The first time I had stepped foot in Bungaraya Island Resort and Spa was back in 2009—several months after its official opening—and I remember describing it as an ‘epic fantasy village’.
I’m so glad that 10 years later, not much has changed about this resort that is located on Polish Bay on Gaya Island off the coast of Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu.
Of course, this luxury resort is heads and shoulders above what people may normally consider as a village, but its idyllic atmosphere and rustic-themed architecture makes the resort’s setting somewhat kampong-like.
True to its name, Bungaraya is surrounded by lush and colourful hibiscus shrubs that line the trails leading to the villas. The resort is said to have over 50 different species of hibiscus growing around it.
A quaint and peaceful destination, Bungaraya is built harmoniously in accordance to nature. As you walk into the main building that overlooks the vast blue sea, the first thing you will notice is a big, old tree that stands majestically in the midst of the reception area—the wooden flooring was simply built with a hole in the middle to accommodate the tree. I am later told that no big trees were cut down when the resort was built.
Bungaraya in itself is not a massive piece of property, consisting only of 48 private and spacious wooden villas that are built within good distances apart from each other.
Each villa is built to overlook the sea. Depending on the traveller’s preference, the villa of choice can either be situated opposite a private beachfront or perched higher on the hills and enveloped by the forest.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
For travellers who seek to experience the best of what Sabah has to offer—great beaches and verdant rainforest—Bungaraya may as well be the place to stay and enjoy the best of both worlds!
On any day, the sparkling clear blue sea makes a great playground to go for a snorkel, a kayaking expedition around Polish Bay or a stand-up paddle boarding session to work on one’s core muscles.
Although the resort is beautiful all year round, travellers are encouraged to come during the month of April to May when the water is cooler and hence, whale sharks are sometimes spotted around the Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) Marine Park to feed on krills. This would be a great time for divers to also come and experience swimming with the gigantic whale sharks!
Of course, on days when one chooses not to get their hair wet, a hiking expedition along the resort’s many jungle trails is just as exciting. Just a 15-minute hike from the main building lies the newly-built canopy walkway that offers a breathtaking view of Polish Bay in the midst of the thick dipterocarp forest.
Just a short walk away from the canopy walkway is the Bungaraya zip line, which promises a wonderful rush adrenaline as one zips across its 120-metre cable line. For young kids or less gutsy adults, there is also a shorter version of the zip line that is only 60-metre long.
Another must-experience feature of Bungaraya Island Resort is its unique jungle-themed ECHO Wellness Spa that is nestled in the midst of the jungle.
It’s also worth to note that, since it’s situated on an island that’s gazetted under Sabah Parks, Bungaraya is technically a national park resort. Don’t be surprised to encounter wild animals, such as monitor lizards, long-tailed macaques, as well as the rare and endangered rhinoceros hornbill during your stay!
AN ESCAPE FOR EVERYONE
Be ready to leave work emails and WhatsApp notifications at the door as you step foot into Bungaraya. The mobile coverage that you get here normally ranges between weak to nonexistent, which is actually a blessing in disguise.
However, if you must have access to the internet at all cost, rest assured that you can always request for a wireless router (MiFi) to bring to your villa.
Bungaraya has different villa that cater to different travellers, from honeymooners to family vacationers. For the adventurous souls (and their partners) who want to live out their childhood fantasy of living in a treehouse, the Treehouse Villa will give you a glimpse of what life is like living on a (luxurious) treehouse while surrounded by magnificent views and sounds of wildlife. The best part of the Treehouse Villa is probably its outdoor Jacuzzi tub that provides a highly Instagram-worthy template!
For honeymooners, the Plunge Pool Villa gives you the options of enjoying your very own slice of private beach or simply (skinny) dipping in your very own private plunge pool.
For larger groups or families, the Two-Bedroom and Three-Bedroom Villas offer the extra space you need to survive being holiday with more than one other person. All villas are tastefully decorated with traditional Sabahan decor and fitted with modern amenities.
Bungaraya Island Resort & Spa is also one of the first resorts in the region to have embraced the ‘plastic free’ culture, replacing single-use plastic mineral water bottles with refillable water jars and discontinuing the use of plastic straws in favour of degradable paper straws.
The resort also provide guests with reusable water containers that they can take home as a souvenir. Upon checking out, guests will also be given a set of bamboo straw as a reminder to continue on with the ‘plastic free’ lifestyle.
BUNGRAYA ISLAND RESORT & SPA
Polish Bay, Gaya Island, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
STAY 48 individual villas divided into seven types: Superior Villa, Deluxe Villa, Plunge Pool Villa, Treehouse Villa and Two-Bedroom Villa, Three-Bedroom Villa and Royal Villa. Each accommodates a minimum of 2 to 4 pax (depending on category) and overlooking the sea.
EAT There are two F&B outlets at the resort, namely Pantai Restaurant & Bar (Western selection) and the Longhouse Restaurant (local Malaysian and Asian cuisines).
DO Non-motorised watersports, jungle trekking, canopy walk, zip line & spa.
GO Kota Kinabalu city is 20 minutes away on speedboat. However, guests can opt to island-hop to the neighbouring Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) Marine Park too.
HIGHS Highly accessible from the city centre, gorgeous scenery, offering the best of both worlds—sea and jungle, eco-friendly.
LOWS Quickly overbooked during peak seasons, mobile coverage is sketchy at best, a bit on the pricey side.
By : Nova Renata – NST