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“So much potential but the food lets it down”

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Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa
Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Pulau Gaya
Certificate of Excellence
London, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“So much potential but the food lets it down”
Reviewed August 17, 2012

We stayed here for the first six nights of our honeymoon before flying to the Maldives. We were originally supposed to be staying at the YTL hotel which was due to open in April but unfortunately it was not opened in time for our July honeymoon so we were left with limited choice of where else to replace it with. We had discounted Bunga Raya when we were originally choosing our hotel in Borneo due to the poor food reviews. I take all reviews with a pinch of salt but unfortunately in this case, the reviews were justified.

I'll start with the positives - the resort itself is lovely. We had a beach front villa with a plunge pool and it was fab. Couldnt fault it at all. The pool looked nice although busy, particularly with families and this isnt really our scene particularly on honeymoon so we didnt visit it. If you want some privacy then I'd recommend the pool villa. The free mini bar in the room was a nice touch and the staff were all very pleasant and helpful.

We took a trip over to Gayana to visit the Ecology Centre and it is definitely worth going although the return boat schedule isnt great. The centre is open from 1500-1600 and the return boats were at 1530 or 1830. The 1530 boat didnt give us quite enough time to look round the centre properly but we didnt want to be hanging around until 1830 for a boat back. We spoke to the reception staff at Gayana and they very kindly agreed to keep the 1530 boat waiting for us for an extra 10-15 minutes so we could take that one back. Fab service.

The negatives - the sandflies. They are everywhere on the beach and no repellant will get rid of them. We didnt see anybody sunbathing on the beach and I guess that is why. The bites are about five times more itchy than normal mosquito bites and stick around much longer too. I had 40 bites on my back alone by the time we left and a month later most of them are still there.

The food - what a let down. There are only really two places to eat, the casual Pantai Grill on the beach and the fancy Koi restuarant and the room service menu is really poor. Due to the beach location of the Pantai Grill it is closed in inclement weather. We were there for six nights and it was only open once. Most of those nights the weather was completely fine too so we couldnt work out why it was closed. On the night we did manage to eat there the food was good and reasonably priced. So disappointing we only got to go there once!

The Koi - nice enough restuarant but a very limited menu and very expensive for what you get. There was only one thing on the menu i really liked (and i'll eat pretty much anything) - or at least only one item i was willing to spend that amount of money on. Several other dishes might have been OK but I wasnt going to pay those prices to risk it.

The staff were a bit strange about what table you could sit on. Several times all the front tables were set up for three people and we were told we couldnt sit there because there was only two of us. Even though the restuarant was never more than a third full maximum and there werent any groups of three that we saw! I think it would have been nice to have a separate seating area for families too as on our last night we spent our entire meal listening to a child watching a cartoon on an ipad at the table next to us the entire meal. Not really what you want on your honeymoon. We were also never offered a wine list. I found that really strange for a resort that boasts a wine cellar.

The first day we arrived the Pantai grill was shut for dinner so we went to the Koi and were told it was "buffet night". Great. I hate buffet food at the best of times and it annoys me no end when you have no other option. £80 for food you dont want that's been sat out in the heat for hours on end and coughed all over by other guests. It was our first night however so we just got on with it. The buffet was all outside so I wasnt sure why the Grill was closed if the weather was fine enough for us to sit outside at the other restuarant.

The second day we slept late and missed breakfast so decided to go for lunch. The Pantai Grill was closed so we went to the Koi. We were seated and a few minutes later a first course was put in front of us. We were offered no menu, there was no sign up anywhere saying it was a set lunch and nobody mentioned it to us or even asked us if we were actually planning to eat so no good if we just wanted a drink! Three courses were served, the main unfortunately my husband didnt like. If we had known what it was going to be then we wouldnt have bothered to eat there. I dont have anything against a set menu but it would be helpful if there was a sign or something somewhere that informed you of this and they should at least provide a menu so you know what you are going to get! I dont like having to pay for a meal I didnt actually choose. We didnt bother with lunch again for the rest of the time we were at the resort.

We did a day trip to see the orangutans at Sepilok which was fantastic, I highly recommend. It was a very long day though as you start early and by the time we got back we were both exhausted and it was late so we didnt feel like getting dressed up to go to the Koi. The Grill wasnt open (are you seeing a pattern here!) so we had to order from the room service menu. Hardly any choice and nothing that really suits if you just want a quick snack. My husband had a spicy chicken sandwich which he said was OK but they came with the most disgusting limp chips. I had the satay which was fine.

Saturday night we arrive at the Koi (as the Grill was closed) only to be informed it was buffet night. Again. As previously the entire buffet and all the guests were seated outside so why was the Grill not open? We were slightly later to dinner than we would normally be so sat down at about 8.30pm and there was hardly anything left at this stage. The dishes seemed to be mostly squid based (I hate squid) and the three or four I would have eaten were empty. I had some rice and a dessert. My husband wasnt even lucky enough to get dessert as there was nothing left by the time he had finished his main. As I said above I hate buffet food and twice in six nights when you've got no other option is not good. It would be helpful if they put a sign up in the restuarant at breakfast so you knew it was buffet night as we could have made other plans to go to Gayana or over to the mainland if we'd known.

My last gripe was on our last night we were telephoned by reception to ask what time we wanted to check out so they could arrange our boat transfer. I worked out the timings and we agreed check out at 1130, boat at 12. The next day after completing check out we were informed that the boat back to the mainland for guests checking out that day was at 1. Why ask me then - why not just tell me "the boat is at 1". That meant we had to waste an hour after checkout sitting around by the jetty waiting for our transfer.

The place could be amazing but management have got it so so wrong on the food front. I wouldnt go back, nor would I recommend it. We had such a nice time during the day and then every evening would be ruined by the bad food. We were glad to leave and continue our honeymoon in the Maldives. Such a shame.

Room Tip: Get a beach front villa with your own pool if you want some privacy
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  • Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
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8 Thank IcklePickle_10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Paris, France
Level Contributor
40 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
Reviewed August 14, 2012

This hotel is located on a preserved island (Pulau Gaya) in front of Kota Kinabalu. This part of the island is reserved for the hotel’s guests.

The hotel’s staff is very friendly and professional and they do everything they can to make you feel comfortable.

Snorkeling is such a pleasure there! After a few meters you can see many lovely fishes of all kind. Snorkeling kit is complimentary, as well as kayaks.

The beach is large and private for the hotel’s guests. The infinite pool is very pleasant.

We were in a Deluxe Villa – large and very well furnished. Amazing view from the balcony.

The restaurant is very pleasant with a sightseeing view. If you like the wine, they told me that they have the best wine cellar in Malaysia! I had the opportunity to visit it and they do have 4,000 bottles of the best wines in the world! Some of them are not for sale because they belong to the resort’s owner.

Just a remark – when I was there, there were sand flies on the beach and it was difficult to protect oneself against them. As the resort forms part of a natural park, they can’t apply any chemical product to repulse them.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank Remi_Sg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed July 14, 2012

We stayed here for the first 3 night of our honeymoon as a special treat and that it certainly was. We were in superior villa no. 28 which had views through the jungle out over the beach. It's a bit up the hill from the beach but the very friendly and professional staff will come get you in one of the 30 buggies (golf carts) and bring you anywhere you want to go in the resort. The room was amazing, by far the nicest we've ever stayed in; spacious, v clean and super comfortable with great ac, music system, mini bar (soft drinks and beer free!), frette linens, v spacious wrap around balcony and every little thing you could think of like rain jackets, flip flops, mosquito reppelant (worked a treat), umbrella, great selection of teas, fresh baked biscuits... The list goes on. I can't commend the staff enough! They were all so friendly and professional and nothing was ever any hassle. The food was great and we had a fantastic dinner one night in the private dinning pavilion at the Koi restaurant. Expensive but worth every penny. The setting is stunning and the sunsets as good as they get. The snorkelling off the beach/jetty was really something. As experienced divers we were well impressed. Lots of pristine coral and every type of fish. Smirk ing kit is compimentary. We did the canopy walk, zip lines and the 4 hr hike from Bunga rays over to the sister resort gayana. Gruelling but doable and definitely worth while. Our guide Chris was very knowledgeable and motivating too. Really can't say enough good things about this place. We certainly hope to come back sometime although as we live in Ireland we might be saving up for a while! It is one if the more expensive resorts to go to in Borneo but it's money well spent and you won't regret it.

  • Stayed July 2012
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Helpful?
3 Thank PaulandJustine2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Calgary, Canada
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed July 12, 2012

The beach side villa view is to die for! Clean white sand beaches, romantic villas and outstanding villas and the Staff are extremely attentive, remembering all the names of our group!

Snorkeling is free just simply borrow the equipment to walk to the deck and dive in! The corral is quite nice and there is lots of interesting ocean life including giant clams in which the sister resort Gyana islands has a Giant clam conservation resort.

Trips by boat is free between Gyana and kota kinabalu.

There's lots of activities, for a fee, that include a guided hike, zip lining, guided snorkeling/scuba diving (on gyana), kayaking, massage, etc.

The only Negative is the food, breakfast was included and very good, but dinner and lunch is rather pricey and not very good, I would just take the free boat to KK and get lunch/dinner there.

Would definitely go back again as we did not have enough time to participate in all of the activities!

  • Stayed June 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank Evie_e007
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Linlithgow, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
49 reviews
44 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 58 helpful votes
Reviewed July 3, 2012 via mobile



We used a company called Black Tomato to arrange our Borneo holiday - they are simply the best. We stayed here for the first 4 nights of our stay in Borneo and it was just perfect. The staff were extremely welcoming and attentive .Santos our Personal Assistant, was assigned to us on arrival and made sure anything we wanted/needed was dealt with straightaway. It was the ultimate in relaxation - your own plunge pool - we were in a beach villa, spa treatments, golf buggies to drive you to the hillier parts of the resorts, dinner on the beach or in your private balcony, snorkelling and then when we were totally chilled a gym to bring us back to reality - you have to see the view from this gym. It does take the pain out of your workout.

There is a fridge in your room, the drinks in this are all free of charge, apart from the wine. Every night there is a little treat in the room, which is left by the staff at turn down. The resort bar is fully stocked and you really must try the Gimlets - lovely.

There are two restaurants, both menus offer plenty of choice for meat and fish eaters. As vegetarians, and despite the resort being notified in advance, we found the choice limited - one evening I was given green salad for both courses!

I cannot recommend this resort highly enough it really is a little piece of heaven.

Stayed June 2012, traveled as a couple
Helpful?
4 Thank Gingersheep
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
Reviewed June 28, 2012 via mobile

My husband and I spent 5 nights at Bunga Raya resort last week in a pool villa. The entire experience was incredible. The room was fantastic - large, right on the beach and the plunge pool was great (bigger than we expected). The minibar was complimentary including tiger beer which impressed my husband.

We went snorkelling at both Bunga raya and Guyana which was great. We also went on the flying fox. We both had massages in the spa- very relaxing!

I asked the hotel to organise a fishing trip for my husbands birthday, which was fantastic. The hotel even cooked come of our fish for dinner and didn't charge a cent for it.

The staff were overly friendly. It was very quiet while we were there which was the only thing we were upset Aout. More people should experience this beautiful place.

A few recommendations to make it even better:
- replace the minibar with cooled drinks. We occasionally wanted a drink but they were warmed
- keep the plunge pools filled up because we had to refill ours to keep the pump working well
- maybe use a shampoo that is a little less strong (the hotel actually gave me a different one when I mentioned it)
- have a return boat from kk a little earlier than 10:30 or later than 4 to kk. We had to go to kk one night for dinner and would've liked to come back a little earlier

Definitely keep up the happy hour free drinks!!

Special thanks to all the wonderful staff. In particular johnny (fishing trip), Zam and Zan, Lydia, Jennifer, Chris (flying fox), fauzi (for your dancing!) and all of the other staff who made our trip so memorable.

Stayed June 2012, traveled as a couple
Helpful?
Thank Pip C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
17 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed June 27, 2012

This resort has such good potential. The bay is stunning but the water is spoiled by the incredible amount of rubbish (bottles, plastic bags, paper, diapers(!!), wood chips, etc.) that floats in from the nearby village. The individual houses are well appointed and appropriately decorated, but wht call yourself an eco-resort and not have towel rails where you can hang wet towels instaed of having them laudered fresh every day somewhere on the mainland. The staff are very friendly and helpful but appear badly managed, and as a result . The food is variable in quality and it really does hit both ends of the quality scale. We could have withstood all of this if it wasn't for the dive centre in the adjoining resort that services both resorts. The dive gear was badly worn and the assigned dive guides were not adequately equipped. In only 4 dives we had 3 incidents which not only put us in danger but actually resulted in an injury. In addition to that, the corals and aquatic life was poor. If you are going to Bunga Raya for diving, you should look elsewhere. I really hope that someone grasps the potential that is there and makes this resort into something much better.

  • Stayed January 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank thesilverspoon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa

Property: Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa
Address: Polish Bay | Gaya Island, Pulau Gaya 88778, Malaysia
Phone Number:
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > West Coast Division > Kota Kinabalu District > Pulau Gaya
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Pulau Gaya
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:5 star — Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa 5*
Number of rooms: 48
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 Hotel Kota Kinabalu
Bunga Raya Island Resort And Spa
Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa Malaysia/Pulau Gaya

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