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“Very chilled out and natural”

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Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa
Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Pulau Gaya
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed June 1, 2013

It's a lovely place with great service and food - it was quiet when we there and rained a lot, so for example we couldn't take advantage of the more romantic table for dinner. They make a big deal about their wine cellar, which is impressive, but coming from Europe, I'm not thinking about drinking wine in SE Asia.

The service was very friendly, but somewhat inept - my wife's dishes pretty well always turned up after mine, and had to be chased on more than one occasion.

This was the first proper stop on our honeymoon, and it was certainly great to get away from civilisation as you do feel you're close to nature while still in the lap of luxury. I guess it felt a bit more suited to a corporate conference/workshop venue, and they need to tighten the service effectiveness up a bit, but overall, still very nice.

  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Cairoken
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed May 31, 2013

I write this review on our last night here at BR. The location is simply amazing & the staff have been fantastic. Everyone is friendly & the staff go out of their way to help ensure you have a great time!

We really enjoyed the complimentary snorkelling, kayaking & tree top canopy walk - our guide was particularly informative! The Klias River Cruise we booked through the resort also ran perfectly & we were very lucky to see three different types of monkey, monitor lizards & fireflies!

We stayed in a plunge pool villa - beautiful decor & perfect location for the beach & restaurants :) My only slight criticism would be that the bathroom should be painted rather than wallpapered - tropical heat & heavy rain do not lend themselves to wallpaper!

Contrary to other reviews we found the Koi restaurant to be very good - service again was excellent & the food lovely. The staff were very accommodating in adjusting the menu to make it veggie friendly! We did eat at the sister resort however & although the food was good the service was very slow... Value for money is hard to judge, compared to UK prices it's good - however in Malaysian terms very expensive.

We booked this resort as a honeymoon treat & it has been just that. The low occupancy rate while we've been here has been great for us (although I'm sure not for management!) - no requirement to bag sun loungers or hammocks!

In all, we've had a great time in an amazing place, and would very happily return if we could afford to in time and money! Thanks for all your hospitality.

  • Stayed: May 2013
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1  Thank Lucy-Greenish
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 30, 2013

We spent 2 nights in #23, one of the "hilltop chalets" with great view over the bay. The chalets are really nice, there's nothing to complain about. But @ more than RM 1000 (265,- EUR)/night, you can expect something, it is definitely the most expensive we ever paid for a vacation stay. Btw, all the sodas and beer in the minibar are for free (the wine isn't) and are restocked daily.
In May, the place was only 1/3 booked, so it was pretty quiet. All the staff go out of themselves and are funnily over-friendly. You are whisked around by golf-cart like vehicles so you don't have to walk between your bungalow and the main building. Every day @ 6, there's cocktail hour, the first is free, the 2nd half price. The cocktail list is not 5-star, though.
There are 2 restaurants, the big "Koi", and the "Pantai Grill" at the beach where we ate at the 2 nights. The expensive 200 g NZ-steak didn't really impress me, and was 130 g at most. The pizza was standard fare, nothing exciting.
You can do several guided jungle treks, we did the shortest @ 1.5 hours (RM 100 pP) incl a small canopy walk, which was nice. There are more activities on offer.
The pool and beach are very nice (and clean), snorkel and kayak gear is free of charge. Don't expect much to paddle or see underwater, though.
BR has no diving operation. If you want to scuba dive, you have to go to the sister resort, Gayana. But from the looks, we like the newer, cozier BR better.
In all, it was a nice experience at the end of our trip, but the value is mediocre. If you have the $$$, go for it.

Room Tip: The least expensive "hilltop" bungalows are already fully appropriate. #23 has a great bay...
  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank benti99
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 4, 2013

I spent a few nights of my honeymoon at Bunga Raya and I must say overall it was a really disappointing experience. I am not normally a complainer and I wanted to love it SO MUCH but as many of the other reviews say it is a great location but feels like kids playing at running a resort and none of those special touches you expect of a luxury resort are there especially given the price. We splashed out on the spa package and turned up there a couple of times and they'd lost our bookings so we couldn't have our treatments, there was rubbish on the beach, the towels at the pool had holes in etc etc. The food is really average especially for the price. I feel sorry for the staff as they are really lovely people and trying really really really really really hard but just haven't had the 5 star training. It reminded me of the saved by the bell episode where they help to run a resort. I can understand the wine being expensive but we had some rubbish - one night we got a bottle which cost USD 80 - i later googled it and found it is USD 12 on line...

  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank ClydeF1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
TomasAndersen, General Manager at Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded May 15, 2013

Thank you for your feedback regarding your stay in September last year (2012). I am very pleased to say we have come a long way since then, not least with the training of the staff and giving our two restaurants proper identities. Of course we don't always get it right, but if nagging issues are highlighted to us we guarantee that we deal with these immidiately. As I have explained in previous blogs, our resort is located in Malaysia, a Muslim country. Partly due to this fact wine import are heavily taxed hence our cost so much higher than in other parts of the world. Having said this we always run monthly promotions where you are bound to find some very good wine at a discounted price. On a parting note, our wine cellar (with more than 4000 bottles of wine) was recently awarded TWO GLASSSES by the Wine Spectator of Execellence Award. The only restaurant in Malaysia having received such accolade.
Once again thank you for your feedback.

Tomas

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Reviewed May 1, 2013

My wife and I enjoyed a week of outstanding service and hospitality from the team at Bunga Raya Island Resort. The airport transfer and checking in procedure was slick and friendly, and the speedboat ride to the resort an absolute thrill after sitting on a plane for hours.

Our first impression of the resort was breathtaking. Not just because of the natural beauty of the island, the calm clear water and gleaming white sand, but because the architecture and layout of the resort, which nestles snugly into the hillside, whispers harmony and tranquility.

Our superior villa (50) was set high on the hill towards the rear of the resort. We loved it. Very spacious and clean, well appointed with the usual 5 star niceties, amazing views of both the jungle and ocean... and very private.

The two restaurants, the Koi and the Pantai Grill, are delightful. Initially, we did struggle with the menu on our fist visit to the Koi - our fault entirely for being unfamiliar with Malaysian cuisine. However, after a simple request for help, we were guided through the selections, given a thorough explanation of how the food is sourced, prepared and served, and were presented with a delicious introduction to local Sabah cuisine. After that, we genuinely looked forward to and enjoyed every meal during our stay.

The charm of the Koi and the Pantai Grill can, perhaps, be overlooked if your stay is brief as it lies in the personality of the staff and the flexibility of the service. One evening, for example, we chose a dish from the Pantai Grill menu and had it served to us at the Koi. No problem. The staff enjoy a certain freedom from the rigid 5 star protocols of comparative restaurants and offer something truly unique - a spontaneous, intimate, home-grown service with warmth and character. If you allow yourself to drop any preconceptions of how a top end resort restaurant 'should' be, you will discover a dining experience which ticks all the boxes - both inside and outside the box - and which shines so much brighter than its 5 star rating.

Yes, the wine is expensive, but more than compensated for by the complimentary cocktails, free beer in the mini bar and the endless supply of iced lemon water by the beautiful infinity pool. Other than that, the meal prices are very affordable compared to Australian (Perth) restaurants.

I'd recommend the canopy walk. Our wonderful guide, Jais, was passionately knowledgeable about his island and its wildlife and we learned so much from him. Thanks Jais!

The lack of a gift shop at the resort was an inconvenience at first, but perhaps a blessing as it forced us off our sun loungers for a quick shopping trip to KK and to explore the gift shop at the sister resort of Gayana. There, we enjoyed a tour of the MERC Research Centre and replanted some coral (as all good eco-tourists should). However, we were glad to return 'home' to the tranquility of Bunga Raya.

Overall, our experience at Bunga Raya was truly memorable and as perfect a vacation as one could get - all thanks to the overwhelming generosity and hospitality of the staff. On arrival we were greeted like VIPs, for the entire week were treated like honoured guests and finally farewelled like family members. We were very sad to leave.

A sincere thank you to everyone at Bunga Raya, who I will refrain from naming individually for fear of leaving anyone out. However, Hadafi and Kashim, we will never forget our beautiful meal on the beach. Thank you so much.

Important tip: Take plenty of insect repellent. It's a jungle out there!

Room Tip: The superior villas are very well appointed, spacious and clean and, in my opinion, offer more seclu...
  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank David N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
TomasAndersen, General Manager at Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded May 15, 2013

Thank you so much for your feedback. We are truly appreciative of how you captured the essence of our resorts.
We hope to see you back again and if so please do not hesitate in contacting me directly.

Best wishes

Tomas

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 28, 2013 via mobile

Stayed 3 nights following a 7 day tour staying in basic accommodation across Sabah.

We wanted a luxury stay and we got it. We had room 23 with an excellent view of the beach and ocean, no faults with the room - perfect and with 2 a/c's we kept nice and cool!

Downside was the food - not the 5 star we were hoping for and wine prices were big $$$. ($60 for a bottle of Pinot Gris!).

Had a treatment at the spa which was nice, not as slick as previous spas I've been to but otherwise pretty good, although heaps of steps to climb to get to the treatment room.

It is an expensive resort but after staying in some really basic accommodation we were happy!

  • Stayed: April 2013
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Thank Sally12363
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 23, 2013

During the last 1,5 years we travelled through South-East-Asia regularly and stayed at a lot of different types of hotels (from very basic resorts to top 5* hotels), so we have quite a wide selection to compare the different places.

After staying at the Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort we spent 3 nights at the Bunga Raya Island Resort. The scenery when you arrive by boat is fantastic and the location of the resort is idyllic. Beside that, unfortunately, there is not much positive to say left.

The resort tries hard to be in a high level category: room rates like in a 5* hotel, ridiculous expensive wine, champagne and spirit selection, Villeroy & Boch cutlery and dishes, high end food prices - but they don't live up to it! If you pay 5* rates you would expect to get the matching service! But the value for money is exceptionaly poor and that's a shame because the settings would be there for a wonderful place to stay!

Some examples:
- one evening we had dinner at The Pantai Grill, which is situated close to the beach. The food was poor to average, the whole surroundings and the set-up remember of a cheap beach front restaurant in a tourist trap-place somewhere...
- we had the 2 rooms-villa which has a nice layout with a huge and amazing beach-front patio. The villa was fine except for the bathrooms which definitly need a make-over, the toilet room feels like a bunker! The cleanliness is just about ok...
- Food at The Koi restaurant is very poor but overpriced and the breakfast selection not worth to mention :-(
- The employees were all very very friendly and tried their best, but it seems like most of them just got out of school and didn't get any training or education in the hotel/restaurant business. As always the fish stinks from the head, there is so much room for improvement but the management has to do something!!! Everything seems a bit un-coordinated and poorly managed.
- There are some spots that you really should avoid as the smell of muddy, grey water is just too much and the tractors that stand near the beach are not much of an eye-catcher neither...

All in all: if you'd pay 2 - 3* rates and the respective food/beverage prices then all these points wouldn't matter that much, you would get what you expect. For us it was a disappointing and very expensive experience that we don't want to repeat and will also not recommend to friends or anybody else!

  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled with family
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1  Thank Michele H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
TomasAndersen, General Manager at Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded April 29, 2013

Thank you for your comments they will be shared amongst all staff.

I agree that wine and spirits are very expensive. Being a Muslim country we have some very high import duties put on top of our already expensive liquer and wine supplies. Having said this every month we have promotional offers which can be up to 50% discount on a bottle of wine.
Food is very subjective, if we have someone not satisfied we shall replace the dish immediately. As for our pricing we feel we are in line with what other resorts in sabah charges you can get pizza for RM35 or Live organic fish from RM120, this we find reasonable.

Once again thank you for sharing your stay with Trip Advisor

Best regards

Tomas

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa

Address: Polish Bay, 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: $215 - $444 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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 Resort And Spa
Bunga Raya Island Hotel Kota Kinabalu
Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa Malaysia/Pulau Gaya

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