When we travel, most of the time we are looking for adventure with a fair amount of luxury added to the mix. Months ago I attended a luncheon sponsored by Preferred Hotel Group to launch Preferred Family’s website. I told them of my upcoming 3-week Asia adventure with the kids. At their urging, I checked out the website and a duo of resorts caught my eye. Gayana and Bunga Raya (check out the review of the sister property here both properties are Preferred Boutique resorts).
Both resorts are located on Borneo–South East Asia’s biggest Island. Gayana is located on the island of Pulau Gaya just off Kota Kinabalu. To get to Gayana, fly into Kota Kinabulu and then take a short boat ride to the island.
Once at the Gayana resort, you’ll find a series of villas that float above the seawater. The villas are perfect for small families’we fit 4 in ours perfectly. The rooms have ocean or mountain views. We suggest splurging for the ocean for the immediate access to snorkeling.
Check in at the dive center and pick up gear for the week. We popped in and out of the water at will off f our private dock. We saw so many colorful fish and the water was as warm as a bath’¦perfect for young families.
In addition to kayaking and snorkeling, the resort has an accomplished dive master. When you want to dry off, you don’t have to leave the water far behind, MERC is an on-site facility that showcases local research and conservation efforts. At Gayana the team is trying to support endangered Giant Clams and restore the natural coral reefs. Our girls were able to learn about the eco system at the touch tank and plan coral that might help re-establish the local reef system.
There’s plenty of time to get social. During the daily Happy Hour (from 6-7) we met other families included two charming girls from Italy. Plus we got to meet the friendly wild boar who made nightly rounds to the international restaurant, Macac.
Since ocean life is everywhere, it’s fitting that the resort farms much of the seafood consumed at the resort. The girls loved picking their dinner from the tanks while dining at Alu Alu’the open-air seafood restaurant.
Since there are beaches at plenty of resorts, I want to highlight the wildlife. At Gayana no only is the snorkeling magnificent, but there are animals everywhere. On our walks to dinner, Terrance, one of the managers pointed out monitor lizards, sting rays and a variety of crustaceans. Then there were the local long-tailed monkeys that descended on the resort every afternoon. You simply never know what you will discover.
If kayaking and snorkeling seem too active, simply hang out at the huge infinity pool. That’s where the international action is’there where lots of Chinese tourists. When we weren’t checking out the other families we loved our poolside lunches of satays and fresh veggies.
Speaking of food, it was not challenging to feed Western kids. Breakfast had an international flair.
And now for the official Momtrends review:
What you can get here that you can’t find anywhere else: The MERC center’a wonderful place to fuel tour family’s enthusiasm for the ocean and the environment.
If I were GM I’d change: The pool seemed murky at times.
Food highlights: Picking our own organically farmed fish from the tanks at the upscale Alu Alu restaurant.
For those pint-sized visitors with picky palates: Chicken satay poolside was a favorite.
Activity highlights: Scuba outings for the adults and snorkeling off our front steps.
Come for the: Access to incredible ocean life.
Stay for the: Warm and informed staff.
Splurge on the: Whole fish from Alu Alu.
Favorite souvenir: Certificate from the MERC that we have helped rebuild the coral reefs by planted one of our own.
Here’s how Momtrends travel reviews work. We’re given access to extraordinary places thanks to creative help. For this trip, we were given planning help plus one night free. We paid a special rate for the other four nights. Were we given special treatment? Probably. But you can’t change the physical location or the essence of the resort to fool one travel writer. All the opinions, photos and experiences should give you a great feel for this resort.