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Gaya Island Resort
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Reviewed April 11, 2013

This hotel is new & developing, we stayed 5 nights & loved most of it. The staff go out of their way to please the guests & are charming. The casual restaurant is excellent offering a wide variety of food, a special thank you to our waitress Debora (outstanding service from her). The seafood restaurant is amazing, great food, setting & staff. The beach BBQ was fantastic, perhaps a little to much food !! . The only downfall is the bar, the area is to small & not very safe as there are no safety rails between the bar & the pool which has quite a drop. The rooms are great , very spacious, the only fault is that there are no shaving mirrors. Some are a distance away & up a steep road which elderly people would struggle with.
A great place to come & relax. We look forward to our return visit.

Room Tip: some rooms are a long walk , select your room type carefully
  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled with friends
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Thank avisit_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded April 20, 2013

Dear Guest,

Many thanks on your feedback and support. I am happy to read on your positive stay and I note Deborah were exceptional in her dailies and assured that you are well looked after through-out your stay. I have shared your comments with Deborah and congratulated her on her extra miles and exceptional customer service.

Again, many thanks on your comments and support.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 11, 2013

Just as we were smitten by The Majestic Malacca, another property under YTL, Gaya Island Resort knocked our socks off too.

The architecture of the resort is gorgeous, with villas tucked into the hillside and lush rainforest of Gaya Island, off Kota Kinabalu.

We stayed in room 821, a Kinabalu Suite that sits on possibly the highest point of the resort, giving us splendid views of the resort, the sea, the mainland in the distance and the occasional ugly tanker. The sunrise from the terrace of our villa was most lovely.

While our location was wonderful, the downside was the distance we had to walk every time we wanted to get to the resort's 'nerve centre' where the lobby, F&B outlets, pool, sun decks, gym and library are located. In fact, returning to our room was most tiring, as it was an uphill trek - not good after having a tad too much wine at the resort's lovely Pool Bar & Lounge.

On the bright side, the trek makes for good exercise and after a couple of times up and down that stretch, we sort of got used to it!

A common problem with most private island resorts is how guests may get tired of the usual restaurants and activities and feel "trapped". Gaya Island Resort nips that problem in the bud by offering a schedule of activities everyday, from nature walks and snorkeling to culinary classes and sunset cruises.

A number of unique dining experiences are also offered, such as private beach BBQ and steamboat dinner in a private cabana.

The husband went snorkeling (offered free to guests) with the resort's resident marine biologist, and had only good things to say about the experience.

Together, we participated in a culinary class at Fisherman's Cove, the resort's fine dining establishment. The chef who led us, Shim, was patient and attentive. We learnt to whip up a fine local chicken stew with spices and grated coconut, and a tangy raw fish salad, and gobbled all that for lunch.

We also arranged for a little picnic on Tavajun Bay, a private stretch of beach some five minutes away by speedboat. There's a little restaurant there too, but we chose to pre-order a picnic basket. For RM180, you can pick a variety of sandwiches, salads, cheeses, other nibbles and beverages. Wine's included in the list too. A picnic mat, cushions and cutlery were all laid out under a tree by the edge of the waves when we arrived. Lovely!

For all other meals, we dined mostly at Feast Village, an all-day dining restaurant. We were quite disappointed with the taste of food served here unfortunately. The Borneo Fried Rice we had on day one was served warm, not piping hot, and there were overcooked rice bits. When we asked for sambal, it came cold, which was odd for a five-star property. Beef Rendang on another day contained beef chunks that were too tough to bite. The other mains we had on other days, such as Borneo Grilled Fish, Seafood Linguini, Teppanyaki Fish and Chili Prawns, were just alright, but not of a quality and taste that one would associate with the price tag.

Our dinner at Fisherman's Cove was, however, most splendid and every dish, from starter to main to dessert was tip-top. But being a fine dining restaurant, a dress code applies and we brought only one set of fancy clothes for this trip. That meant we could only dine here once! Never mind, we will be ready next time! :)

Gaya Island Resort is also a lovely place to not do anything. The pool is gorgeous and there are plenty of sun chairs to lie on. There's a swim-up pool bar too, and we took root there for two afternoons.

Make sure to book your spa sessions ahead of arrival. We made the mistake of booking only after we settled in, only to discover that the spa was booked out the whole of next day. We were only able to get a slot at 6pm on the last night of our stay. The Spa Village is lovely and has a very laid-back ambience, making it a treat to just sit out there and daydream.

Gaya Island Resort is worth coming back to whenever the rat race in the city gets too much to bear. And we will remember to bring enough formal clothes for dinners at Fisherman's Cove every night.

  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Karrotjuice
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded April 20, 2013

Dear Guest,

Greetings from Borneo!

Firstly, I would like to apologize on the areas that did not meet your expectations. Your comments are noted and further improvements are now in-progress on addressing the areas.

I also note, Chef Shimp were exceptional guiding you through the cooking class and I have shared your comments with Chef Shimp. I am happy to understand that you enjoyed the resort and facilities overall and will return to Gaya Island Resort.

Till we meet again, my best wishes to you, family and friends.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 7, 2013

As with other YTL results, everything you see, smell, taste and feel in this resort will be impeccable. The attention to detail is astounding, the staff leave little gifts in your room in the evening and the entire resort is designed lushly.

Pros
- This is a good place if all you plan to do is eat, sleep and spa. There are other things offered on the itinerary, but they're not exactly cost-friendly, and things that require you to get off the island will be a bit of an inconvenience
- Service and friendliness
- A surprisingly nice variety of restaurants. Most of the time, I opted to stay on the island to read and snorkel, having meals in one of the 3-4 restaurants here. Nothing incredible or exotic on the menus, but yummy nonetheless.

Cons
- Rooms can be a bit of an uphill walk from the main area
- Not much of an ambiance when I went. Poorly populated, and half of the resort was still being built
- Instead of normal phones in your room, they hand you Samsung mobile phones. As a non-Samsung user, it took a while to familiarize. The reception, even to call the main desk from the phone, was exceedingly poor.

Overall
A good place to stay if what you value is privacy, quietness and a restful stay.

  • Stayed: December 2012, traveled with family
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Thank Al Z
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded April 13, 2013

Dear Guest,

Greetings!

Many thanks on your review and constructive comments. I am happy to read that overall you enjoyed your stay with us through out.

Since your stay in Dec 2012, we had carried numerous improvements around our areas on offerings and services. To share with your kind self on the Samsung phone, we have removed the Samsung phones from our guest rooms as it was proven to be unproductive. Since then, all our rooms are now equipped with Unidata Wifi phone which proven to be more reliable and user-friendly.

Moving forward, further improvements from-time-to-time is on ongoing basis in our efforts to offer nothing less then constantly improved product and services.

Again, I would like to thank-you very much on your constructive comments and we look forward to welcome you back to Gaya Island Resort in future.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 7, 2013

We booked Gaya Island Resort for 5 nights of our Honeymoon. We were fetched from the airport in a luxurious mercedes and greeted so warmly at the port before departing for the resort. The boat ride was very short, a surprise as we thought Gaya would be a bit further from Borneo Island. However we arrived and had a fantastic welcome from the staff, before being shown to our Villa. The room is a decent size, the bathroom is large with a big tub and his and hers basins and the bed was really comfortable. On our first night, we arrived back to our room to find the bed covered in roses, towels created into hearts, a bubble bath of roses just run and champagne on ice. We were thrilled! The rooms are a fair walk up the hill, but nothing any individual should struggle with. The views from our room were beautiful, on a clear day Mount Kinabalu could be seen and we also overlooked the ocean. I agree with other reviewers that the view is a bit disappointing, there are often big ships moored not far in the distance and you even have a view of part of Kota Kinabalu city, which is a bit of an eye sore. But with this said, so much about this resort makes up for the view, so we very quickly forgot about this minor shortfall...

We opted for the full meal board option and think that this was excellent value for our money. You have the option of eating at either The Feast Village, where buffet is served, or at Fisherman's Cove - an upmarket restaurant where you have access to 3 course meals. There is no limit to how many times you can eat here. Breakfast was fantastic, served at the Feast Village, there was freshly squeezed fruit juices on offer, an assortment of baked goodies of muffins, scones etc, lovely fruit, any type of eggs cooked at your request and an array of delicious breads. We had lunch every day by the pool, the menu was great, we didn't have one disappointing meal. We tried the Spider Maki Sushi, the Caesar Salad, the Burger, Gaya Sandwich, Japanese noodles - no complaints, all plated beautifully too. We had dinner at Fisherman's Cove on the first night and were so impressed by the food. Each course was presented like a 5 star restaurant, and every dish was fresh, flavoursome and divine. I had the best meal of my life on our 4th night, I chose the Catch of the Day - the lobster thermidor - and was blown away. I savoured every bite, honestly amazing! My husband, who is not a huge fan of fish, ended up ordering only fish at every meal here as he couldn't believe how delicious it all was. We did eat at the Feast Village one evening, but found it difficult to compare the food to what we had enjoyed on our first night and reverted back to the Fisherman's Cove, where no children were allowed and the views were phenomenal. Joy, the assistant restaurant manager was fantastic, she made sure our favourite table was reserved for each reservation and went out of her way to make our stay unforgettable. On our last night at the restaurant, our table was decorated with a huge bouquet of roses, candles and a personalised message. We were so impressed! On our 3rd night, we enjoyed a private beach barbecue, the table was set on the shoreline surrounded by lanterns. We ate about 4 main courses as the food just kept flowing, there was chicken, steak, lobster, prawns, mussels, and we were absolutely stuffed by the end of the night. It was just all so flavoursome, the chef was a star! I would definitely recommend booking the meal plan without a doubt, its so worth it.

The beach was lovely, and although other reviewers have mentioned a lot of litter on the shore, we never saw any. Early every morning there were about 4 people sweeping the beach for litter which must have cleared it all. However with that said, we hired stand up paddle boards and about 5m from the shore, we were going through lots of rubbish which was very disappointing, the result of an illegal floating village on the other side of Gaya Island apparently. Such a pity and quite off-putting. The pool made up for this though, it was crystal clear and the bar inside it provided many late afternoon cocktail sessions.

We both had a Malay Massage at the Spa, they were amazing...and a complimentary foot spa before was a treat! We also arranged a guided meditation session which was great and we found ourselves on the brink of a deep sleep :) The only disappointment I had was that there were no nail treatments on offer...it would have been so nice to have a mani!

Certainly worth mentioning is the service provided by ALL staff at Gaya Island Resort. It is outstanding. Everyone greets you where ever you are, nothing is too difficult to arrange, each person is always smiling...so refreshing! Bowie, the guest liaison manager was brilliant. She helped us to arrange a trip to the Nature Reserve at Shangri La Rasa Ria on our last day in Kota Kinabalu to visit the orang-utans. She checked us in to our flights the day before we left the resort and even gave us a little gift when we departed, as a treat for our Honeymoon. Such a special surprise.

We tried to arrange an Island Excursion, however to our disappointment, there was no availability on any of the 5 days we stayed there. We had a sunset cruise booked, but a sudden thundershower rained this out and the next one was only scheduled for after our departure. We did partake in a cooking course in the Fisherman's Cove restaurant, and it was lovely.

This might be a new hotel, and yes there is some exposed concrete etc, but I think that once the plants and vegetation have had a chance to grow and disguise this a bit - this won't be an issue. We spent most of our time by the pool and it was so lovely to kick back and relax. This is our first experience at a YTL hotel and is the beginning of many more holidays to come. We have been so impressed by the experience provided by Gaya Island Resort - we will be sure to recommend it to friends. Thanks for making our Honeymoon truly unforgettable!

Room Tip: For lovely views, choose the higher villa's, they are worth the walk!
  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
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3  Thank Rae R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded April 13, 2013

Dear Guest,

Greetings from Borneo!

I would like to thank-you very much on your support and review and I am happy to read that you had a memorable time with us and enjoyed the resort facilities and services offered through out.

I have congratulated Bowie on her nobble efforts on ensuring you are well looked after during your stay and I am proud to have Bowie in my team.

Again, thank-you very much on your review and we look forward to welcome you back to Gaya Island Resort in future.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 6, 2013

Where to start. The good bits. Lovely villas, fantastic staff and a truly superb restaurant called fishermans cove where the chef is as good as anyone specialising in fish in new york or london.

The bad bits

This is an island so its business model depends on getting people there and back. We have done up market islands before and all had either 'on demand' or continuous boat service. Not the brainbox at Gaya Island. They have 2 or 3 hour frequency. We arrived on a saturday night on the mainland jetty at 19.45. After no explanations and half an hour we all began to agitate a bit, then another half an hour, no explanation for the delay. Then finally after an 15 hour flight and 75 minutes waiting for the boat we all got on. What was happening? Even for arriving and departing guests they wont put on extra boats unless you cough up between $150-200 and they kept us all waiting the best part of 90 minutes.
We arrived just in time at 21.30 to see the buffet restaurant competely depleted.

The beach the next day has the smallest sun umbrellas on the planet - useless in hot sun.
The beach is frequently covered in rubbish due apparently to 6000 illegal immigrants on a sort of floating village around the corner. The sea looked disgusting until we asked the hotel to clean it up which they did but it happened again 3 more times in a week.

The wifi in the rooms is awful if you opt for the free service. TV was intermitent.

Finally, the resort is built on a hillside, quite a steep hillside. There are no buggies so you need to be fit to walk sometimes up to half a kilometre uphill in 34 degrees. It also rains every afternoon so you often find yourself walking in the rain past the staff in their vans !!! Apparently a neighbouring resort has had a number of buggy accidents and this put the management off. They need to think again.

The bar is small and the staff there do not match those at the fish place or breakfast. Breakfast s also poor value.

The staff sort of rescue the place because they are young and keen from an apparently ill advised management, who are never seen outside their offices.

Room Tip: Give it a year or two to improve
  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Service
3  Thank HertsFred
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kirinjit, General Manager at Gaya Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded April 20, 2013

Dear Guest,

Greetings!

I would like to unreservedly apologize on the overall disappointments as your kind self shared. Assuring you nothing less but further corrective and improvement measures on addressing the areas.

On the boat, I am very sorry on the inconveniences that your self experienced on waiting for the boat. In our records, we had your private boat scheduled for 2030 hours and we noted your early arrival and our efforts to get the boat earlier did not fruit a positive results as the boat were scheduled for another transfer for the period and you were not duly informed.

Again, we are very sorry on the overall disappointments and we would like to assure your kind self again that further corrective and improvements measures are now in-progress on the areas.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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