Words and photos by Richard Waters
If you venture up to the west coast of Malaysian Borneo, you'll find long bays of fine white sand lapped by the clearest blue water. Right at the northern tip is Pantai Avoia, where the most activity you're likely to see is a local fisherman in a brightly-coloured boat casting his net, or a coconut falling from a tree.
Where to stay:
Here you'll find a private stretch of paradise called Hibiscus Beach Retreat. There's only one chalet on the beach, above, and that's yours, a beautiful, one-bedroom shack perched on a small cliff, with a 1.5km crescent of sand all to itself. The only way to reach the beach is via a private road or by walking from other bays.
Start the day with freshly baked bread and fruit before heading into the turquoise water with fins and mask-in-hand (you can borrow free from the Retreat) to cool off. If you feel more intrepid, take a scuba dive with an instructor. These are some of the richest waters in the world for marine biodiversity and snorkelling or diving will bring you up close with batfish, clownfish, giant green turtle and octopus. And if you're here between November and February, and you're very lucky, you might just meet the majestic – and harmless - whale shark. Fish are everywhere for snorkelers and the deeper you swim, the bigger the fish.
Afternoons are for siestas in the hammock or your cool, cosy chalet. Decked out in fresh pastels, natural wood and a straw-thatched roof, there are floor-to-ceiling windows to drink up the view. By night, order a barbecue and just plug in your iPod, or wander further down the beach to where little restaurants fire up their braziers, as the equatorial sunset tints the sky.
Hibiscus Beach Retreat, Sabah, North Borneo +60 19 895 0704
Doubles from £80 B&B
Singapore Airlines, has return flights from London Heathrow and Manchester to Kota Kinabalu, via Singapore, from around £735.
Pre-arranged transfer from Kota Kinabalu International Airport costs £53 each way