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.
- 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