My visit to Malaysia can be summarized in one word: exotic! In my three days here I experienced some of the most thrilling and colorful aspects of Malaysian Borneo while staying at one of the area’s most luxurious accommodations: Bunga Raya Resort.
“Bunga Raya” is the Malay word for the hibiscus flower, which lined all of the sidewalks of this lush resort. A quick, 20-minute boat ride from the city of Kota Kinabalu brought us to our jungle getaway. On the front side of the resort lies a beach with golden-white sand and clear, azure waters. The cottages are bordered on the back by lush rainforest. During my time, I was spoiled by the natural elements of this island, from the crystal clear ocean to the lush greenery that surrounded our villa.
(Gayana Eco Resort, the sister resort to Bungya Raya.)
The resort staff is also more than exemplary. When we first arrived at the resort, we were greeted with glasses of guava juice and two friendly staff members, Fauzi and Santos. We instantly felt invited and at home by their friendly gestures and warm personalities. The staff is always happy to assist with anything, from snorkeling to the canopy walk, and are readily available at all times of the day.
We arrived at our villa in the late evening and were pleasantly surprised by the sophisticated yet local feel to the villas. The wooden floors, beautiful batik decor, and breathtaking ocean views made our stay even more enjoyable.
On our first day, we took the boat to Gayana Eco Resort, making sure to enjoy the scenic ride on the way. Once there, we rented some snorkeling gear and snorkeled in the stunning blue waters of the resort. Parrotfish, zebrafish, clownfish, starfish, and corals line the sea floor, and I had the opportunity to swim alongside them and experience their natural beauty. The resort ensures that guests are able to learn about the natural elements of the ocean even outside of the water by maintaining the Marine Ecological Research Center on land.
In the afternoons, we swam in Bunga Raya’s infinity pool and went to the beach, both wonderful ways to relax and let loose. The resort also offers canopy walks and a zip line during the day in the rainforest so guests can see for themselves the vivid tropical surroundings. There are many opportunities to see wildlife around the resort as well – on our very first night we caught sight of a wild boar!
We also took a day to explore the city of Kota Kinabalu. It’s almost as if KK is a completely different world than our resort. It’s busy and lively with many shopping and eating options. We ended up exploring the Philippine market and hitting up Center Point mall for a little while.
During our stay, we were lucky to feast on the freshest seafood and local vegetables. Alu-Alu Restaurant of Gayana Eco Resort was a favorite of ours.
When we were in the city, we also made sure to try some of the local food. It was really delicious and not too expensive!
In short, my time in Malaysia was full of vibrance and color. Between the unique, island culture of the locals, the delicious seafood, and the amazing nature in the area, it’s no wonder that Sabah is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia. It’s as if the lush rainforest, white sands, and transparent seas call your name, beckoning you to explore its luxuries. It was very sad to leave this tropical oasis, but I hope to one day return and soak in the culture and lifestyle here even more. For now, my Malaysian Jungle Book remains unwritten…