We received the following review from one of the couples who won a luxurious vacation and we thought we would share it with all of you:
I was absolutely delighted when I found out I won a free 3D2N trip to Gaya Island Resort (GIR). A quick glance through the website and the phenomenal reviews on Tripadvisor got me extremely excited – it’s going to be a real treat!
Looking for the most economic route, we decided to go with AirAsia, which flies daily from Singapore directly to Kota Kinabalu (KK). However, here was when we encountered our first hiccup: AirAsia flights arrive at 8:05pm. GIR provides free speedboat transfers from the Sutera Harbour Marina in KK starting from 8am with two-hour intervals, and the last one departs at 6pm. A private charter is available but extremely costly (RM700), so we had to extend our trip by another day and book an extra night at another hotel in KK. We made the most of it, however – the KK town is small and easily navigated with the help of a map. We visited the night market and enjoyed some delicious durian, which wasn’t in season in Singapore, and tasted the local Ba Kut Teh.
The next morning, we visited the Filipino market and walked around the area where we found some top quality local treats (such as kek lapis and dodol). We then took a short taxi ride to the marina about one hour before the speedboat departure at 12pm.
This was the lovely office at the marina. We were greeted by friendly staff and treated to some refreshing sorbet while we settled down in comfy couches. The staff confirmed our reservation and the timing for our speedboat return transfer to the mainland three days later. After that, we took a stroll around the Sutera Marina Resort, which was also very pretty:
Soon, the staff informed us that the speedboat was ready. We walked down the dock to where the Sutera 2 was awaiting:
A short 15 minute ride later (where my shorts got a bit wet from the sea spray, you’ve been warned!), we arrive at Gaya Island Resort!
Lush, green, tropical – it felt amazing to be surrounded by such natural beauty. We headed towards the reception and were served a welcome drink. A friendly staff member shows us a map of the resort and introduces the different restaurants on the island (more on that later), the location of various facilities, and then brought us to our room. The room is absolutely stunning, see for yourself:
The bathtub was gigantic!
There were his and hers vanity counters, and the toiletries were really pretty! They smelled amazing too: cucumber, pomegranate, pomelo and watermelon scents.
The outdoor verandah. Ours was located at the ground floor, near to the main restaurant of the resort. It meant that we had a really short walk to the restaurant and pool, but didn’t have much privacy.
We headed for the pool next, which, like everything else on this resort, is absolutely stunning in design:
Pool bar! We ordered a cocktail here, and it was delicious.
You have the option of lying in the sunbeds next to the pool, or right by the beach. We really liked that the resort wasn’t crowded at all, there was always space to ourselves and the staff would come over with iced water and beach towels after you settle down.
Next, onto the food. The quality of the food served at Gaya Island Resort was pretty good. We tried the Omakase restaurant on our first night. The price for the teppanyaki menu (RM200++ per person) was rather astronomical. The food was delicious and it was a treat seeing the chef display his skills, but overall the meal wasn’t quite value-for-money.
We wanted to visit the nearby private beach where the Thai restaurant was located. Hourly transfers are provided, but unfortunately for us, the weather was poor when we were there and the boat rides were cancelled. The staff was kind enough to arrange for a Thai set menu to be served to us at the resort’s main restaurant, and it was delicious. The good service is a nice touch but once again the meal was rather pricey. At least the view was pretty!
The resorts offers a wide range of activities from snorkelling, kayaking, nature walks to sunset cruises, tribal dinners and yoga sessions. Only a few are free, and as you can expect, some of these do not come cheap. Prices range from RM30 to 300++ per person. We opted for the nature walk (which was free, thank goodness), and it proved to be a really educational experience!
You can only go on the trail with a guide, as all sorts of dangerous and poisonous creatures lurk beyond. Our guide was excellent – she was full of interesting tidbits of information and was extremely alert of wildlife around us all the time. She would stop and point out termite hives, interesting plants and trees, lizards etc. She even told us that a poisonous viper was spotted nearby a few days ago! At this point I was getting chills down my spine, while my boyfriend was having the time of his life! As far as for wildlife, it’s worth noticing that we even spotted a wild boar running across the grounds once! That being said, the room itself is perfectly clean, possibly due to excellent housekeeping services and a nightly turn down service.
All in all, we would recommend GIR for a nice getaway from busy city life, especially since Kota Kinabalu is so easy to get to. The resort and rooms are absolutely stunning and would make you feel at ease in an instant. Prices tend to be quite high, however, and if guests did not want to try the resort’s activities, they cannot head to the mainland for the day (unless you’re willing to get a private charter), which means that you’re limited to the island for the duration of your stay. Still, we had a wonderful time.
Many thanks to JustRunLah and Gaya Island Resort for a memorable stay!