landmarks, are offered from your balcony.
Honeymoon packages are also available, meaning you combine your inner eco warrior with your romantic side. From Dhs800 per room, per night (based on two adults and one child sharing). Until July 30. Gayana Eco Resort, Sabah, Malaysia, www.gayana-eco-resort.com (+6 088 380 390).
Don’t miss More ecotourism trips
Volunteer in Costa Rica A ten-day trip designed to educate you about wildlife conservation. Enjoy hands-on experiences with the scarlet macaw and sea turtles. From Dhs11,700 per person. Ongoing. www.greenloons.com.
Birdwatch in India Home to more than 1,300 species, India is a haven for twitchers. Spend six days discovering some of them in Nainital and Corbett National Park. From Dhs1,800 per person. Ongoing. www.ecoindia.com.
Elephants in Cambodia Spend a week working with rescued Asian elephants being released back into the wild. You’ll also have the chance to help with local community projects. From Dhs3,300 per person. Ongoing. www.responsibletravel.com.
Carnivores in Zambia Experience a week with the Zambian Carnivore Programme, joining the team as they track animals, gathering vital information on predators. From Dhs15,000 per person. Ongoing. www.tribes.co.uk.