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“Beautiful resort; concept missing”
Review of Gaya Island Resort

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Gaya Island Resort
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Pulau Gaya
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed April 20, 2014

We arrived at Gaya marina to a fab welcome from the check in team; they were very efficient and friendly. They advised us then than we must pay an additional 40 ringitts per night to stay on the island for 'conservation charge? We were staying for 6 nights and they asked to scan a credit card for 4000 ringitts to 'start of with'. We said we had cash and no card as we thought this was cheeky.. Who pays a bill before you have service??
We transferred to the island by boat which was a lovely experience and took around 15 minutes; the sights were amazing!
On arrival we were greeted with a drink and cold flannel and asked to explore for an hour as our room wasn't ready.
There was a lovely pool area, a souvenir shop, library, gym and beach. The dining area was extremely large and airy.
We eventually checked in and our room was lovely although I was disappointed that there were used towels on our daubed outside!
There was the biggest bath I have ever seen and the room was well equipped and spacious; very nice. Well stocked mini bar with no price list which was worrying but hey, we were on holiday. The outside day bed needed a good scrub, it looked like it was covered in mold? Beautiful spot though and views were magnificent.
We spent a lovely day exploring and by 4.30 the sun had disappeared to the other side of the island. We went for dinner at 7.30. Having read lots of reviews about the food we were worried and we were right to be..
Sadly they just haven't got it right!! The chef was lovely; very friendly and concerned but the food choice resembled a poor buffet except you ordered from a menu. Starter was either shellfish or cheese and bread and mains were luke warm at best EVERY NIGHT without exception. We spoke to lots of other guests who said they felt the same; we were offered extremely over priced 'airport lounge' food. On top of that we often asked for drinks at least 3 times before they ever arrived, if at all!! My view is either make it self service set menu price and let us get on with it OR offer 5 star service which you charge for. It was just all wrong.
The fine dining experience was the same and people wondered in wearing flip flops and shorts which is against the hotel policy but no one seemed to care. I don't care if that is ok for everyone, but don't have a rule and then not follow it through.. We specifically asked about dress code before arrival and had to purchase long trousers and shoes for my husband to wear only to find people in beach wear!! Annoying..
The chef did make us a beautiful traditional meal one evening after we asked; we wanted to experience Malay food which you can't off the menu. The staff were always friendly and happy. They just need direction (or a note pad maybe).
It was the same by the pool, attention to detail was just lacking. There were a few key members of staff who couldn't do enough for you- Layla, Pen Edith and Larry deserve promotion and a huge pat on the back; they never stopped working... Amazing guys!! However having to constantly ask for water got a bit annoying; come on guys it's 40 degrees, we need drinks!!! I suppose we were spoiled as we had come from another resort where they were in constant supply..
We asked to take a trip to the main land but it cost £70 each return and latest return was 6pm; shame really as snorkelling which was further away was cheaper. Overall I can only conclude this was a way of keeping you on the island paying ridiculous prices for limited good and drink.
The toilets were clean and tidy but I lost count of the times the sanitary bin was overflowing and there was no tissue paper.. Other guests also commented on this.
On a positive the resort is beautiful; very small in terms of walks or exploring alone but the private beach was lovely and the service their was second to non.. The food was also fab there too! Shame it closed at 4.30 as we would have rather have been eating there in the evening!!
We snorkelled, kayaked through the mangrove, walked through the forest and saw sights I will never forget. The guides were enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
It is a fabulous resort; they just have something missing; space to have a nice evening drink before a smart dinner separate to swimmers, space to enjoy a lovely meal away from swimwear, attention to detail....
With some work and listening to guest opinion and thoughts it could be a five star resort.. They just ask the wrong questions.. For now I would say 3.5 based on what is lacking; what they have is gorgeous but there was not a single guest we spoke to who said they would return because of these gaps... Paying the bill- well that's a whole other story, take cash!!

  • Stayed: April 2014
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3  Thank Charmers70
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 June 7, 2014

Dear Guest,

Greetings from Borneo!

I would like to unreservedly apologize on the areas that did not meet your expectations, as shared by your kind self in your review. Areas are now looked into with further improvements are carried and since, we did not record any negative comments on the areas. It was a busy week with high number of guests hence the experiences ensued.

On the pre-authorization of credit card and/or cash deposit at arrival, I would like to share that all major 5 Star establishments do practice this as a security measure and I am very sorry on the inconveniences caused.

On the room sala day-bed, completing several tests, we have finalized the replacement material and are now putting together other required/necessary details for the order. We hope to complete the change for all the mattresses soonest as the new selected material will further enhance the sala look and value as a whole

Food improvements are in-progress. We have hired an Executive Chef and we are very positive on making a very good progress on this area.

We are committed to provide nothing less but memorable and flawless experiences to your kind self and to all of our guests, as shared.

Again, I would like to thank you very much on taking your time out to share with us on your stay experiences.

We look forward to welcome you back to Gaya Island Resort in future to experience the much improved services and experiences and till then, we wish you all the best.

Kirinijt Singh

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Reviewed April 12, 2014

We stayed there in early February and it is a lovely place - I can only agree with other 4 and 5 star reviews here. But I also agree with the many of 2 and 3 star reviews: the hotel is seriously let down by the catering; it almost undermined the whole stay. There are 2 choices for dinner – the "fine dining" Fisherman’s Cove, where you expect it to be expensive, and a very ordinary buffet. The latter does not have much choice and costs the absurd sum of 120 ringgit (plus 16% tax), about £26 at the exchange rate at the time. (And that's before drinks.)

What made the situation far, far worse was realizing that you were effectively trapped on the island with no real chance to go into Kota Kinabalu and seek cheaper and more authentic alternatives. The hotel charges for a return trip to the mainland the princely sum of £30 return (I expected it to be free or at most £10-£12); furthermore, the last scheduled boat returns at 6pm (thus ruling out dinner away from the hotel). If you do want to return after 6pm, it becomes a "private charter" and the cost rockets to a ludicrous sum of £100, and it gets worse: if after 9pm, it's £135 (we could have flown back to Singapore for less). They also do not allow other boats to dock at their pier, so you are effectively held captive and forced to use their substandard and overpriced food.

After we complained to our tour operator back in the UK (essentially requesting an early departure as we were also booked to go on to Tajung Aru), the manager offered us 20% discount on our total food and drink bill. Not bad, though in my view, all he was doing was reducing the price to what should have been the standard anyway.

So, great hotel, great staff, great activities (the mangrove kayaking, the snorkelling, and jungle walk all particularly good) - but undermined by overpriced, average food (and to pre-empt the usual replies from the manager, the food is far more expensive than Tajung Aru, which is also a 5 star hotel in the area). Drinks, however, were (to my mind) reasonably-priced.

Also, as it was a honeymoon, there were a few other free things thrown in, such as the excellent sunset cruise. But this food thing really got under our skins, so what would have been a 5 star review, I am reducing to 3.

  • Stayed: February 2014, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank MKCLondon
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 June 7, 2014

Dear Guest,

Greetings from Gaya Island Resort!

Firstly, I would like to thank you very much on your support and more importantly, taking your valuable time out to write on your stay experiences.

I note, overall you had a relaxing stay with us and I have congratulated the staffs and the team on their job well done ensuring your stay was a memorable one.

I note on your food prices comments. I would like to share that overall our food prices are on-par with other 5 Star establishments around the areas and I am very sorry on the inconveniences caused. Nevertheless, I have noted your comments in our improvements list for future. Thank you for sharing your view.

Again, Thank you very much on your support and I 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, 2014

We arrived at the hotel just after 12 and were informed that our room was not ready and had to wait two hours, as check in was not till 2 pm that's fair enough.

When finally shown to our room, we loved it, they are modern and contemporary with an Asian twist, the bed was comfortable, a nice office area and walk in wardrobe, and lovely spacious bathroom, with top quality toiletries. All fixtures and fitting of an excellent standard

The gardens well maintained and the public areas very clean as one might expect.

We like other recent reviewers were disappointed with the catering. The main restaurant as others state was more like a canteen area, and the evening menus limited to 'Western', comprising of all things pizza and gourmet burger, which you don't expect to be offered in a better hotel, apart from may be a children's menu, and even then I frown on that, this otherwise only left really steak and another beef dish, the alternative menus was 'Chinese', obviously to cater for the main numbers of guests. However we were in Malaysian Borneo, with its great ethnic and diverse mix of cultures, bringing a great choice of foods from the area, that's available in KK. We complained and for the next nigh were promised a separate menus cooked especially for us, which is nice but why do you have to request local dishes they should be an option.

Any way the menu devised by Chef Fred was lovely and can't complain about that. As are the breakfasts and desserts

As others state that the food prices are excessive and we were also charged near RM1000 for two nights meals and drinks.

  • Stayed: March 2014, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank mikeyk64
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 12, 2014

Dear Mr Mikeyk64,

Greetings from Borneo!

I would like to thank you very much on taking your time to share with us your stay experiences via your review.

I am happy to read that overall you enjoyed the services and resort areas. I am sorry that the Feast Village restaurant did not meet your expectations and I also understand that Chef Fred's special arrangements met your expectations. I have congratulated Chef Fred on his extra-miles and I am very proud to have Chef Fred part of our team.

Again, thank you very much for your support and I 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 March 31, 2014

If I could have given 3.75 stars, I probably would. It's way better than average, but not quite very good. Yet.
We read previous reviews of Gaya Island with some nervousness. We need not have worried.
This may not be a world-class resort, but it’s pretty good. If you want an accessible, tropical resort, quiet, not too packed with water sports and ‘all-inclusive’ families – with some good food and great accommodation – this works.
We wanted somewhere luxurious to spend some serious down time after two weeks exploring Borneo in less glamorous accommodation. This did that job well.
Approaching the island, it’s hard to spot the hotel hidden among the trees - and that adds to the excitement. The jungle seems to gather the buildings into itself. The rooms, built as stilted villas, climb steeply up the hillside. As a family of three, needing a second bedroom, we lucked out by booking the Suria Suite. Huge, spacious, light and contemporary design, with wrap around balconies on two levels, exterior bath and shower where hornbills and monkeys join you from the jungle. There are views over the forest, across the bay to Mount Kinabalu and down to the hotels’ beach. This is special. Large bathrooms, games room, kitchen and more.

The hotel has all kinds of corners to hang out in and relax; from the super-special spa to a glass reading room, plenty of loungers on decks overlooking the beach, or little shady niches near the pool, when you need to grab the shade. Beautifully planted, the grounds will only get better as the gardens mature around the villas and disguise more of the still-exposed concrete.

Food was less wonderful. The ‘Feast Village’, (the main restaurant), provides a good choice though quality is variable, and the ambiance is like a motorway service station/meets school canteen. It desperately needs to be made more welcoming, classier space.
The small bar by the pool serves great smaller meals, with friendly service, but it is very small, and as the hotel filled up, people competed for seats – both at lunch and the evening cocktail hour.

Another criticism is the lack of a golf buggy, or similar, to ferry people up the hill to their villas and the spa. It’s a 10-minute climb, at least, along an ugly concrete road. Just a small courtesy vehicle would make all the difference, especially as families with small kids tend to be allocated those more distant rooms… I have been to similar resorts in the tropics where this has worked well.

Some previous reviewers criticised the resorts setting and the views. If you are dreaming of an island idyll, with infinite sea views and endless beach walks, this is not for you. It’s not Turks and Caicos or the Maldives. But there are fine views anyway (see pics). We didn’t mind the large ships moored in the very distance. It’s all part of the tableau.

Plans are afoot to add a sushi restaurant and increased bar services, so that will help, though mostly aimed at the rapidly growing Chinese clientele, now the largest visitor group.

We had a great 5 days here. Fabulous spa treatment, snorkeling, forest walks and messing about on paddle boards. Beers and cocktails by the pool and time spent in a luxurious room. Not world class. But good with lovely staff.

Room Tip: All rooms very similar interiors. God for the suite if you can. I would tend to choose a room furthe...
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  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled with family
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2  Thank FilmTraveller
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 12, 2014

Dear FilmTraveller,

Greetings from Gaya Island Resort- a walking tropic resort.

I would like to thank you very much on your stay and review as shared. I note, overall you enjoyed the services and overall resort location and views.

I also sincerely apologize on the areas that did not meet your expectations. As shared with your good self during your stay, we have further improvements planned in coming months to address the areas.

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

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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Reviewed March 26, 2014

Very Good Service, clean, nice room and feel relax. Many activites at hotel, we did not feel boring. Food are not well and very Expensive.

We Love Gaya Island Resort. Gaya Island Resort is the best in KK, We will be back.

  • Stayed: March 2014, traveled as a couple
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Thank LemonTeaTea
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 12, 2014

Dear PerhapsLove,

Greetings from Gaya Island Resort- a fully tropic walking resort.

I would like to thank you very much on your review and I am happy to read that you had a relaxing and memorable stay with us.

Me and team look forward to welcome you back to Gaya Island Resort in future and till we meet again, our best wishes to you, family and friends.

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh

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Reviewed March 26, 2014 via mobile

My husband and I stayed in this hotel for 4 days 3 nights under the resident's package where it is full board. The location, room and activities were great. The spa service is HEAVENLY. We wished we could afford the time and money for more spa treatments.. Maybe next time :)

However, having visited Tanjong Jara Resort which is also under the YTL management, we felt that this place fall short of the glory of the name as YTL resort. This is mainly due to its quality of food and selection. The meal menu is always the same. Imagine 3 lunches and 3 dinners from the same menu with limited choice! And to make it worse, it didnt taste nice :( for a very famous dish such as soft shell crab, It tasted like cucur tepung (flour fritters) :( I hope that the management can look into this seriously and improve. Hope to see some improvements the next time we are back. We missed Chef Anne from Tanjung Jara Resort! Please hire someone of the same calibre.

  • Stayed: March 2014
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Thank tjolynn82
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 12, 2014

Dear tjolynn82,

Greetings and thank you for your stay and support. I read overall you enjoyed the services and resort areas.

I am sorry that the food aspect did not meet your expectations, as shared in your review. Your comments are very valuable to us in our efforts to constantly improve our services and offerings. I would like to share that we have now improved our menus in the outlet with having almost 50 different items on offer with additional specials-of-the-day on the chalk-board displays each night. We have recorded positive comments from our guests on this improvement made.

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

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

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Reviewed March 24, 2014

We went to Gaya Island Resort on Mar 14-16 to celebrate hubby's birthday. The hotel is very beautiful, the room is huge and we love the huge bath tub. We stayed in the Bayu villa which is at the lower hill, this is the only villa type that provided bath tub and we highly recommend this villa as we do not need to walk too far to reach the restaurants and beach. The room amenities were great, we love the bath salt and the candles provided in the bath tub. The toiletries were luxury enough to give us a wow. The design of the villa is luxurious, we love the double basins concept "left for the male, right for the female" . The bed were so soft, comes with many pillows and long pillows. We spent a lot of time in the villa as we were really comfortable and the aircond is working great under the hot weather. There are 4 restaurants in the resort, we went to 3 of them, except the fine dining restaurant. The food was great, not much of the choices in the menu, however for the food we have ordered, they were delicious, the seafood and the meat was fresh. The buffet breakfast could be better if there were more choices. Anyway, we were very happy with the service especially the fresh fruit juice is serve during buffet breakfast. Another pros of this resort is they have a private beach at another side of the island. We went there once, it was a tiny beach with beautiful scenery. It was a relaxing afternoon as there were only about 6 guests at the private beach. Lunch was served at the private beach the prawns were so juicy and tasty we hope so much we could find this food back in our city!! We went to the spa village too, it was luxury and the design of the village is stunning. I tried the prebumi massage, it was fine and came with complementary food scrub and a 30 minutes Sabah Scent Adventure class. The staffs were polite and helpful, we were treated like a king and queen. The only down side was we informed the resort prior to our arrival that we are going to celebrate hubby's birthday, we were expecting a little something from the resort, however nothing happen. Anyway, we still love this resort and the trip were enjoyable and relaxing. In the future we might try other YTL group's hotel as the luxurious and service are guaranteed.

Room Tip: Bayu villa is a good choice, near to restaurant and beach.
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  • Stayed: March 2014, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank XRuChiaX
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 12, 2014

Dear RuChiaJRLai,

Greetings from Borneo!

I am happy to read on your positive review and I have shared your review with the team and congratulated the team on the overall job well done.

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

Kind regards,
Kirinjit Singh.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Gaya Island Resort

Address: Malohom Bay, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park | Jesselton Point, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Pulau Gaya 88000, Malaysia
Phone Number:
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > West Coast Division > Kota Kinabalu District > Pulau Gaya
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Beverage Selection Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Spa Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Pulau Gaya
Price Range: $206 - $400 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Gaya Island Resort 5*
Number of rooms: 121
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Gaya Island Resort is located on Pulau Gaya, the largest of a cluster of five islands that form the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a natural conservation area off the coast of Borneo, close to Kota Kinabalu. Gaya Island Resort has a unique setting: the land is fringed with a golden sandy beach, rocky coastal outcrops, and surrounded by coral reefs. The hilly island landscape is covered with lush tropical rainforest and an abundance of flora and fauna. And to complete this perfect setting, visible in the distance, is the stunning outline of Mount Kinabalu. The guest villa exterior respects Sabahan architecture uses local materials and blends harmoniously with the natural environment. The interior living space is designed with contemporary elegance to create warmth, comfort and a serene indoor setting. Gaya Island Resort is committed to ecologically sustainable practices to minimise the carbon footprint within its environment. Therefore the resort is a walking resort and only minimal motorised vehicles are used for operational purposes. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Gaya Island Resort Malaysia/Pulau Gaya

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