I have to admit their website is well done and once you explore it a bit, you are already 25% sure you wanna go there ;-). Anyway, no surprises between what was promised and what we actually got, so thats good (however, their boat schedules can be a pain sometimes, once we had to wait for almost an hour even when we had chartered a personal boat..limited boats I guess..but a one-off incident). But judging by our overall experience, I think we will GO AGAIN sometime :-)
AIRPORT TO JETTY/RESORT: Upon arrival at the airport, they were already there to pick us up, and we reached the pier (jetty) soon. Since our boat to bunga raya was waiting for other tourists, we hung out there for 30 mins or so and it was not bad (THEY HAVE FIXED BOAT SCHEDULES DURING THE DAY. So, make sure to choose a flight that fits well with those boat schedules..taking into account the road traffic of course)
By the time the boat left for Bunga Raya, it was late in the evening and bit of the high seas, so that was a roller coaster in itself in a funny way! Boat stopped at Gayana first (their sister resort as some folks were to get there) and finally we reached ours
The RESORT: We were greeted by a cheerful bunch of staff, and luckily no paperwork as they did all of that at the Jetty itself (they have a big office over there). As we got up to go to our villa, expecting to walk over there as we've done often in other resorts, I was pleasantly surprised to see a golf cart/Buggy waiting for us. A couple of minutes' ride that literally gave us a mini-tour of a large part of the resort, led us to our TREEHOUSE VILLA. The ambience & overall feel of the whole place really makes you relaxed. They have about 5 wild boars roaming around the place ..but I can say for sure, they are as elusive as movie stars! Only on our last day could we capture them in a proper photo/video.
TREEHOUSE VILLA: Upon entering the villa, my first words were "WOW". Very well done interiors, nice balcony with ocean view on one side & jungle view on the other. Since me & the missus are always up for a great personalized experience, the PRIVATE JACUZZI was a welcome sight. I though I could remain at this place for a lot longer if not for my professional commitments in the "real world".
RESTAURANTS: The one right next to the beach (PANTAI GRILL) was temp. closed due to the high seas, otherwise would've loved to go there. The main restaurant, THE KOI has a pretty decent ambience, ocean view on one side...waterfall view on the other. Service was brilliant & real quick at times while not-so-great on few other occasions. Breakfast & lunch menus were decent, but dinner menu could do well with few more additions/varieties. But overall, it was good.
BEACH: Too Good. Loved being at the beach on all days. The infinity pool is nice but you hardly notice it when you have this white sand beach, with water as clear as it can be!
THE SPA: We had gone over to check out the spa, I liked the fact that you had to walk over a canopy of sorts to go there. We wanted to let it out a bit after couple of days' of local tours & times at the beach, so I came back to park myself in our private Jacuzzi...cigar & scotch giving me company. While the wifey went for the spa, acc. to her, it was like being really close to the nature, trees & birds etc...yet a sense of calm. Its a big debate if the spa was better OR my cigar/scotch/Jacuzzi combo! ;-)
LOCAL TOURS: I wanted us to have a combination of relaxing time at the resort + some local tours which would really be worth the physical effort (am lazy!). So, I let the missus do the choosing for us as she is good at this. We went for only 2 outings, one of them was for a whole day, but definitely worth it. Walking on a series of 5 connected canopies which must be few HUNDRED meters above ground...si quite something, but the photos we clicked from those points made the effort well worth it!! In the same trip we saw &took pictures of the commanding Mt. Kinabalu...and saw some great varieties of flora. The MARI-MARI cultural village was a whole new experience (for my wife mostly as she's all about getting to know new cultures, etc, but have to say I liked it too)
LIVE Fish Feeding (GIANT GAROUPA FISH I mean!!) @ their sister resort Gayana was an amazing experience. Snorkeling was also good, witnessed a whole lot of marine life there, would've loved to go for scuba but were running short of time.
The MERC (Marine Ecological centre) at Gayana, while sounds nerdy to some, is definitely a go, saw & held starfish, sea-urchins, etc by hand..up close. And also look at the methods of restoring those damaged reefs, do it yourself by paying 15 bucks. But the STANDOUT was when I saw those sharks up close...not fully grown yet...but still pretty big (bigger then those giant garoupas i mentioned earlier)
Major NEGATIVE: We were told that if we miss a schedule boat ride (e.g. coming late from your local tours etc) then we can always do charter one (costs way more but you won’t be stranded!). But even that was subject to availability and had to wait for almost an hour for the chartered one. Not a great scenario specially when thats the only means of transport connecting the 2 resorts with the mainland!! Also, boat schedules are altered a bit if majority of passengers are supposed to leave say 30 mins earlier, then the minority who were supposed to leave at the ACTUAL scheduled time have to hurry up.
Anyway, there's lot more we did/experienced but to write that would mean taking a day off ;-). Am told Bunga Raya is less than 2 years old...so I guess they can polish off some of the edges. But WE WOULDNT MIND GOING BACK for sure!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- As sensual and exotic as the hibiscus flower that bears its name, Bunga Raya Island Resort is a luxurious jewel set on a coral reef island just off the coast of Borneo. A secluded island hideaway of 47 timbered villas, the resort is framed by white sand beach and virgin jungle. Hillside villas reflect the simplicity of the Borneo architectural style. A hilltop spa blends the finest Traditional Asian and Western treatments using restorative powers of indigenous plants and oils. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Bunga Raya Island Resort And Spa
- Bunga Raya Island Hotel Kota Kinabalu