Clear waters, white sands and offshore banks. What everyone looks for in an island.
Located off the coast of East Malaysia, sandwiched between Sarawak and Sabah, Labuan is one of three Federal Territories (the others are Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya).
Its special status as an international offshore financial centre and free trade zone has allowed it to attract outside investment from the financial sector (some 6,500 offshore companies are based here).
Long-term, the Malaysian government envisions the island as becoming one of the world’s major offshore business centres, akin to the Middle Eastern hubs of Dubai or Bahrain.
While it has some way to go to achieve similar status, the nation has a track record of dreaming big and making it happen — the Petronas Towers and annual F1 race attest to that.
If you’re not involved in the financial services, there are other reasons to visit such as wreck diving. Over the years, numerous ships were sunk in the shallow waters off Labuan, making it ideal for novice divers. These are simply known as the American, Australian, Blue Water and Cement Wreck.
There is also a well-tended War Cemetery, where an annual remembrance ceremony is held for some 3,900 Allied soldiers who died during in World War II.
Where to stay: For both service and quality, it’s a close toss-up between the Tiara Labuan and the Grand Dorsett.
Getting there: There are daily flights to Labuan Airport from Kuala Lumpur, Miri in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. There is also an air-conditionied ferry to Brunei.