Gaya Island, the largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is located only 10 minutes boat rides away from Kota Kinabalu City Center. Gaya island which mean Big Island in the local language is surrounded by undisturbed rainforest. Locals didn’t know much about Gaya Island even though it is directly opposite Kota Kinabalu city and think that there are many illegals living on the island. Gaya Island, in fact, home to 5 villages and 3 resorts.
Tucked amidst protected mangroves, sheltered coral reefs and curled around the pristine sandy coast of Malohom Bay rests Gaya Island Resort.
Gaya Island resort offers a sense of intimacy with the natural world all prevail across the land and seascape of this resort offering travelers and families an escape that is distinctively Borneo.
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Gaya Island Resort reception lounge is located at Jesselton Point. The resort provides hourly shuttle to Jesselton Point
Leaving Kota Kinabalu city.
The entrance to Gaya Island Resort. This beachfront resort blends harmoniously with the natural environment featuring a collection of hillside villas with views that range from mangrove forests and the surrounding canopy to the outline of Mount Kinabalu.
Video of Gaya Island Resort
Nestled within the rainforest are 121 Hill villas with a variety of views including mangrove, canopy, tropical rain forest and Mount Kinabalu in the distance.
The resort is committed to ecologically sustainable practices to minimize its carbon footprint within the environment. Therefore, it is a walking resort with minimal motorized vehicles used for operational purposes.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted at the open air reception where we get the key to our room and arrange our itinerary.
Each room is provided with a Yes Huddle XS 4G Mobile Hotspot.
As the room is not ready during our arrival, we had our lunch at Pool Bar & Lounge.
Our lunch at overlooking the infinity pool and floating cabanas, the Pool Bar & Lounge.
Gaya Island Resort offers 3 types of Villas: Bayu Villa, Canopy Villa, and Kinabalu Villa. The villas and facilities were a bit spread out though and require lots of walking and climbing (for Kinabalu Villa)
Villas’ amenities include comfortable bedding, a writing desk, a powered safe, a flat screen television with satellite channels, a large open en-suite bathroom with an oversized bathtub and two vanity units, and an outdoor verandah with day beds.
Standard features and services in all villas:
• Complimentary WiFi • Tea and coffee making facilities • Flat screen television with satellite channels • Powered safe • Minibar • Ceiling fan
• In-room climate control • Selection of international newspapers
A conservation fee of MYR32 on the first night of stay and an additional MYR22 for each day thereof is applied to each guest, including children, for every night of stay by Sabah Parks, an organisation set up as the caretaker of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. The conservation fee is contributed to Sabah Parks in support of their effort towards preserving the rich ecosystem of the region.
walkway to Bayu Villa and Canopy Villa
Bayu villa offers a peaceful setting with leafy views ranging from the rainforest canopy to the tropical mangroves.
We stay at Kinabalu Villa which has the best view in the resort of the South China Sea. Our rooms are built high up in the jungle and the walk to the rooms is steep, but the view truly makes it worthwhile.
Outdoor verandah with day beds.
View from the balcony, Mount Kinabalu is visible in the distance on a good day.
The bath tub is amazingly big.
Spacious working desk separated from the sleeping area.
Mangosteen brand toiletries
After check into our room and get freshen up, we head down to the reception area for Yahai Pupuan Session. Yahai Pupuan is a series of stretching exercises combines qi gong, deep breathing techniques and movements inspired by local fauna. Tailored to rid the mind of negativity and rejuvenate the spirit
Dinner at Omakase
Surrounded by an ancient rainforest, this two-storey Japanese restaurant is perched on a hillside with a stunning view of Malohom Bay and Mount Kinabalu. There are 2 time slots for the dinner at Omakase, 7 to 8.30pm and 8.45pm to 10 pm. Omakase which mean a meal consisting of dishes selected by the chef.
cold soba with scallop
Chefs preparing our main dish of the day, Atlantic cod fish with tiger prawn and yasai.
Wake up early in the morning for this beautiful sunrise view from the room. We know Kota Kinabalu is famous for its sunset but I must say the sunrise is amazingly beautiful too.
“burning cloud” with Mount Kinabalu in the background.
The view of Jetty with Mount Kinabalu at the background. A view you never get tired of.
Breakfast at Feast Village
Feast Village is the main restaurant at Gaya Island Resort and it offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Savor a vibrant, interactive dining experience that offers diverse cuisine from the Asia-Pacific region.
Activity: Gaya Snorkelling Exploration
Snorkeling can be done at the shallow shores in front of GIR. Gaya Island Resort Marine Center carry out reef restoration around Gaya Island. No fins are allowed for snorkeling to avoid damage to the house reefs.
Lunch at Tavajun Bay. We take the shuttle boat to Tavajun Bay which is 5 minutes away from the resort. Tavajun Bay offer tranquil private beach for resort guests and the there is a restaurant here which serve Thai inspired food.
Wild boar can be seen roaming around Tavajun Bay area looking for food.
Relaxation at Tavajun Beach.
Gaya Island Resort Marine Center
Housed at Tavajun Bay, the marine center advocates 3 key conservation themes – Turtle Rescue, Coral Reef Restoration, and Conservation Through Education. The resident Marine Biologist of Gaya Island Resort Marine Center, Scott Mayback and dedicated team work with equally passionate partners, championing initiatives to protect marine life, raise awareness for sustainable seafood choices and aim for pollution-free waters.
We are lucky (unlucky for the turtle) to see a hawksbill turtle at the quarantine pool as it’s been rescued from the fishing net and the passed to the marine center to check on its health before a planned release a few days later.
Gaya Island Resort (GIR) offers 40-metre lap pool with floating cabanas fronting the beach and a wading pool for the kids. Lots of sun beds around the pool and beach area if you looking to get sun tan.
Sabah Scent Adventures.
Before our spa session at Spa Village, we arranged a private session of Sabah Scent Adventures. We get to explore the intangible yet powerful realm of scent of the essential oils from the ingredients around Sabah
The Spa village is surrounded by mangrove. We can hear the birds chirping and feel close to nature.
Welcome drink at Spa Village
Set amidst lush mangroves, Spa Village Gaya Island is a tranquil hideaway surrounded by distinctive island flora and fauna. From the warm clear waters of Gaya and its rich lowland forests to the high altitude blossoms of Mount Kinabalu, treatments utilize only the finest fresh local ingredients
Sabah Scent adventures is held in this beautiful room which also double up as a yoga and meditation center.
Fresh Ingredients and essential oils at Sabah Scent Adventure. The essential oils are created from ingredients found in Sabah.
Irene, the Scent Artist guide us through the essential oil from A – Z. We then choose from our preferred essential oils and create our personalized blend.
Irene told us our personalized blend represent our personality. From my blend, she able to know about my personality. I must say I am amazed by her ability.
As essential oil is too potent to use directly on our skin, our blend of personalized essential oils is mix with rice oil and put in a roller bottle as our very own scent souvenir.
Drawing inspiration from the culturally rich and diverse ethnic groups that reside in this land beneath the wind, this treatment is a compilation of age- old healing traditions from multiple tribes. Traditionally used to restore mobility and flexibility for paddy planters, farmers, seafarers and warriors, great emphasis is placed on the manipulation of the superficial and deep layers of muscles and fascia of the spine. Aided by the signature blend of Island Spice aroma oil, circulation is improved and countless therapeutic benefits are unleashed through digital, palmer and forearm pressure.
We choose to have our dinner at Fishermen cove restaurant overlooking Malohom bay with one of their signature dish, The Sinagang Steamboat. We were seated in a private pavilion with our chef preparing our food on the hot metal grill. This hotpot offers a mouth-watering Sinagang fish broth perfumed with lemongrass, chili, tamarind and ginger flavors that are loved by the Kadazans for its sour-hot tang. A richly textured meal that is complemented by an array of fresh greens, meat and seafood cooked either in the fragrant broth or on the hotplate with a variety of condiments for dipping. Enjoy cooking at your own pace with lively conversation and the gentle sea breeze.
Our very own chef grilling the fresh meats on the metal grill which also double up as a hotpot.
A great way to enjoy the evening with the cool breeze from the sea while enjoying the foods prepared for us.
Sunrise Breakfast on the beach
The next morning, we woke up early to catch the sunrise and having breakfast on the beach! They say early bird get the worms, I say early birds get the beautiful views and great breakfast. All on the private beach with Mount Kinabalu in the background. We got to witness the spectacular colours of the sky as the sun slowly rises over the horizon, casting its first rays over Mount Kinabalu and the sea.
. Relax and tuck into a continental breakfast on the private beach setting, lulled by the soothing sounds of waves breaking on to the shore at Malohom Bay.
Gaya Island Resort is surrounded by tropical rainforest and it is a good starting point to make a guided nature walk with the resident naturalist. We got to discover exeptional botanic reserve, diverse wildlife and a rare, undisturbed mixed dipterocarp forest, found only on the ilsna dwithin the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Parl.
Iffan, the naturalist show us how this big tree produce sap to heal itself.
Sharp thorn on rattan tree
Our nature adventure continues with mangrove Kayak Tour by the resident naturalist. We got to kayak through the protected mangroves where several species of trees are adapted to live in the salty or brackish water further inland.
kayaking through the intrigue mangrove trees. Mangrove trees used to cover a big portion of Gaya Island protecting the island from waves and act as a buffer zone for the wildlife. Jamie, our Naturalist told us that Gaya Island Resort currently undertaking mangrove restoration project to restore the numbers of Mangrove trees at Gaya Island.
The beautiful view of Malohom Bay greets us after we leave the Mangrove forest.
Private Dining – The North Borneo Straits Tiffin
On the last night at the resort, we have a private dining at our balcony with The North Borneo Straits Tiffins.
Sunset view from our room, the best view at Gaya Island Resort.
Private dining with the view of Malohom Bay and Mount Kinabalu in the background. The inspiration for The North Borneo Straits Tiffin draws from its north Borneo history of the land and the convergence of old trade routes of the East and West at the Malay Archipelago resulting in the renowned Straits cuisine. Our tiffin unveils a timeless feast that showcases the delicious and intricate dishes that highlight these local and Western influences.
A memorable dining experience for our last night at Gaya Island Resort
We woke up by a light tapping on our door by the Monkey. We were quite annoyed initially but this view greet us and we think the monkey want to wake us up to see this beautiful sunrise.
The monkey are quie annoying but there are harmless. Make sure you don’t feed them as they will come and ask for more.
I am ready to check out! a wonderful 4D3N stay at Gaya Island Resort make me appreciate the nature Sabah got to offer. Can’t believe I am only 10 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu city.
Our light lunch at the Feast Village while waiting for our shuttle boat.
Spend some time at this open air library overlooking the sea.
another special corner at Gaya Island Resort where guest can take nap and relax in this private cubicle located near the pool area.
The reason we check out late is because we want to see the turtle release at the beach. The turtle we saw few days before at the Gaya Island Resort Marine center is ready to be released back to the sea after given clean bill of health by the Sabah Wildlife Department.
The turtle is so happy to be back to where its belong. It really a reminder to us that we should take care of the nature as we are sharing this beautiful planet with other wildlife.
Our experience at Gaya Island Resort totally change our perception of Gaya Island. We are proud to have a world class resort right at our doorstep. Instead of exploring the world, why not start exploring our beloved Kota Kinabalu.
Gaya Island Resort
Malohom Bay-Pulau Gaya,
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia