Borneo is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei so visitors get the best of everything that this part of Asia has to offer. When living in Malaysia for nine years, Borneo attracted me mainly for their Eco Tourism activities and being an islander, a slice of Island life that I missed living in Kuala Lumpur.
Visiting Borneo now from Dubai is a bit of a trot but made easier with Brunei Air, which gives GCC residents a gateway into Borneo and the opportunity to visit two countries on one trip. With a stop over for as long as you want in Brunei, both Malaysia and Brunei offer unique wildlife, tropical islands and mountain adventure.
Borneo is home to some of the world’s best natural sites, from rainforests with a huge variety of plants, birds and mammals to Ecotourism resorts for protecting these habitats while supporting indigenous communities. After the plush hospitality at The Empire Hotel & Country Club, the nature I experienced at the Ulu-Ulu Temburong National Park as well as the trekking to the canopy of the hill is an unforgettable adventure.
The experiences included river rafting, jungle trekking which highlight Borneo’s superb natural assets every which way you turn and then a onward journey to Kota Kinabalu on Royal Brunei.
My first home in Malaysia for this trip was the Bunga Raya Island Resort, a secluded island hideaway off the coast of Borneo. Framed by white sandy beaches and lush green jungles, the resort’s hillside private villas reflect the simplicity of the Borneo architectural style.
Bunga Raya is all about relaxing walks on beautiful white sandy beaches, relaxation in various parts of the crescent shaped bay or feeling good at the hotel’s Solace Spa which is entwined into the virgin jungle within the resort.
Visitors can take a guided nature walk into the virgin rainforest behind or do a bit of zip lining – it was my first experience and it was a truly exhilarating experience.
The hotel also has two and three bedroom villas on offer, making it a fantastic option for families. The Treehouse Villas boast sumptuous outdoor Jacuzzis whilst, as the name would suggest, the Plunge Pool Villas contain a private pool.
For culinary options, guests can enjoy a meal at The Koi, offering Western and Asian fusion, and the laidback oceanfront Pantai Grill, serving up barbecued meats and seafood. Malaysia is famous for the variety when it comes to food and Bunga Raya matches up to the visitor expectation.
Bunga Ray Beach Resort’s sister property, Gayana Eco Resort is accessible nearby on Gaya Island, ideally located at the edge of the jungle forest and over the sea.
I stayed in the Ocean View overwater villas that are architecturally designed to enhance the sounds of the surf below while capturing the enduring vistas of Mt. Kinabalu on the horizon.
Gayana Eco Resort is dedicated to protecting the precious Marine Ecology, and the only property with an on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre passionately propagating endangered Giant Clams and restoring natural coral reefs.
Guests of all ages can participate in restoring vibrant life back to once damaged ocean floors. As Ecology is at the heart of this romantic Eco Resort, it even has its own marine research centre, which is dedicated to conserving the marine world.
The PADI accredited dive centre and the nearby Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) makes it perfect for divers who want to explore the vibrant underwater life or children who want to learn more about marine ecology.
With private villas nestled into the jungle, and over water, the Borneo resorts we stayed in are romantic spots, perfect for honeymooners and other couples.
A Borneo adventure has something for everyone with relaxation and the natural environment at the forefront.
By Shereen Shabnam