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“Great spa and good snorkeling”

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Gem Island Resort & Spa
Ranked #2 of 4 Hotels in Marang
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed March 3, 2011

We wanted to experience some luxury during our trip and stayed for 4 days. It was wonderful! Everything was good about the resort. The balcony was a relaxing place to read a book and watch the colourful fish, reef sharks and fighting crabs in the water and on the rocks beneath the balcony.

I liked the Spa so much that I went back the next day. Staff is very friendly and helpful. We booked a snorkel trip the first day. The other days we returned to the beautiful underwater world at Coral Bay ourselves.

The food was good. it's better to order a la carte, there's lots of choice and it's not expensive. Alcohol was expensive, a beer for 16RM. The island is small, so staying 3 or 4 days is fine. It's fun to hire a kajak and go to a deserted beach on Kapas.

  • Stayed: July 2010, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank MunZH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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109 - 115 of 194 reviews

Reviewed October 20, 2010

The beach is really a pristine place - excellent for a "do nothing holiday" during non peak season. When we first arrive, there was only 3 other rooms occupied in the entire island. Although it can be fairly quiet at times, this can be a great place for couples who are looking forward to doing nothing but to relax (point to note: there is really NOTHING MUCH to do here. do bring some books/ boardgames/ even your playstation if you are planning to spend more than 2 days in the island).

The staffs are very, very helpful and friendly, and the food is on average quite good, albeit the lack of variety. Alcohol are priced decently too, though not cheap, they are not exorbitant; almost similar to prices in Kuala Lumpur clubs.

The downside, like most reviewers have noted, are the poor state that the hotel is in. It is clear that the place needs an uplift, till the extent that certain spots of the room that we stayed are bordering dirty (such as slightly clogged sink, old, stained couch). Snorkeling and kayaking equipment are worn down - wearing the clear signs that they should be replaced soon. Swimming pool is in dire state. Corals in the island are about 90% damaged, so do not expect to see much live corals, much less breathtaking ones there.

Also, avoid this place when it is crowded (perhaps you can call them directly to ask about the non peak season?) - there is a long wait for meals to be served, and with the small size of the island, there is lack of privacy and space once more tourists arrive.

Recommended for couples who are looking for a relaxing, simple, fairly cheap (do not expect any luxury in this island) getaway. Despite the complains about the state of the resort, I grew to love this tiny, relatively untouched island after a 4 days stay.

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank Gonfnom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 10, 2010

Its was our 1st wedding anniversary.. and this little place made it even more memorable ..
The warm welcome by manager Ching was impressive and the staff were always there for assistance...
if you are looking for a place for relaxation this is the one.... It was close to offseason we went in Oct 1st week.. there was hardly any crowd which made us feel we have the island all for ourselves... the snokerling session by the traniner was very gud.. he not encouraged us but also was patient to teach us .. as one of us were non -swimers...
the food was gud.. and the best time to see the view is between 2.00pm to 4.00pm .. you can get to see the blue clor waters.. our eyes just cld not belive we were seeing the water which was so blue ... the fishes greet you gud morning when you have your breakfast at the shore.. just feed them a lil bread and they bcome your friends..
Finally we realised we missed to see the NEMO fish and we had a couple of hours to leave .. the manager was so gud that he did not let us go dishearted.. he sent a guide with us and finally showed us the fish .. we thought we almost missed it .. but the manager was too kind enough... Thanks for making our stay so memorable.and not to forget we can see the cute turtles... which were so adorable... we infact saw some of them hatch and how they were released into the see... it a perfect place to relax without any noise except the waves sound . :-()

  • Stayed: October 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank phaniroopa
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 5, 2010

If I remember correctly, this resort is built for <10 years, and the condition it's in appears to be at least 15 - 20 year old. It's sad to see most resorts in Malaysia to have started so well but all goes down the drain after 5 years.

The rooms were good size, with a good balcony where we can look at fishes, and occasionally baby sharks. But the housekeeping quality is less than desirable, with crumpled sheets and torn towels. It's quite inconvenient to complain bout the room too, since there is no inroom phones. I had to walk to the reception to make requests.

The food is surprisingly good, even after reading the reviews here. If the resort overall is 3 star, the food is at least 4 star, it was so beautifully garnished and at the sametime tastes good. We didn't know it's possible to make special requests to the chef, but I was travelling with my parent in law, and we can't take ice cream as dessert after every meal, so we asked for fruits instead. We were then offered black forest cake during the second night dinner although everyone else is having ice cream as always :P

Just like what the other comments stated, the water & beach on Kapas side is much nicer, although I'm still a bit dissapointed with the dead corals, but I suppose lack of preservations are catching up with us. Redang was much better 5 years ago.

In terms of price, I would not say it's cheap, although there's quite a bit of privacy, but the facilities is really quite basic. I recently also visited Pangkor Laut Resort, the price is almost the same if I compare Gem fullboard + airfare from KL. So if given a choice, I'll probably choose Pangkor Laut for my next trip for luxury and better service

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled with family
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1  Thank YunQi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 22, 2010

My husband and I stayed 7 nights on Gem Island. I have to say we were disappointed in our stay on the whole but I will outline some of the good points as well as the not so good.

Firstly, we booked a half-board package in a premier villa for the 7 nights. This meant we had breakfast and dinner paid for already and our package included snorkelling equipment for 3 days, boat transfers and the marine conservation fee . For all of this we paid RM 3800, thats close to AU$195 a night. I will say that the organised taxi transfers from Terrengenau airport (another RM 75 each way) were hassle free and exactly as planned (although I wasn't sure whether we were going to make it there alive due to Yusef's irratic driving - a bit stressful!). The boat transfer was also hassle free.

The island looks beautiful as you arrive. Crystal clear waters, dense green jungle and a whole 300 m? from the even more picturesque Kapas Island which just enhances the beauty. Check in was fine following the welcome drink and the boys were helpful in carrying our luggage off the boat and helping to our room.

Our room: lets just say paying RM 120 extra a nite for a premier room isn't really justified. The only difference between the basic water villas and our premier water villas was that they weren't adjoining so you have a little bit more quiet, but given ours (#4) was at the end right near the first row of normal water villas the noise still carried. The room itself was basic. Now I was expecting this, I knew it wasn't going to be fancy, but I have to say that the bathroom standard really left a lot to be desired. There was no division between the shower and toilet therefore shower spray went all over the toilet and floor around it and meant that the floor was wet any other time you needed to use the toilet. The shower area itself was fairly grubby and I didn't think the bucket and scoop (presumably if you wanted to use instead of standing under the shower?) in the corner that had slime around the rim and handle was a great look.

The sheets, pillow cases and towels had all seen better days. Most of them had holes and stains on them and one of my towels was half unravelled! Not really what you'd expect from a resort that sells itself as a luxurious boutique resort. The airconditioning wasn't particularly efficient and it was constantly hot in our room during the night even with the fan on too. The fact that the power went off between 3-5 pm didn't really worry us that much although it probably contributed to the heat of the room although we tried to negate this by opening up the balcony door to allow for a sea breeze during this time.

Food: On the whole we really enjoyed each meal we had on the island. The produce was fresh and full of flavour and we particularly enjoyed the traditional Malay style dishes. We had a bit of a mixture of meal types depending on how populated the island was. When there was more people a buffet was offered and there was plenty of food to go around and a great selection. On the quieter days it was a set menu but we learnt towards the end of the trip that special reuests could be made to the chef and he was happy to accommodate (one night for our anniversary we asked for banana fritters - my favourite). I loved the breakfasts and even on the set-menu days when Western or Malay was offered I I was still able to get some roti canai to go with my Western style brekky which was fantastic and the waiter was always willing to get a bit more if we were still hungry.
Drinks are expensive but I guess thats accommodation on an island for you and we watched locals bringing eskies full of grog to the island for their stay, so if you are really partial to alcohol, or even soft drinks, take your own!

We found the majority of the staff to be fairly friendly, the waiters, however were certainly the standouts. I think on the whole most of them were very shy and probably found a fairly organised woman like me a bit daunting! I did feel as though better attention was needed at the towel/watersport counter as we had to go in serach of an attendant many times and even helped ourselves to towels on one occasion. My advice to other visitors is that if you've waited at the counter for any longer than 5 min, help yourself to snorkels, kayaks and towels - given you have to pay for the two former. This leads me to another disappointment - having to pay for non-motorised water sport. Given the high room rate I would have expected free use of kayaks at least - as is the norm for most Aussie resorts.

I was disappointed also in the lack of attention from the resort manager. Apart from an introduction on check-in and a brief conversation prior to leaving we were never approached by him during our stay. As guests staying 7 nights I would have thought it normal for him to check whether everything was alright at least once prior to us leaving. It appeared that he did so for the majority of other guests - particularly Asian guests.

Beaches: ok but very small and restrictive as soon as the tide goes out in the afternoon. Better to kayak over to Kappas which we did every day to enjoy the less populated expanses of beach there - nicer sand too. As soon as the tide goes out its very hard to access any water as there are coral outcrops and huge amounts of nasty urchins. it was disappointing to be so restricted given the pool was so small and uninviting on the island.
Snorkelling was great for fish-life. Lots of colours and species, however the coral was very bleached and unimpressive.

Spa: we enjoyed a wonderful one hour full body massage that was fairly reasonably priced. Hats off to the ladies, it was very relaxing.

Turtles: we were lucky enough to see baby turtles hatching and the nursery pool was full of babies! Absolutely amazing. However, I think better control of guests access to them would be advisable given one lady picked a brand new baby in her hand unnoticed by the attendant, who later informed us that contact of new-borns with human hand bacteria results in death - which unfortunately it did for that little turtle. Also I was horified to catch a little boy (8-10years) picking baby turtles up by their heads and turfing them outside the pool for certain death.

So in conclusion, whilst there were some good things about the island its a very restrictive place to be, given its size, ammenities and access to water. I think it was well and truely overpriced and would have to say its an Aussie 3 star standard (3 and a half at the very most). I would recommend a 2-3 night stay at the maximum. If you're after island comfort or even part-way luxury don't go here. I would classify it as a low to mid-end eco-friendly resort?

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank TassieHappyTraveller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 29, 2010

We were a bit confused when we were dropped off on the island because there was no-one to greet us and its not clear where check in was (through the restaurant). Breakfast and supper are buffets and there is a fairly good variety, and is perfectly acceptable (don't expect the Ivy but that's not why you come here). However for lunch and drinks don't ever expect to get served you will have to go and find a waiter yourself as you simply won't register on their rader. The restaurant could do with a bit more atmosphere (decor, music etc). There are 3 small beaches, not pristine (I'm coming to that). However, whoever built the resort has been very clever, for sitting opposite the chalets and restaurant, barely 600mt away is the pristine Kappas island. Deserted, powder white beaches with palm trees towering behind. So it is all about the view, it really is stunning, and you can hire a 2-man canoe and reach the beaches of Kappas in minutes. The snorkelling is fantastic, apparently young black-tip reef sharks can be seen now and and again off certain points of the island but sadly we missed any. Also the bedrooms were very clean and comfortable (and did I mention the view from the balcony!). For the location and snorkelling I would recommend. This is not a luxury chic hotel (go to Thailand/Bali), but it achieves exactly what it sets out to - a comfortable hotel to get a break from it all and explore the beautiful reefs and beaches off the East coast of peninsula Malaysia in a quiet envoronment.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled with family
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1  Thank ChasL02
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 22, 2010

I fell in love with the resort from the moment I arrived, the clear waters makes for a very scenic environment especially from my Water Villa.

There is still room for improvements where the accommodaton and service is concerned, Nevertheless I do recomend the resort to everyone who is looking for a place to getaway and just enjoy the quiet environment and clear sea waters.

The resort shuts off the power supply from 3pm to 5pm, I taught that was an awkward hour as we would usually rest or nap at that hour after the sea outing and lunch. Possibly the resort could retime the shutdown from 11am to 1pm.

All in all, a wonderful resort for all to discover and enjoy.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank VictorSidhu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Gem Island Resort & Spa

Address: Lot 2804 Jalan Rusila | Daerah Marang Terengganu, Marang 21600, Malaysia
Location: Malaysia > Terengganu > Marang
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 4 Hotels in Marang
Price Range: $101 - $156 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Gem Island Resort & Spa 3*
Number of rooms: 45
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The resort have 45 sea frontage villas, comprising of 2 suites, 4 hideaway Villas, 4 Premier Villas and 35 water villas. All villas are equipped with air conditioning and king sized beds with aside lounger. All villas have a balcony with a swing chair for your convenience. Villas are all ensuite with a toilet and shower room. The resort is built on the ridges of the coastline, thus preserving the hills and its natural physical formation. There is a main beach and 2 other smaller beach for your private use. There is a restaurant where all meals are served there. Seaport facilities like kayaking and snorkelling are also available. Guided snorkelling is also available upon request with minimum of 4 pax. Airport transfer can be arrange upon request with some charges. Rates are available on our official website. Thank you and hope to see you in Gem Island soon. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Gem Island Hotel Marang
Gem Island Resort And Spa
Gem Island Resort & Spa Terengganu/Marang, Malaysia

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