Gayana Eco Resort
- Style Eco-luxe hideaway
- Setting Graceful Gaya Island
Ecology is at the heart of romantic Gayana Eco Resort in Sabah, a South China Sea-meets-jungle getaway a short hop from Singapore and Hong Kong. This green-minded hideaway features a flock of stilted villas set on a peaceful lagoon, and even has its own marine research centre. Comfort and style haven’t been neglected, with overwater bungalows offering pared-back luxury.
Need to know
- Rooms 52 villas (Smith recommends top-tier Bayu and Palm Villas only).
- Rates Double rooms from $466.78 (MYR1,509), excluding tax at 16 per cent.
- More details Rates include breakfast, speedboat transfers, non-motorised watersports and entrance to the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC).
- Facilities Solace Spa, PADI dive and watersports centre, free WiFi throughout, DVD library. In rooms: minibar with free beer and soft drinks (Bayu and Palm Villas only), flatscreen TV, DVD player and Thann toiletries. Palm Villas also feature a plunge pool and an espresso machine.
- Poolside There’s an infinity pool by Macac restaurant, which has chic blue day-beds for lounging. It’s a lovely spot for a quick dip and is great for children, but if you’re after a proper swim, just dive into the ocean from your deck. The hotel's pool will be closed for refurbishment between 12 and 16 April 2013. Guests craving watery frolics can hop on the boat to Gayana's sister property, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Spa, without having to pay the usual transfer fees.
- Check–out 11am, or later subject to availability and a 50 per cent charge until 6pm, or the full rate beyond that. Check-in, 2pm.
Children With its wide range of activities, island location and super-friendly staff, Gayana is fabulous for kids. Owing to the resort's overwater nature, you’ll have to keep an eye on smaller children.
- Eco‐friendly True to its name, this is one of the most ecological resorts in south-east Asia. Much of the hotel is built on stilts so it occupies very little landmass, buildings are made from indigenous belian hardwood and furnishings are mainly locally sourced. Gayana is committed to recycling and island clean-ups, and most of the seafood comes from the resort’s fish farm. MERC also runs giant clam breeding and coral restoration programmes, which guests can experience.
- Also Take the 10-minute boat ride to sister resort Bunga Raya, which ramps up the luxe level a notch with its private beach, smart poolside scene and award-winning wine cellar. Active types will love the gym, jungle paths with canopy walk and zip-line.
In the know
- Our favourite rooms Don’t settle for less than a Bayu Villa or Palm Villa, overwater abodes with private decks and direct access to the sea. Plump for a Palm Villa and you’ll also get a plunge pool and luxe bathroom with sea-view soaking tub. Style-wise, it’s a rather incongruous mix of rustic luxury and classic New England: the cool hardwood interior and Malay batiks fit in effortlessly; the high-backed armchairs and white leather sofas less so. With knockout views from your deck or through the glass-bottomed floor, you won’t be assessing the decor for long.
- Packing tips With all that surrounding water and jungle, mosquito spray is essential and you’ll need high-factor sunscreen: Borneo is equatorial and the UV rays are potent. If you’re planning to trek, remember hardy shoes or trainers, although Gayana has all you need for snorkelling and diving.
- Also Solace Spa, with its horizon-view rooms, offers a selection of Asian and western massages, scrubs, facial and beauty treatments, which use natural Florian products. Book ahead for the bamboo massage, which combines soothing strokes and acupressure with tapping by a thick piece of bamboo; it’s fantastic on overworked muscles.
Food and drink at Gayana Eco Resort
- Hotel restaurant Alu Alu is reputed to be the area's best Chinese seafood restaurant and people travel from Kota Kinabalu especially to eat here. Built on stilts, it's open-sided and airy yet distinctly oriental with Lazy Susan-topped tables, swathes of silk and lanterns flickering in the breeze. Choose your Gayana-farmed fish from the tanks and enjoy specialties such as grouper with Cantonese sauce or spiced soft-shell crab. Casual poolside restaurant Macac serves a mix of Asian and western food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stick to the Asian picks, such as steamed red snapper or satay skewers.
- Dress code Leave your Louboutins behind; Havaianas, shorts and kaftans are fine. Remember Malaysia is a Muslim country: topless sunbathing is a no-no as is bare chest and boardshorts in the bar.
- Top table Dine on your deck as you watch schools of fish shimmer below and stars twinkle above. Gain extra romance points by having your dinner sailed over to you.
- Last orders Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am, lunchtime lasts from 11.30am to 2.30pm, and dinner runs from 6pm to 10pm.
- Room service An edited version of the Macac menu is offered until 10pm, and if staying in a Palm Villa, your food will be delivered by boat. It’s a nice novelty, but don’t expect your meal to be piping hot on arrival.
- Hotel bar Second-storey Latitude Bar exudes an almost colonial feel with its low-slung rancher chairs and day-beds in an easy-on-the-eye spectrum of creams, yellows and pale greens. It also has fabulous views, and is a perfect spot for sundowners, when the first drink is on the house. There’s also a pool table, TV and magazines.