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Gaya Island Resort
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All reviewsfisherman's covenature walkprivate beachjapanese restaurantpool bartavajun baywalk in wardrobespa villagekinabalu villawild boarsunset cruiseytl hotelsour honeymoonmain restaurantpangkor lautomakasehuge bathtub
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Reviewed 3 August 2013

As soon as we arrived after the short boat trip, to our dismay we noticed that we would not be getting a typical sea horizon experience. All you can see from the resort is the main island - it was like being at a lake in northern Italy. We were pormised that we would get stunning views from our villa (806) which was a 10-minute slightly upward "hike" from reception. When we got there we had another villa blocking our view as well as high trees mostly blocking the view down to the water and beach. The second disappointment. The villa itself was very nice, spacious and very clean. To relax outside there is a bench (comofrtable for two people. Ours was not clean and when it rains you can't sit outside at all as this area is not covered by a roof and therefore after a rainfall - you cannot use the "terrace" at all for quite a while. The staff are very friendly and helpful, the buffet in the feastvillage restaurant quite varied, but nevere changes - always the same offer - and beware, that soemtimes certain dishes are cold due to warming appliances sometimes failing or not on - check the warmth level before returning to your table. We were also expecting tranqulity, which was not the case. There are alway boats on the move (loud outboard motors), generators running, loud tools being used and even at night, some or a combination of these noise sources, maintained a constant noise level that woke us up regularly. The peace and tranquility expected and promised was far less than expected and honestly we were happy to leave after the 3 nights booked. Lesson learnt for us is to never forget to google-earth where you are going - if we had seen that we were facing land and no open sea horizon, we would not have booked this location. Please do the same.

Room Tip: If you don't like long uopward walks ask for a villa near the receoption. There are probably 2-3 villas from what we saw that might at least have unobstrcuted views of the mainland across the water - be sure to ask in advance otherwise you will definitely be behind other vialls or trees.
  • Stayed: July 2013, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank lacadu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 17 August 2013

Dear Guest,

Greetings!

I am very sorry to read your disappointments on regards to the location and concept of a rain-forest resort did not meet your expectations.

I also note your comment on the food and I would like to ensure that we are in the midst of revoking the entire Food and Beverage offerings in our Feast Village restaurant and we look forward to have this new improved experiences running very soon.

Again, I am very sorry that the location and the concept of the resort did not meet your expectations. I would like to take this opportunity to share and guide your good self on our sister properties, Tanjong Jara Resort in Terengganu Malaysia, Pangkor Laut Resort in Perak Malaysia, and Tembok Bali Resort in Bali Indonesia for your perusal as these properties are more secluded and private on the basis of away from town views. Please visit this link for more information : http://www.ytlhotels.com/.

Again, I am very sorry on the overall disappointments, me and team look forward to welcome you back to Gaya Island Resort in future.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 July 2013

I have been to many resorts, hotels, inns outside of Australia and New Zealand, this is the first hotel that I know off that has Vegemite as one of its offering on the buffet table.

Which about sums up everything about this resort. We got the motor yacht "Lumba-Lumba" to bring us across to Gaya Island. From reception to room, services, food, the island - they were all first class and 5 star all the way. Well, its a YTL Resort. 5stars after all.

Great stay - we will be back.

Room Tip: Unless you like walking uphill, choose the chalets on the lower planes.
  • Stayed: June 2013, travelled on business
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2  Thank sza1968
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 17 August 2013

Dear Guest,

Sunny greetings from Gaya Island Resort- A walking rain-forest resort!

Many thanks on your support and we are happy to read on your happy stay with us and we look forward to welcome you back with us in time to come.

Again, thank you very much and till we meet again, our best wishes.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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Reviewed 29 July 2013

We enjoyed a 6 night stay at the Gaya Island resort after an active trip around the Borneo rainforest. There are many plus points with the excellent service and friendly staff top of the list, with lots of nice touches such as the iced water served on the beach. The grounds are well designed and well kept and the rooms are large and comfortable. But, if you are looking for a 'tropical island paradise' this isn't it. You won't see the sun setting slowly on the horizon - you will see the skyline of Kota Kinabalu and the cargo ships moored off-shore. The beach also rather suffers from rubbish washed up on the tide, carried from the huge stilt village further round the coast.
The main restaurant is quite large and, during our stay, offered buffet breakfasts and dinners. Good, but not quite what you might expect considering the 'small, luxury hotel' brand. The other restaurant, fisherman's cove, is much better, with a more intimate setting and a good choice of well presented fish dishes. Wine is expensive - approximately £30 for the cheapest house wine.
The other bit of questionable value is the 140 ringgit price tag for a return boat trip to KK. In fact we questioned this and were then told that as we were staying 6 nights, we could have a free trip - a good example of how the management did try to ensure guests were happy.
So, in summary, a very good resort, but set your expectations at the right level or you might be a little disappointed.

Room Tip: Kinabalu villas probably have the best views, but you have to be ok with walking a few hundred yards up a steep hill between the main facility and the room; if not, you are better off in a bayou villa
  • Stayed: July 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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1  Thank ajd02
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 17 August 2013

Dear Guest,

Greetings from sunny Borneo!

I would like to thank you very much on your stay and I note you had a memorable time with us despite the rubbish washing to our shores that your self saw. It is a battle that we are constantly fighting and we have, at each occasion/session of our meetings, conveyed our frustrations and concerns to the local authorities and tourism board here in Borneo standing from our guests point of view. I am very sorry on the inconveniences caused.

Again, thank you very much on your stay and support and we wish you all the best and look forward to welcome you back to Gaya Island Resort in time to come.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 July 2013

It's hard not to be impressed by the determination of GIR to make you feel welcome. We were met at Kota Kinabalu airport and escorted to a large Mercedes, where cold flannels and water were provided for our 10 minute trip to the harbour. On arrival, there were Kalamansi Lime sorbets to occupy us whilst the boat was readied. The trip to the actual resort lasted only 15 minutes but we were welcomed yet again with cold flannels and a refreshing drink. Escorted to our room by Celestina we found it decorated lavishly with rose-petals (I'll spare the details to avoid spoiling the surprise for others...) to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary and a bottle of chilled Prosecco awaited us on our return after dinner.

The room was a luxury Kinabalu villa but, as we discovered when we awoke, not with the good view of Mount K promised. Each villa contains 4 rooms, 2 up, 2 down: all others we looked at had rooms side to side so that both had a front balcony view of the sea. Ours, 807, was built facing other villas with at best a side sea view. Fortunately, the delightful Simona quickly retrieved the situation next morning by moving us up the hill to 826.

Each apartment is a single long expanse, broken up into sleeping, storage and bathroom areas. My wife is hard to please on the bathroom front but this had everything: big 'his and hers' wash-basins, a bath of colossal proportions into which we both fitted with room to spare, huge shower and toilet cubicles with frosted glass surrounds, mountains of towels and good toiletries. The bed too was large, very comfortable and had the requisite view looking out across the South China Sea towards Mount K. Storage space was ample, air-conditioning highly effective and a battery of lights was controlled from the bed-side.

Having spent the previous 10 days in the rainforest, it was a bit of a shock to the system to find ourselves back in what is a surprisingly large resort which, during our stay, was operating at 70% capacity. (When it comes to screeching, give me hornbills over children, any day.) Guests ranged from UK honeymooners to extended Chinese families and were evenly divided between Western Europeans and SE Asians. Apart from in the Feast Village, however, you were never aware of these numbers: there were plenty of spare sun-beds and the long, narrow swimming-pool was often empty.

The resort is also long and narrow, on a strip of land looking back to KK. Whilst in the middle distance you can pick out a few large freight vessels, it is far from being the eyesore suggested by some TA reviews. The foreground is an undeveloped part of the island whilst on the skyline, clouds permitting, you can see the crenelated summit of Mount K. There is some unsightly effluent visible at high tide but GIR staff assiduously clean both the beach and the water (by boat, obviously) each day. At night you are more aware of planes landing and taking off from KK airport and the bright lights of the city can clearly be seen.

Even in an upmarket resort like GIR the ubiquitous buffet reigns supreme if you take your meals at the Feast Village. At first encounter this eating area was like a fast-food outlet full of large and noisy families so we were grateful to find one of the outside tables free, even though later we were fumigated by a Frenchman's large cigar. (As an aside, this was the only place we visited in Sabah where you didn't notice staff smoking, some more discreetly than others. Smoking is still more acceptable here than in Europe or North America so it was a pleasure to be somewhere where it wasn't seen as the norm. A shame other guests weren't as considerate, especially the chain-smoking South African photographers on a fashion shoot, who made the pool bar so uninviting.)

Arriving after 9, it was slim pickings in the Feast Village so far as some dishes were concerned. Ingredients and cooking were good but would have been more enjoyable when first set out. We immediately made reservations for Fisherman's Cove, a small fish restaurant, for the rest of our stay. Service there was more formal and very willing although not always polished: on one occasion, pre-dinner drinks arrived just before the main course, coffee came before dessert and a succession of waiters tried to take the same order. However, this was the exception and not the norm and the choice of fresh fish (lobster, tiger prawns, red snapper, mud crab, grouper, scallops, etc) was more than compensation. After the first night, the (new) head chef created a first course off the menu for us each time we dined and on our final evening, also our silver wedding anniversary, he and the sweet young restaurant manager went to town with a celebratory menu (including a large 'plateau de fruits du mer'), a decorated cake and festive decorations.

I should add that for early risers, the Feast Village was much more tolerable for breakfast (the best we had during our 3 weeks in Malaysia) and the Pool Bar at lunch-time offered great cocktails, lime sorbets and very good (and substantial) 'light' meals, both Western and Asian dishes. After reading TA reviews before our holiday, at the last minute we switched to a 'full board' package. Despite this covering food at all outlets, including Fisherman's Cove where the cost each evening was always well over £100, looking at the 'bills' we were asked to sign at each meal my conclusion was that we probably gained very little through this arrangement. If you have a normal appetite and don't want a 3-course lunch each day, as well as 3-course dinners and breakfasts, I suspect that a la carte might prove cheaper.

We have read carefully the more measured criticisms of dissatisfied TA reviewers and recognised some truth in them. What for one person was the unhealthy proximity to mangroves, however, was an attraction for us as it would be for others. We were delighted to see a water monitor lizard near the pond as well as a long, thin snake which slithered across our path, the long-tailed macaque which made a leisurely tour of our balcony, the wild boar under a neighbouring villa and the sounds of birds and insects in the background. That the concrete in the walls and road to the rear of the villas is an eyesore is undeniable but this is still a new resort and foliage is beginning to cover it. In a few years this will not be a problem. Taking the interesting nature walk one morning with Jamie, we found that behind the resort a lot of effort is being made to ensure that the island's flora and fauna are being protected. The private beach to which boats go each day also houses a small Marine Centre where we encountered a disconsolate turtle being treated for digestive problems.

The treatments available at the Spa Village situated amongst the trees at one end of GIR were of an exceptionally high quality and of comparable cost to those in other high-end SE Asian resorts, i.e. still much cheaper than in Europe or the USA. Between us we tried the Balinese Massage, the Rolling Waves and the 3-hour Unduk Ngadau special. (Justifiable recuperation after 10 days in the rainforest.) All were excellent. You are treated to a spice-infused drink beforehand, ginger tea afterwards and the surroundings are quiet and restorative.

Whilst viewed strictly as a resort there are some areas for improvement at GIR, their commitment to good service is second to none. Every member of staff we encountered, from the managers through to the boys cleaning the beach, was smiling, polite and helpful. Many of them made our stay memorable: the staff at the spa and at Fisherman's Cove; Simona, who went out of her way to ensure we were happy with our room; Celestina, who took delight in giving our room the rose-petal treatment for a second time, arranging for a cake and sending Lampard, another member of the reception team, to KK to purchase a toy proboscis monkey (don't ask!); the housekeepers who noticed our cards and who wrote their own congratulatory note. It's people and gestures like these that will stick in our memory long after the tans fade and which explain why it's impossible to give GIR anything other than a 5* rating.

  • Stayed: July 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank LaDolceVita27
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 17 August 2013

Dear Guest,

Greetings from Gaya Island Resort - A walking resort!

Firstly, I would like to thank you very much on your stay with us and I am happy to read that your stay was a memorable one and Celestina, Simona, Jamie, Lampard, Chef and team at Fisherman Cove are among the many that ensured you are well looked after and went the extra miles in their dailies on arranging a memorable celebration on the last evening of your stay. I have shared your comments with the team and congratulated them on their extra miles.

Again, many thanks on your support and me and team look forward to welcome you back to Gaya Island Resort in future.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 July 2013

We, a family of 4, spent 8 great days at Gaya Island Resort. The staff is very attentive and helpsome. The resort in itself were worth all of the 5 stars. An example of the dedication of the management were shown on the fifth day, when a minor "must not happen" thing happened. The general manager took things into his own matter, and made sure that this specific item would never happen again. I must say, I was very impressed with his actions, and would recommend all friends and readers to go to Gaya Island Resort. You won't be dissapointed.

Thank you for a good week - Michael Andersen & family.

NB: The diving was not very good, due to bad visibility. I don't know if this was a onetimer, or if the visibility always is this bad.

Stayed: July 2013, travelled with family
3  Thank Michaelkrogh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 17 August 2013

Dear Guest,

Greetings!

Many thanks on your review and me and team is glad that your stay was a memorable one and our actions meet your expectations as shared.

Again, thank you very much on your support and we look forward to welcome you back to Gaya Island Resort in time to come.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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