Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa, Borneo, Malaysia: best rates for this tropical private island resort on a stunning sandy beach with thriving coral reef and teeming wild life including the chance to see some of the world’s most spectacular endangered animals including orangutan

Bunga Raya is the sort of place travel writers eulogise about. An unspoilt coral island off Borneo, one of Nature’s ecological miracles, fringed with white-sand beaches, lapped by the warm waters of the South China Sea, and home to a kaleidoscope of flora and fauna, including several of the world’s most spectacular endangered animals—the Sumatran rhino and Bornean clouded leopard included—and giving easy access for close encounters with orangutan, proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants and a myriad more.

But then again, if all you need now is to relax in a luxurious tropical island resort, wine, dine, sunbathe, swim and stroll, then still, this is the place—and it’s just 30 minutes from the city of Kota Kinabalu.

Stunning, secluded, relaxed, Bunga Raya Island Resort on Gaya Island is a tropical island to dream of, its soft-powder beach, virgin rainforest, gardens of hibiscus flowers, bright skies and limitless views over an emerald sea, allied to creature comforts and a relaxed and friendly charm.

So, what of the detail of this tranquil resort? First the beach, the thriving coral reef and the sea—this is all it should be: soft white sand and pristine, and the swimming is some of the best in the world. Watersports include diving and snorkelling—the thriving coral reef and pristine ocean here are home to sea turtles, clown fish, marbled stingray, giant groupers, coral fish, whale sharks, bamboo sharks, triggerfish, barracuda, giant clam and many more—as well as kayaks and stand-up paddleboards should you wish to explore the bay. Or you can indulge in luxurious treatments using indigenous plants at The Echo Wellness Spa. For exercise, the gym is well equipped with cardio machines and weights and ideally placed on the beach.

Guests can see considerable land-based wildlife within the resort, including monitor lizards, bearded pigs, civets and birdlife. For wildlife watching in the jungle beyond your own villa, the resort, sea and shore, you can follow the trails leading straight into the jungle. The resort is right on the edge of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

As for the food, the main restaurant is a spacious, open-sided dining room, casually elegant, with sweeping staircases and colonial-style furniture. The menu is a well thought out selection of Malay, Chinese and fusion food, with highlights such as steamed fish and grilled tiger prawns. The oceanfront grill serves seafood platters and snacks on the beach, and is a romantic place at sunset. And if the seafood is the freshest—what of the wines? Apart from its array of cocktails, Bunga Raya’s owner is a passionate wine connoisseur, and those who love good wines with their food will delight in the award-winning cellar, considered one of the best in Malaysia.

Bunga Raya Island Resort, Borneo

Bunga Raya’s stylish accommodation is within 48 spacious stilted villas designed to mirror the local style and built by local craftsmen, with polished wood floors and verandas. Overlooking the sea or the jungle, the height improves the views and the airing from warm ocean breezes. Inside they’re sophisticated and spacious, with crisp linens and marble. All have a private balcony, air conditioning, flat-screen TV, wifi, and a luxurious bathroom tiled in local stone, with vast walk-in showers. The eight plunge pool villas, set on the beach, are particularly popular.

When to visit? Borneo’s dry season runs from March to October with humidity levels at their lowest in this part of southeast Asia, making the perfect time to travel if you’re also wanting to relax on the jungle-fringed beach. While May is considered to be the best month for seeing orangutans in the wild, they can usually be seen at any time between March and October—in June, the fruiting season is in full swing and the orangutans are seen closer to the main hiking paths. For sea turtles, it’s June to September.

The staff here are friendly and welcoming and there’s a general air of informality and hospitality. It is all part of Bunga Raya’s appeal, and in truth, for this quality at this price for Members—Club rates start at £180 per night—it is highly recommended.

Bunga Raya Island Resort
Polish Bay
Gaya Island
Tunku Abdul
Rahman Park
Kota Kinabalu
88778, Malaysia

How to get there: Kota Kinabalu International Airport is 5.6 mi / 9 km away from Jesselton Point, followed by a 15-minute speedboat ride.

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