Gaya Island Resort: A Hidden Island Paradise

Travelling to a luxury resort for a vacation is one thing, but when it comes to bringing children along it’s another thing altogether. They need entertainment, a safe and clean environment, and kid-friendly food…. lots of it in my case since I’m travelling with a girl army. They eat around the clock since they’re always so active!

View of the pool and private jetty

Gaya Island Resort

Just a stone’s throw away from Singapore, we only needed to take a short flight from Changi Airport to Kota Kinabalu before taking a 20 mins drive to Jesselton Ferry Terminal and enjoying a quick 5 mins boat ride to get to this beautiful island resort located along the pristine coast of Malohom Bay. How convenient is that!?

I flew in to Kota Kinabalu with the kiddos via Air Asia and very conveniently got a taxi which drove us to the jetty that had quite a number of dining options available just next to the Gaya Island Resort transfer centre where we had to register and await for our speed boat to arrive. 

At Jesselton Ferry Terminal waiting for our speedboat to arrive
The girls really enjoyed taking the speedboat ride which also takes us to the private beach nearby…. Tavajun Bay.

The first thing we noticed upon arriving at the jetty of Gaya Island Resort was the crystal clear waters revealing the coral and fish that call this island their home. There were also hornbills flying overhead towards the lush green trees decorating the resort.
As we headed towards the main island via the boardwalk, I couldn’t help but appreciate the various shades of blue and green from the clear waters. The area here is also home to green sea turtles, macaques, and so much more. And this says a lot about the conservational efforts and respect for the environment and nature that the resort has for its surrounding. 

The welcoming sight of the clear waters once we got off the speedboat.

The moment we arrived at the jetty of the resort I just felt like jumping into the crisp blue waters to snorkel and swim with the friendly fishes meandering about the corals and jetty. And there were actually several guests who were doing that already. We just had to wait till we were all settled into our rooms and got into out gear for water activities! And there are quite a few choices when it comes to water activities that you can do here.

The kids and baby friendly pools here are just perfect for chilling on a sunny day.
The kids snorkelled here a couple times and spotted various types of fish and crabs!
You can go kayaking too
A sanctuary for wildlife too

What I really love about the resort is how its built on an an island within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. And in this ancient rainforest, the children and I were surrounded by beautiful creatures and plants that have called his their home for eons. Its always so heartwarming to see humans and wildlife living harmoniously and it shows when you see how the corals are flourishing along the shore and the fishes swimming around are plentiful. We also saw hornbills and eagles flying around, and monitor lizards lazing about in the marshes. This gorgeous resort is actually committed to ecologically-sustainable practices to minimise its carbon footprint within the environment. Another ginormous big yes from the girl army and I!

Nature Walk

One of the highlights of our stay here was visiting the conservation centre and joining in the guided nature walk by their very seasoned and knowledgeable guide. The trail we went on showed us parts of island that made me think of scenes from Avatar the movie. Remember to bring your walking shoes or sneakers when you visit! This is a must do when you come here.

Inside the Gaya Island Resort Wildlife Centre waiting for the tour to begin.
The 7 Wonders on Gaya Island Resort
Just a few of the different wildlife that flourish here
Trees that are ancient and their massive size and towering heights look like a scene from Jack and the Beanstalk!

I couldn’t help but feel humbled being around such magnificent fauna with so much history. The variety of plants and animals here is just amazing and our very experienced guide taught us how to identify marks left behind by animals to show that they were around us.

Nya found the exoskeleton of a cicada.
A giant gecko taking a nap in the space within a tree trunk.

Note: The monkey on my back is not part of the highlight on the trail.

The children and I were constantly intrigued by the presence of wildlife around us although you had to look closely in order to see them. We could definitely hear them clearly though, like the birds, insects, giant gecko and flying foxes.

Our guide was able to show us various types of edible plants and mushrooms found throughout the walk and its so amazing how we tend to take a lot of the rainforests for granted. Kudos to Gaya Island Resort for the conservation efforts made to protect our natural environment.

The Gaya island marine centre
Image credit: Gaya Island Resort

Because of how the resort is set within a nature reserve, human activities are restricted and this allows sensitive wildlife like sea turtles to continue to call this place home.

Launched in October 2013, the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre rescues, treats and cares for mainly the endangered Green Sea turtle, but has also done so for one critically endangered Hawksbill turtle. I was so amused to learn that the Green Sea turtle got its name because that the colour of its fat! And its really due to its steady diet of seagrasses and algae.

Nykki checking out the nursery where the baby sea turtles are waiting to hatch.
Inside the Marine Centre
Inside the Marine Centre. Image credit: Gaya Island Resort

The Marine Centre here actually produces coral fragments that will be put into the sea to help rebuild the reef and outside of this turtle rescue centre is a 14,000-litre recovery tank which provides a safe and stable environment for the sick or injured sea turtles undergoing rehabilitation. There is even a combined effort between Reef Check Malaysia and YTL Hotels whereby the resort conducts a school outreach programme with the local primary school. By using a combination of audio-visual materials, creative activities and fresh pastries from the resort kitchen, the programme aims to engage the children while simultaneously educating them on recycling and the need for conservation. Such a meaningful initiative and I truly do hope to see more of such efforts spread throughout other resorts around the world.

Tavajun Bay

Dining on a private beach less than 5 mins away by speedboat, the girls and I got to feast on Thai dishes specially prepared by the chefs here and we got so excited when we spotted a shy family of wild pigs. 6 piglets and their mom peered out from the thicket nearby while we had our meal and I was really happy to know that we were able to share this space with the wildlife here that didn’t lose their home because of humans coming to visit.

The private jetty of Tavajun Bay. Check out the crystal clear waters here!
Our first course has arrived!

Don’t forget to leave room for dessert! The kids and I really like their Yam ice cream!

You will have to pre-book for your dining experience here on Tavajun Bay though so do plan ahead and remember to bring along your snorkelling gear and sunscreen if you intend to spend some time in the pristine waters frolicking among the coral reefs.

Pre book for your lunch at the main lobby
The Spa village

One of my many highlights of the stay here…. a pampering session at the Spa Village! This is a must do when you visit the resort here as well another one of their locations at Pangkor Laut Resort. The sitting area at the spa is really cosy and being surrounded by all that greenery and open space out in nature just gave me that mental peacefulness and calm even before my treatment started. 

A cooling welcome drink and wet towel to freshen me up before being led to one of the treatment rooms where I would fall asleep midway during the luxurious oil massage.

Each one of these rooms has a gorgeous view of the greenery outside and I just couldn’t help but open the balcony doors to check out the view.

Right after the treatment, I get to relax on the couch with a warm ginger tea. Parents like myself…. just chill. The resort has babysitting services available so your little ones can be well taken care of while you pamper yourselves at the Spa Village!

Dining Options

With a girl army in tow, there is no doubt variety and flexibility is very much appreciated. Which is why we dined mostly at the Feast Village offering a buffet spread of diverse cuisine from the Asia-Pacific region. The welcoming dining space showcases a bakery, Japanese/Korean, Asian and Western selections which is sure to appeal even the pickiest of eaters and the little ones.

The kids and I really like the spaciousness of the restaurant at Feast Village and there’s always something here in the buffet spread that makes our differing pallets water. You can even make special requests from the kitchen if need be, just like i did. Kudos to the service and kitchen crew for such amazing service and attention to detail!

I was particularly pleased with all the local desserts and sweets that were offered at each meal. I was able to share with children about the various types of local pastries here which they rarely get to see back home. And its always so amazing to be able to get a flavour of each culture whenever we travel.

Happy faces even though its early in the morning at breakfast because…. waffles and pancakes are on the menu!

If buffets aren’t your thing, there are several other options available including the dining experience on Tavajun Bay which I mentioned earlier. But I also highly recommend dining at Omakase, a two-storey Japanese restaurant perched on the hillside of the island with a stunning view of Malohom Bay and Mount Kinabalu. You can choose from one of three Japanese omakase-style dining experiences available, ranging from teppanyakishabu-shabu and nabe. The kids and I went for the teppanyaki experience and boy did they love it. This is a kid-friendly joint so don’t worry about leaving the little ones behind.

The menu for our teppanyaki dinner tonight
Even Miss Kiki enjoyed her meal here!
Watching the chef display his culinary skills.
Every dish here was a delight.

Don’t forget to make a reservation for your meal here at Omakase to avoid disappointment as seats are limited.

The other dining experience I highly recommend for you to take during your stay here is the Singgah Singgarung night where you get to enjoy your barbecue dinner on the mangrove beach along to a showcase of native arts, activities and delicacies. The kids got to experience Kadazan music for the first time as we even participated in their tribal dance! 

The talented and oh-so-friendly tribal dancers
The kids even got to make some crafts with coconut leaves before settling down for their buffet barbecue meal along the beach.
The gardeners and landscapers are all so talented! You absolutely have to check out the massive sand art that they make at low tide.

You can also dine at The Fisherman’s Cove and the Pool Bar and Lounge while you’re here. And for those who are here as a couple, there’s also the option for a Private Dining experience.

Cultural Exposure

Travelling to me is always a great opportunity to be exposed to other cultures and on this trip the kids definitely learnt a lot about the culture of Borneo. Through the Singgah Singgarung night where they watched the dancers and listened to the traditional music, the local specialty foods which the restaurant staff were so kind to explain more to the kids about and even the through art as they made birds and insects with the coconut leaves. 

As a parent, I couldn’t be more appreciative of the experiences that my kids got through this trip. 

On the second floor of their retail store Chijmes is the studio where you pick up some traditional Borneo craftwork skills.

Sign up in advance for the craftwork activities as spaces are limited.
Yoga session

Held in a very uniquely designed yoga room, I was very pleasantly surprised by the layout for our mats and how exclusive the class was. And I enjoyed it because it wasn’t overly crowded and the instructor was able to watch each practitioner closely. The studio is located within the Spa Village which means no kids allowed. So parents, do plan in advance and arrange for babysitting services with the resort should you need to. The instructor was very kindly introduced through information placed at the lobby so you’ll know what to expect and I do recommend attending the classes while you’re here. It really is a unique experience to be practising at the studio space here.

The studio here boosts a very high ceiling and a gorgeous view of the greenery outside.
The Rooms

As each room accommodates up to 2 adults and 2 children aged 12 and under, we took up 2 identical rooms and each one had such a magnificent view of the flora and fauna outside. I really have to commend the service staff here for the quality of their service and friendliness. The moment we opened the doors to our rooms, we were welcome but these adorable towel elephants and a warm welcome message as well as a complimentary bottle of the local traditional rice wine – lihing

How cute is that??!!!
This wine actually tastes so refreshing!

Thank you Gaya Island Resort for such an amazing and memorable stay for the Girl Army and I. The efforts and actions made to conserve and protect the wildlife and natural surroundings here are commendable and I will highly recommend families with young children to make this one of your next destinations for your family trips.

For those residing in Singapore, don’t miss the Family Escapade Offer that’s valid only during the Singapore School Holidays where you’ll get to enjoy 3 nights stay at the luxury resorts by YTL Hotels at Gaya Island Resort, Pangkor Laut Resort or Tanjong Jara Resort that includes all meals and return transfers for 2 pax and enjoy complimentary stay for up to children aged 11 years and under in a villa/room! Head on over to https://www.ytlhotels.com/sg/family-escapade for details.

Gaya Island Resort Address

Malohom Bay, Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Reservations

+60 3 2783 1000 or
travelcentre@ytlhotels.com.my

 

Appreciate the topsy turvy

When we are in our comfort zone, that is when we also become complacent and too comfortable. But that is also when our growth and development slows down and we don’t feel the need to strive and learn more or improve in our performance or knowledge.

Putting ourselves to the test or giving ourselves a challenge to overcome can very often allow us to discover something about ourselves that we’d otherwise never reveal if there wasn’t a need to breakthrough a situation or find a solution to something.
I thoroughly enjoy looking at things from different perspectives and appreciate the topsy turvy situations when they arise because I’m pretty darn sure that I’ll learn something along the way that I don’t know yet. With a two years old who has been down with a cold for two days, two older kids who are taking their common tests and a 6 year old who needs a lot of attention, I do feel a little off balance especially when it’s a a packed week from morning till night for me with teaching, prep work for talks, meetings, and admin.
Today I had a conversation with my oldest daughter who will be sitting for the PSLE this year. Although I’ve always encouraged all my kiddos to be diligent, disciplined and to work smart….. they often still face certain problems that textbooks and teachers cannot help them with. And what I shared with her about was that we’ll all face difficulties and problems at many junctures of our lives, but we need to figure out how to best deal with it and garner the support from the right sources when needed. There are skills and values that aren’t taught in school but right at home, and when we’re home with the kids, just being next to them isn’t enough. 
I do try my utmost best as a working parent for my babies and I do feel that I have to put in even more time and effort while their father is overseas. But knowing that they appreciate what you share with them about and the advice that you give them like I did this afternoon, it encourages me to continue giving my best. 

Topsy turvy can be challenging and fun!



The magic of Christmas

Some of the enchanting things about Christmas include the snow and seeing how our little ones try to catch them before it lands on the ground. There’s also the stories about Christmas and how it came about. Not forgetting the wonderment of telling Santa your wish for this season and seeing the smiles on loved ones when you make their wish come true.

Traveling somewhere this season to experience all this may not be possible for some of us but there are still ways to experience all this wonderment and see the faces and spirits of your little ones light up brighter than the lights on a Christmas tree.
When we visited the Magical Realm at Velocity, not only did my babies get to listen to Father Christmas and Jack Frost share about the stories of Christmas, the little ones were treated with popcorn and candy floss and they also got to sit in a carriage and take some pictures with a life-size Christmas themed carousel. 
What was most special about the visit here was the massive snow globe that we could enter and within it the kids could experience snowfall and be taken to what seems to be a page out of a Christmas storybook. 
It’s so important to keep the sense of wonderment in our little ones. How are you doing it this season?


Disneyland with my Dudettes

I remember when I came to Disneyland the first time when I was a kid, the second time just after getting married, the third time after having 2 kids and now this fourth time we’re back here again with 4 kids. And it never gets old ❤ Disneyland is for kids and the inner child in all adults. 

This time though the older kids are definitely enjoying the rides more and although the lines can sometimes put our bladders to the test….. seeing the faces of our kiddos light up makes it totally worth it. 
And I’m so grateful that the hubs booked a hotel for us that’s just a short walk away from Disneyland and Adventure Land so we can easily walk over to the theme parks for the next 3 days. Thank you Daddyman! Xoxo 
 

   

That First Road Trip with Four young kids

So it’s been almost 6 years since the hubs and I embarked on a road trip with the kids. The last time we drove across the different states was when we only had two kids and a baby in my belly. Now there’s four of them aged between 10 and 1 so it’s definitely a very different experience.

Well for one thing, the number of bags we have to pack along and the size of the cooler box have to be upsized!
Spending hours on the road also means keeping entertained in the car. And I must say the older kids have been nothing but helpful when it comes to the caring of the baby and being amazing travel companions. 
 
 
Though we’ve been to several of the pit stops below multiple times, the kids have obviously forgotten many of them and are seeing these places with a fresh set of eyes again. And it makes my heart sing to see them being so happy looking at snow capped mountains…… herds of cows grazing and canyons. Can’t wait till we get to Vegas and bring them to see the Grand Canyon again! ❤
 
 
 
 
 

Traveling alone with the four kiddos

As I’m typing this, were still on the airplane and just an hour from arriving at Los Angeles. And I must say I’m very impressed with the girls and how the 3 older ones helped me make this 18 hours commute from Singapore to Tokyo Narita and finally to LA such a smooth one. 

From my 10 years old helping me escort Number 3 to the bathroom to everyone helping with the luggages….. and even number 2 and 3 helping me sing to the baby and tap her to sleep….. I couldn’t be more grateful.
Yes there were moments when I struggled to keep my limbs and my butt alive while my 18 months old slept peacefully, or when I had to clean her up after she produce a smelly surprise in her diaper. In fact I think it was a feat that food didn’t end up flying in the air when I tried to eat with the baby on my lap 😂 And moments like these are still precious.
I know I keep saying this, but thank you Universe for letting me be the mother of these girls ❤
 
 
 

Take a picture!

Those who know me very well would’ve had in many instances heard me scream “take a picture take a picture take a picture!” And I oftentimes get teased by them for that…… 

Yes I do take a tonne of pictures and videos especially those of my kids, and I’m really happy that I have these home videos and pictures to share with them about their childhood. Sometimes my girls will just randomly ask me to show them videos of our life back in France or the USA when they were riding horses, picking blueberries and cherries, baking with me, camping at Yellowstone Park or just spending time at the beach making sand castles. 
 
Nya horse-riding on the Oregon trail
Memories truly are important and even though I had been blogging for over 5 years before a hiatus and only very recently did I return to blogging again, I’m so glad I printed my 5 years worth of blogging into books that my kids happily flip through once in awhile.
 
One of the several blog books that I got printed eons ago.
You hear people say this a lot “look back on the happy memories”. I’m just happy that I don’t have to rely on just my aging brain to churn out those memories and special moments. I’ve got videos…. pictures, photo albums and books to help me ❤
 
Nyla learning to fly at the Zoo
 
At the Pumpkin festival
 
Catching Kiki (aka #4) in the act when she’s getting told off for playing with sharp pencils and running around. This does this “ostrich burying her head” thing.

Number 2!

Number 2……. Also known as Medium, The Wild Child and Mini Dawn.

For the first year after she was born, it felt as though I hadn’t given birth because she would be wrapped against my chest while I did all the chores, practiced, took care of her and Large and of course shopped for groceries. 
When we later moved to the States, I remember how shopping for groceries was such a breeze not just because you and your sis would hold my pockets while I pushed the trolley….. but really because even at a tender age of 3 you could remember where some of the items I needed were located. Thanks brainy.
Always the first one to race me up a tree and roll out the mat to practice together, stalk wild iguanas and snakes or just hang out (upside down) on our hammocks….. Medium has always gotten the hang of things at breakneck speed with a smile on her face.
If only she could do that when it comes to finishing her meals 😂
Love you baby cakes ❤
 

Number 3

Number 3…… Also known as Miss LaLa.

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This is the one who still believes in magic and fairies….. and of course the possibility that she can grow up to be a Princess of the world.

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This little girl has a knack for making friends wherever she goes and most recently has been nominated as Mayor of the heartland at my mum and dad’s neighborhood. 

I still find it highly amusing that on her way to school and back, walking past the market and banks, she will insist on greeting Mr Yong Tau Fu man, Mr Ice Cream stall man, Uncle Mat Yo Yo who runs the Malay food stall at the market and Uncle Wanton Mee. Oftentimes they will offer her packets of food or snacks from their stall to take along with her. ❤

She truly understands and lives by that kampong spirit. 

Don’t grow up so fast my darling…..


 

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Photo credit: @eena_eyes .

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Spontaneity brings about the best surprises

I’ve always appreciated how my kids are always up for whatever crazy idea I throw at them. Be it climbing a tree, carrying an iguana, stalking a snake or putting their tiny feet into a pool of hungry Garra Rufa.

And it is also these moments of spontaneity that bring about some of the best memories and that sense of adventure. 
 

 

Disclaimer: no children were hurt on any of these impromptu adventures
Everyone has their way of bringing up their kids and will know what’s best for them. But for my badass girl squad….. I want them to be fearless and brave people who know how to live life to the fullest ❤