Located just five minutes from the mythical Tip of Borneo, Lonely Planet once described this beautifully crafted villa as “the place where Jay-Z and GQ magazine would throw the mother of all Southeast Asian parties.” Maybe I don’t get out and par-tay enough because to me, its privacy, exclusivity and tasteful ambience are the epitome of quiet luxury with enough room for a multi-generational vacation.
UK owners Mike and Sue Burns had been traveling to Sabah for more than two decades when the opportunity to purchase land in Kudat presented itself. Hibiscus Villa, their dream holiday home, was completed in March 2011 initially just for family vacations. Fortunately for the rest of us they don’t mind sharing their expansive, three bedroom, four bath villa that comes with an open plan master-chef-quality kitchen and spacious living zones with an 18m infinity pool at its core. Perched on a hill with glittering views of the South China Sea set amidst a lushly landscaped one hectare tropical garden, staying in the 6,000 square foot villa is the epitome of Asian chic.
Ethnic décor, indigenous sculptures and artworks create an earthy interior that’s cool and restorative. Large balconies and wide folding doors let Borneo’s tropical paradise into three luxuriously furnished bedroom suites, two with king size beds and one with four single beds all dressed in crisp cotton. Air conditioning, ceiling fans, pebble-floored en suite bathrooms and flat screen TVs meet global nomad standards as does sleeping on a cloud of white bedding under fine muslin netting. On the first floor, a capacious al fresco lounge set under a towering roofline offers sweeping ocean vistas and heart-breaking sunsets.
It took 15 men to carry in the organically-shaped teak dining table on which Nawaling and Ruci, sisters from thenearby village, are setting out a breakfast of tropical fruits, wickedly sweet cinnamon toast and eggs. The villa’s in-house chef is Jainnes Apin, a local Rungus man who’s passionate about introducing visitors to sumptuously simple local Rungus gastronomy.
Think chicken in lemongrass and starfruit sauce served with a crispy mango salad with wild ginger flower, chilli, shallot and coriander or Hinava, local raw fish seeped in mango, lime juice, green chilli and garden-fresh basil. DIY guests wanting to take advantage of the barbecue gazebo can shop at Kudat’s central market 30 minutes away for fruit and v
egetables before hitting the wet market for fish straight off the boats moored by an open doorway.
Activities range from absolutely nothing to mountain biking, learning to cook traditional Malay dishes, Rungus longhouse visits, bird watching and jungle trekking. There’s golf at the century-old Kudat Golf Club, Sabah’s oldest, and countless beaches to stroll including Pantai Kalampunian, a coral-fringed coastline that stretches all the way to Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, the Tip of Borneo. Alternatively, prise yourself away from the siesta-inducing garden gazebo and walk through Hibiscus Villa’s gardens to a secluded talcum-fine sandy beach and float in warm, crystalline cyan waters.
Based on eight adults/children, the villa rents for USD900 a night including breakfast. Airport transfers for the 3 hour drive from Sabah’s capital Kota Kinabalu can be arranged for an additional cost. To book contact James and Sarah Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.hibiscusvillaborneo.com
Please look above at In The Picture and get a pictorial flavour of this month’s edition.