After reading the negative reviews I was more than nervous for our stay at Gayana Eco Resort, but unlike those reviews, our entire experience was incredible.
We stayed for 4 days from the 14th to 18th of May to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary.
Before we left for the trip, the resort emailed to inform us that the pool was undergoing emergency repairs and would be out of action for a week. They offered to move us to their sister resort Bunga Raya as they had a full working pool. As we had booked an ocean villa with direct access, this would not suit, so we asked them to confirm the sea condition (as we were TERRIFIED after seeing the previous TA review with all the rubbish) and were told that it was very clear, so we decided to keep our existing booking. And I am SO GLAD we did.
We arrived late on the Wednesday, but they were fantastic and arranged the car to boat transfers for us at the time we needed with no extra charge. It was raining on our arrival and we were given huge umbrellas every time we were not under cover.
We woke up to paradise…..
The ocean was amazing….. It was like looking in to an aquarium, so many incredible fish and sea life.
The room was great with a massive king bed, huge shower with 5 settings to choose from and brilliant aircon and fan. Staying in the ocean villa we had free mini bar inclusive of soft drinks, water and beer, however note, there are no “snacks” anywhere in the resort, so if you are a chips / nuts / chocolate type of person, buy some before arriving on the island. Robes and slippers were provided as were massive soft beach / pool towels.
Room service was fantastic with a great selection and arrived within 30mins of ordering every time. My fave was the Roti Prata and their signature salad “The Macac”. (I think I ordered this 3 times) The breakfast boat is awesome too. They deliver your pre-ordered (included in room cost) breakfast at a time you choose! We also chose eat in the Macac restaurant which has a full cooked menu and continental buffet.
As we were celebrating our anniversary we booked a 5 course “western” romantic dinner and it was simply MAGIC. There was actually too much food but it was totally worth it for the experience. The table setting was stunning and it was worth every cent.
Also every night, diners at every table are serenaded but a lovely acoustic duo who sing and play guitar beautifully.
The other restaurant Alu Alu (seafood) was pricy, but OMFG, the food was incredible and so so fresh. A.K, our waiter, really knew his stuff. He basically chose everything for us and it was all perfect.
There is an abundance of wildlife including some devious monkeys, so don’t leave stuff on the decks or your doors open. There are also wild bores, Giant clams, jellyfish, starfish, a SEA SNAKE (so scared lol) and endless types of fish. There are some adorable “resort” cats and dogs too.
The MERC centre is amazing and for 135MYR you can “adopt” some coral. It allows you to plant a broken (but alive) stem into a cement base, which they will replant in the artificial reef. They will send periodic updates for a year. The MERC centre is very educational and not to be missed.
Snorkelling is a MUST DO! During our stay we were lucky enough to see black squid. There were hundreds and they were incredible to watch. (Mostly juvenile). The snorkelling gear is free of charge and really decent quality for a resort. I have snorkelled in a lot of places, but Malaysia so far is the best. Diving can be arranged. I used the free stand up paddle-board and that was an awesome experience looking down into the reef from above.
Gayana did run a complimentary boat to their sister resort every day should we want to use the pool there, however we did do this as we had all we needed at Gayana (even without the pool).
My husband and I also paid 150MYR each for a cooking class with Aziz, a resort chef. The class was fantastic, and he is a great teacher. Very patient and funny. We cooked 3 courses, and were allowed to keep our awesome apron and chef’s hats. We were also given copies of the recipes of what we cooked. The best part, was returning to the Macac restaurant that night to eat what we had cooked!!! I highly recommend this class.
The spa to be honest, is not the best, nor is it worth the price, but in saying that, I am comparing to other Asian resorts. The therapists were fantastic at what they do, and the facial and massage we received were still very good.
Affendy, Aziz, A.K and Ruwell made our stay amazing! All were so attentive and friendly and genuinely happy. Not “oh it’s a guest” fake happy. It was very refreshing.
A few things that could be improved on, but bear in mind, Asia, and certain standards are not always up to par with the western world….
There is trash. It comes in with the tide. The resort does their best, and often we saw staff on boats and on shore picking it up. Some guests (including me) even got in on the action, and would collect bits here and there. This won’t be rectified until people are educated on ocean pollution and what it does to marine life, but when you are not taught to respect nature, it’s hard to put it into practice. I would like to see the resort have a dedicated team that collect it all day, every day with divers too, as it is an eco-resort. But they do try.
Some things are a bit dated… but remember the resort is built on the ocean / beach and is exposed to all the elements, all the time.
The power does randomly go off. It didn’t bother us as it came back on within seconds. To the people in previous reviews, please remember, you are on an island…. Of the main grids, this stuff does happen.
Wi-Fi – now this one did hurt. There is basically no Wi-Fi access in the ocean villas. The signal is way too weak. As a community director, I am online on 3 devices all day every day, so I really did struggle. But I did get enough signal in the restaurants to check emails, Facebook, new sites etc. Downloading from iTunes or newsstand did not work. If you can’t live without connection, I suggest buying a prepaid data sim in KK before going to the island, as I was able to receive phone service outside the villa. Also Samsung devices seemed to have better connection / reception then my Apple ones.
So in summary, we had an incredible time, and we will return. We talked about making this our annual anniversary destination as it was truly beautiful, relaxing and just perfect. When travelling in Asia, to places like Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia etc, you need to remember that although they rely heavily on tourism, they don’t always educate or support the environment the way some western countries do.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Gayana Eco Resort rests serenely at the edges of Gaya Island off the coast of Borneo. 52 over water villas designed to enhance the soothing sounds of the surf, while capturing the enduring vistas of Mt. Kinabalu on the distant horizon. At its heart is about protecting and re-generating our precious Marine Ecology, and the only property to feature its own Marine Ecology Research Centre propagating Giant Clams and restoring damaged coral reefs. Striking the perfect balance of forward thinking ecology and indulgent luxury which pampers both the body and the enlightened soul. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gayana Eco Hotel Kota Kinabalu
- Gayana Resort