Today was a day to be treated like royalty. Literally. We were to meet Josh’s cousin at the Jesselton Point jetty for 10am in the Gayana and Bunga Raya Resorts office. From there “Mr. Josh” and his friends (omg, that’s us!) were escorted to the resort boat for the ride over to Gaya Island where the lovely family owned resorts are located. We were first brought to Gayana Resort and disembarked at the Marine Ecology Research Center (MERC) jetty [there is also one for reception, obviously].
We were welcomed into the centre by Lizio, who was our escort for the Gayana Resort, and taken through the MERC to the auditorium to watch a short video on the Marine Ecology Rehabilitation program there at the resort. From there we went to the large “touch tank” where we got to handle some of the more hardy and non-harmful creatures local to the South China Sea. One of the nice things about Mr. Josh having been an employee of the resort and a family member of the owner, we got to go into the Giant Clam breeding area! We saw giant clams growing happily in tanks as young as 5 months old to as old as 10 years (those were the breeding parent clams). Around 3 years of age, the clams are placed in the sea where they belong and are protected by the resort.
Lizio then took us to one of the Palm Villas which are the high end over-water villas at the resort. Glass floors, private plunge pools, abundant luxury! We felt totally spoiled just to be permitted to visit one! To stay in one of these gorgeous villas, you need only pay roughly $1300 CAD per night. From there we had a tour of the resort and learned about the various ecological measures they’ve taken to preserve and rehabilitate the natural environment from the ravages of human development of the island and impact on the coral reefs. This place was a genuine paradise, a diver’s haven and a snorkeller’s dream.
A private boat was waiting for us at that point to take us around to the other side of the island to Bunga Raya Resort. Now, while Gayana Resort is a marine based resort, for diving and snorkelling, Bunga Raya is a jungle escape. The villas are nestled into the jungle without disturbing the natural environment (there are trees growing through floors, etc… how awesome is that? Pretty awesome.) There is a spa hidden away where the guests enjoy their own private treatment rooms (6 in total) which are literally, in the jungle. There is a gorgeous manufactured waterfall and pond area where they’re growing baby mangrove trees to help protect the shoreline and lots of water plants where they can be protected from boats, people and being eaten by the wildlife while they grow. Oh, and of course, Mr. Josh was greeted by old friends and treated like a king.
The room we were given to explore in this absolute paradise was the brand new (as in JUST open, and no guests have booked yet) Royal Villa. This place was twice the size of our house. 2 infinity pools, guest room with ensuite bathroom, the master suite has a private dressing area, there is a meeting room, a massive living room, dining room and, wait for it… Butler’s quarters. The kitchen in the butler’s quarters is bigger and nicer than my kitchen. But then, if you’re cooking for royalty and their guests, I think it should be! This suite is priced at a whopping $10 000 USD per night. Wowza. The other rooms at the resort start in the ballpark of $535 CAD per night. Holy mackerel. And here we are… the Timberlakes… being shown around by the operations manager of the resort, Terrence.
On our way back from the Royal Villa, we stopped at the base of a jungle trail which leads up up up into the beautiful Jungle to a sky-walk bridge which spans between the primary and secondary canopies of the forest. We saw some interesting wildlife and some gorgeous sweeping views. Apparently there is a Zip-line in the works, too!
Then, off we go to Koi Restaurant for lunch. Delicioso! The restaurant is an open air terrace which faces the gorgeous 1km white sandy beach on one side and on the other, the beautiful waterfall. First, Terrence took us down to the wine cellar to show us the selection of equisite wines (including bottles valued at $20 000 USD each. Even the wine cellar had leather chairs and a sitting area for the VIP guests. Back we went up to the restaurant to our table. We ordered fresh guava juice and lemongrass tea while we browsed the menu for something delectable to eat. Mr. Josh ordered fettucini with prawns, Matt ordered sea bass fish and chips and I ordered the Koi chopped salad. All of it was BEYOND delicious. Desserts of course were a necessity, and we all shared the chocolate fondant cake and homemade pralines with coffee ice cream and an order of cinnamon bananas with vanilla bean ice cream and rum butter sauce!
After lunch, we lounged around the restaurant terrace for a while as we waited for our return boat. The walk down the jetty back to the boat was probably the saddest walk of my life. I wasn’t ready to stop being pampered royalty. Sigh.
The jetty to Gayana's MERC
Inside the MERC, Clownfish and anenome
chillin' like a starfish
an unpuffed puffer fish
one of the 7 species of Giant Clams bred at the MERC
Sea cucumber in the touch tank
All sorts of fancy touchables!
This thing's tentacles molested my hands. It was wild.
Oh, hello baby sea turtle!! Can I feed you?
OM NOM NOM
Behind the scenes (AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY)
Baby giant clam breeding program! These guys are about 2 yrs old.
On our way to the Palm Villas
Oh, I like this. Lots.
"Matt, can we live here?"
The jetty to Bunga Raya Resort
One of the suites
Waterfall and koi pond
Suspension bridge to the spa treatment rooms.
The Royal Villa living room
Waterfall in the living room!
Master bedroom in the Royal Villa
Lol, Josh is afraid of heights. This skywalk was a fun experience with him ;)
Let's build around the trees!
they built this with left over wood. How in love am I, right?
The Wine Cellar!!
Me, Josh and Terrence in the wine room.
Fresh Guava juice at the Koi!
Look at this salad. LOOK AT IT. Nothing was left on the plate when I was finished. Not even a drop of dressing.
Fondant, pralines and coffee ice cream!
Back in our room now, we’ve collected our laundry from the Laundromat and have started packing for our mountain climb trip. Another exciting journey of a completely different kind from the one we had today. I certainly hope to return to Malaysian Borneo one day and book a stay, if even only for one night, at either of the two beautiful resorts on Gaya Island owned by Josh’s family.