A Captivating Holiday to Singapore & Gaya Island in Borneo Malaysia
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A Captivating Holiday to Singapore & Gaya Island in Borneo Malaysia
This 11-day tour takes you to experience the best of Singapore and on to Malaysian Borneo for a deeply relaxing and spoiling stay at Gaya Island Resort, a luxurious sanctuary nestled in the hillside of an ancient rainforest surrounded by clear blue sea.
We start in the multicultural metropolis of Singapore, a city nestled in lush greenery where 21st century architecture sits alongside traditional village markets and history rubs up against a high-tech future.
We then transfer to the luxurious Gaya Island Resort in Malaysian Borneo where you will have the opportunity to relax on a golden sandy beach, explore ancient rainforest and get up close to Sun Bears and Orangutans.
What we love
- The chance to explore a thrilling 21st century city and experience some extraordinary natural wonders in one holiday!
- The 5* spa hotels!
- The fabulous food culture!
- The beaches!
- The flora and fauna!
Experiences you will treasure
- Visiting two world class gardens - Gardens by the Bay and Singapore Botanic Gardens
- Seeing an iconic Chinese Shophouse
- Eating Michelin-starred street food
- Watching beautiful, rare birds at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
- Taking tea at the famous Raffles Hotel
- Staying at Gaya Island Resort on Pulau Gaya, the largest of the five islands that form the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. This natural conservation area off the coast of Borneo is a place of golden sandy beaches, rocky coastal outcrops, and magical coral reefs.
- Visiting two important wildlife conservation projects, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
- The option to go on trekking adventures in primary forest and to visit the traditional Mari Mari Cultural village
- Early check in at Oasia Sentosa Resort on arrival in Singapore so you can rest after the flight
- 4x nights bed and breakfast accommodation on twin sharing basis at Oasia Sentosa Resort, Singapore
- 5x nights full board accommodation on twin sharing basis at Gaya Island Resort, Borneo
- 4x breakfasts, 2x lunches, 1x afternoon tea, 2x dinners while in Singapore
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners while in Borneo
- Services of an ECT Travel Tour Manager throughout the tour
- Services of a Local Guide in Singapore and Borneo
- All transport and airport transfers throughout the tour
- All entrance fees and admissions mentioned in the itinerary, including:
- Guided tour of Singapore Botanic Gardens and National Orchid Gardens
- Guided Singapore City-Tour
- Entrance to Gardens by the Bay; including OCBC Skyway, Cloud Forest, and the Flower Dome.
- All day expert guided tour of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir Park, with lunch
- Singapore Immersive Food Experience; including a simple dinner at Hawker Chan’s, the world’s only Michelin Star hawkers of cuisine.
- Entrance to the National Museum of Singapore.
- Afternoon tea at Raffles Hotel.
- Gaya Island Resort Activities including a guided nature walk, sunset cruise and the guided The Tavajun Discovery Trail
- A full day-trip to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan
- All internal flights including connection flights to/ from Singapore Airport/ Kota Kinabalu Airport. (Days 6/9 & 11)
Optional Excursion available on Day 11
A Bumboat River Cruise followed by a delicious lunch at TungLok Restaurant, one of Singapore's most famous traditional Cantonese restaurants, is an additional option on Day 11, priced at £145pp
Itinerary – what you will do when
Day One, Saturday 9th March/5th October
10:55 - depart London Heathrow Terminal 2 on Singapore Airlines, SQ317 for Singapore Changi Airport
11:00 - depart Manchester Terminal 2 on Singapore Airlines, SQ51 for Singapore Changi Airport
Day Two, Sunday 10th March/6th October
07:50 – London Heathrow flight arrives at Singapore Changi International Airport
07:55 - Manchester flight arrives at Singapore Changi International Airport
08:30 - transfer by private coach transfer to your hotel, Oasia Resort Sentosa, 23 Beach View Road, Palawan Ridge, Sentosa Island
09:30 – arrive at Oasia Resort Sentosa* and check in. Located in the heart of Sentosa Island and just 15 minutes from Singapore’s central business district, the Oasia Resort is both an idyllic wellness escape and an ideal base for exploring all that Singapore and this famous island resort has to offer.
*For a supplementary fee, we can also arrange accommodation at 5* Intercontinental Hotel, Middle Hill or Raffles Hotel, Beach Road, subject to availability. Please get in touch to discuss.
13:00 – welcome light buffet lunch in the hotel bar with a glass of fizz
13:45-14:00 –meet in the hotel lobby and depart by private coach for Singapore Botanical Gardens.
14:30 – arrive at Singapore Botanical Gardens. This 160-year-old garden is one of the city's green gems. A tropical sanctuary, it is the first - and only - UNESCO World Heritage listed tropical botanic garden and is a unique example of the informal English Landscape Movement style in an equatorial climate. The National Orchid Garden, with its 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids, has been part of the Botanic Garden since 1859.
Your visit here includes a guided tour of the garden’s 6-hectare rain forest. Dating back to 1880, it is the last remnant of the forest which used to cover the whole of Singapore Island, Today the rain forest is home to more than 300 plant species, most of which are endangered, rare, or vulnerable. Your guide will share stories and secrets about these giant trees and rare plants in the context of the fragile and unique rainforest ecosystem, comprising both the plants and animals.
18:00 – return to the hotel
20:00 – welcome dinner at the hotel
Day Three, Monday 11th March/7th October
Breakfast at the hotel
09:00 – depart hotel for a Singapore City coach tour.
We will pass highlights of the Civic district, including the Padang, Singapore Cricket Club, Parliament House, and the National Gallery Singapore before stopping at Merlion Park to take in the impressive views of Marina Bay. (Be sure to take a photo of The Merlion, a mythological creature that is part lion and part fish.) We will then go on to Chinatown to visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum where the richly designed interiors and comprehensive exhibits of Buddhist art and history tell stories of this culture. (The temple gets its name from what the Buddhists believe to be the left canine tooth of Buddha which was recovered from his funeral pyre in Kushinagar, India and is displayed in its grounds.)
After the temple, we will visit one of the iconic Chinese Shophouses before exploring the historic Chinatown district with its a bustling mix of traditional shops, markets, cool stores, and cafes. The tour then moves on to the vibrant district of Kampong Glam, home to the colourful Haji Lane with its quirky boutiques, cafes and bars, and Arab Lane, a pretty, bustling street at the heart of Singapore's Islamic community. This the place to pick up traditional wares such as Persian carpets, kebaya dresses and handmade perfumes.
13:30 – visit Gardens by the Bay. This landmark attraction is one of the Top 10 Indoor Gardens of the World and is home to more than one million plants from more than 5,000 species. Visit the Flower Dome with its ever-changing floral displays, the mysterious mountain world of the Cloud Forest and, of course, the towering vertical garden Supertree Grove. Those with a head for heights may like to stroll along the 22m high Skyway built in these iconic 'trees' and enjoy panoramic views of the Gardens and Marina Bay skyline.
17:00 – return to the hotel by private coach
Evening at leisure
Day Four, Tuesday 12th March/8th October
Breakfast at the hotel
09:00 – depart hotel by private coach for the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
10:00 – arrive Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. The wetlands are a dream come true for birders. As well as many resident species, including Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Common Flameback, and Great-billed heron, the Reserve also hosts over 2,000 migrant birds, from over 30 different countries. We will spend the morning here with an expert guide, visiting the Mangrove boardwalk, main birdhide and the bridge.
13:00 – depart the reserve and drive to MacRitchie Reservoir Park where we will have lunch at a local restaurant
14:30 – short nature walk along the Lornie Trail to the MacRitchie Reservoir with a local guide. The MacRitchie Reservoir is Singapore's oldest and largest reservoir. Part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, it is surrounded by some of the last remaining bits of Singapore's primary forest where many rare and endangered species of plants and birds can still be found
16:00 – return to the hotel by private coach
18:30 – depart hotel for an evening walking tour of Chinatown to enjoy some of Singapore’s famous street food. We will have a simple dinner at Hawker Chan, the world’s first Hawker to be awarded a Michelin star, and then move on to Buddha Tooth Relic Temple for dessert. Our gastronomic evening ends in the bustling street food hub of Southbridge and the Maxwell Food Centre.
21:00 – return to the hotel
Day Five, Wednesday 13th March/9th October
Breakfast at the hotel
09:30 – depart hotel by private coach for The National Museum of Singapore
10:00 – arrive at The National Museum of Singapore where you can wander the galleries at leisure. Dating back to 1849, when it was known as the Raffles Library and Museum, this fascinating museum seeks to inspire with stories of Singapore and the world.
12:00 - depart museum and stroll through Fort Canning Park. One of Singapore’s most historic landmarks, this site has witnessed Singapore's golden age, when Malay Kings ruled from its peak, and seen the island transform from a sleepy fishing village into a vibrant trading hub. During World War II, the hill was instrumental in Singapore's war efforts with numerous military buildings located there. One of these was the Fort Canning Bunker or Battle Box, where the British made the decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese. Many war relics from Singapore's colourful history have survived on the hill and are still visible today.
13:00 – depart Fort Canning Park and walk to Raffles Hotel (approx. 1km) for afternoon tea.
Named after Singapore’s founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, this iconic hotel epitomises the island’s colonial history. The 1899 building, designed by R. A. J. Bidwell of Swan & MacLaren, boasted a dining room with a marble floor, electric lights, and powered ceiling fans—a first for any hotel in the region. It soon became the place to be - Charlie Chaplin, Queen Elizabeth II, and Rudyard Kipling were just some of the illustrious names who stayed under its roof. Today, the Raffles Hotel Singapore is a heritage icon. Following restoration works in 2019, the hotel now boasts a whole suite of new amenities and a fresh new look by the acclaimed interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud.
15:00 - depart from Raffles Hotel and return to the hotel by private coach
Late afternoon and evening at leisure
Day Six – Thursday 14th March/10th October
Early breakfast at the hotel (or picnic breakfast – TBC) and check out
07:00 – depart hotel by private coach for Singapore Changi Airport
08:55 – depart Singapore on Scoot flight TR490 for Borneo
11:20 – arrive Kota Kinabalu Airport and transfer by private coach to Jesselton Point ferry terminal
14:00 – ferry transfer to Gaya Island Resort. Set on an island within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, this beachfront resort offers a peaceful sanctuary nestled in the hillside of an ancient rain forest with a stunning outline of Mount Kinabalu on the horizon. You will spend five nights here, full board.
14:30 – check in
15:00 – Welcome cocktails and canapes at one of the hotel bars
Rest of the afternoon and evening at leisure.
Day Seven – Friday 15th March/11th October
Breakfast at the hotel
09:00 - depart hotel for a Guided Nature Walk with the hotel’s resident naturalist. You will discover an exceptional botanic reserve and a rare, undisturbed dipterocarp forest which is unique to this Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. (Dipterocarps are a family of hardwood, tropical trees comprising about 500 species.) You will be given a full safety briefing before setting off and mineral water will be supplied.
11:00 - return to hotel
Free time to enjoy the hotel facilities and the beach
17:00 – meet at the jetty for a Sunset Cruise on board a yacht. You will sail to neighbouring islands to see the sun set and the distant city skyline light up. Beer, wine, soft drinks, and canapes will be served.
19:00 – return to the hotel. Evening at leisure
Day Eight – Saturday 16th March/12th October
Breakfast at the hotel
This is a free day to enjoy the hotel and the beach.
Alternatively, you can opt to join the Tavajun Discovery Trail, which departs from the hotel lobby at 13:30. This is a vigorous trek with the hotel’s naturalist through the densely tangled vines, looping rattans, palms, shrubs, and massive hardwood trees of the primary rainforest. The trail ends at Tavajun Bay, a private sandy beach backed by forested hills and a mangrove area with its own unique ecosystem, where you will enjoy lunch and time to laze on the beach or discover the marine initiatives at Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre.
Day Nine – Sunday 17th March/13th October
Early breakfast at the hotel, or a packed breakfast (TBC)
Today is a full day excursion to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
06:30 - depart Gaya Island Resort on private boat transfer and transfer by private coach to Kota Kinabalu Airport for your short flight to Sandakan
08:45 – depart Kota Kinabalu on for Air Asia flight AK6490 to Sandakan
09:35 – arrive Sandakan Airport and transfer by private coach to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
10:30 - visit Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre where orphaned and injured Orangutans are brought to be rehabilitated and returned to forest life
11:30 - depart Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and travel to a local restaurant for lunch
12:30 - visit Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, a place dedicated to increasing protection and guaranteeing the survival of the world's smallest bear. There will be a talk here so you can learn more about this important conservation project.
13:30 - depart Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and return to Sandakan Airport
14:55 – depart Sandakan on Air Asia flight AK6495 to Kota Kinabalu
15:50 – arrive Kota Kinabalu and return to Jesselton Point ferry terminal
18:00 – ferry transfer back to Gaya Island Resort
Evening at leisure
Day 10 – Monday 18th March/14th October
Breakfast at the hotel
This is a free day to enjoy the hotel facilities and the beach
Alternatively, you might like to visit the Mari Mari Cultural Village where five different Borneo tribes offer an authentic insight into a traditional way of life that no longer exists. If you would like to this, the hotel will be able to help you with transfers.
Day 11 – Tuesday 19th March/15th October
Breakfast at the hotel and check out
09:00 – transfer by scheduled speedboat to Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal
09:30 - depart Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal and drive to Kota Kinabalu Airport for return flights to UK (via Singapore)
12:10 – depart Kota Kinabalu Airport on Scoot flight TR491 for Singapore
14:20 – arrive Singapore Changi Airport
23:45 – London Heathrow flight departs Singapore Changi Airport on Singapore Airlines flight SQ322
Singapore Changi Airport boasts an array of attractions to keep you amused while you wait for your flight. Alternatively, you could head into the city for a Singapore Bumboat Cruise. These vessels have been a feature of the Singapore River for over a century and a cruise aboard offers a unique view of the city, past and present. If you would prefer to rest, we can book a by-the-hour room at the airport hotel YOTELAIR. Please let us know.
Day 12 – Wednesday 20th March/16th October
02:10 – Manchester flight departs Singapore Changi Airport on Singapore Airlines flight SQ052
05:55 – London Heathrow flight arrives at Terminal 2
08:35 – Manchester flight arrives at Terminal 2
How much is it?
The Amazing Gaya Island Resort Experience
Arrive by boat to this paradise island nestled in the hillside of an ancient rain forest with magnificent views across the South China Sea.
Gaya Island Resort lies within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and is committed to ecologically-sustainable practices. In line with its aim to preserve the beauty its natural environment and better protect the local wildlife, the Resort's eco-friendly initiatives range from conservation and education to rescue programmes.
Visit Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre & Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre cares for young orangutans orphaned as a result of illegal logging and deforestation, as well as for those who have been illegally caught and kept as pets. Rehabilitating these orangutans takes up to seven years and requires dedication and commitment for all those involved. Baby orangutans are cared for 24 hours a day, just like a human baby and as they grow older they join their peers in the nursery and at night they are housed indoors for their safety. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is dedicated to increasing protection and guaranteeing the survival of the world's smallest bear.
A Deeper Dive
Singapore is a vibrant metropolis but is also a green oasis of calm. The city in a garden vision dates back to 1967 when the then Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, set out his policy to transform Singapore into a city with abundant lush greenery and a clean environment in order to make life more pleasant for the people.
Today, Singapore is a poster child for sustainable cities and was recently named the as top ranking in Knight Frank’s APAC Sustainability Led Cities Index, outperforming Sydney, Wellington, Perth, and Melbourne. In 2021, the government launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 to further propel the movement by understanding how humans and animals can live harmoniously, planting one million more trees across the country, allocating 50 percent more land for nature parks, and developing parks within a 10-minute walk of any residential development.
The green delights begin at Jewel Changi Airport where a lush indoor forest planted with over 2,500 trees and around 100,000 shrubs and an awe-inspiring 40-metre-high indoor waterfall can be found enclosed within that ovoid steel and glass. The Rain Vortex is the largest waterfall in the world and can channel 10,000 gallons of harvested rainwater every minute.
Other green highlights include:
Gardens by the Bay
Singapore’s award-winning showpiece of horticulture and garden artistry claims to be ‘a green gem where wonder blooms’. The marketeers are not exaggerating! This awe-inspiring garden is home to award-winning specialist conservatories such as the Flower Dome, where flowers from the Mediterranean regions bloom in a perpetual spring, and the Cloud Forest, home to the world’s tallest waterfall. (Take the lift to the top to discover plants living 2,000m above sea level.) And of course, no one can miss Supertree Grove, a giant garden ‘planted’ with 18 vast landscape structures.
The Supertrees range from 25m to 50m high and each one is a fusion of nature and technology. On the one hand, they are gardens, planted with epiphytes [i.e. plants that grow on the surface of other plants and derive their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water], and home to many species of plants and birds; on the other, they are technological entities acting either as solar power generators or as exhaust stacks for the conservatories. The trees also provide shade, biodiversity habitat and support for the ariel walkway, OCBC Skyway. (If you have a head for heights, the views from the walkway are quite spectacular.)
Singapore Botanic Gardens
This 160 year-old garden is a tropical sanctuary in the heart of the city. The first - and only - UNESCO World Heritage listed tropical botanic garden, it is a unique example of the informal English Landscape Movement style in an equatorial climate. There is so much to see, from Bonsais and succulents to wetlands and a whole area dedicated to ginger, but if you only see one thing, make sure it’s the orchids.
Reputed to be the largest display of tropical orchids in the world, Singapore’s National Orchid Garden is home to over 60,000 orchid species and more than 2,000 hybrids, all arranged on the basis of a seasonal colour system. Cream and yellow for spring, pink and red for summer, purple and red for autumn and pure white for winter.
The garden opened to the public in 1995, but the breeding programme dates back more than 80 years. Initiated by Professor R.E. Holttum in collaboration with orchid lovers such as John Laycock, or ‘Uncle John’ as orchid aficionados know him, the breeding programme has produced a large number of striking and hugely successful hybrids from early varieties like Spathoglottis primrose and international favourite Oncidesa goldiana (‘Golden Shower’ or ‘Dancing Lady’), to the recent chocolate-coloured Vanda. (Get up close to this dark-petalled flower and you’ll discover that it smells deliciously chocolate-like too.)
Research and development lie at the heart of this garden, but it is also a fascinating and beautiful place to visit. Fragrant orchids can be found in the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House, endangered varieties thrive in the Cool House, while the VIP Orchid Garden is filled with extraordinary hybrids named after some of the world’s most celebrated personalities. If you have ever wondered what Paravanda ‘Nelson Mandela’ or Dendrobium ‘Jackie Chan’ look like, this is place to come.
Singapore is famous for its street food - think the spicy noodle soup known as laksa, chicken rice and, of course, char kway teow, the smoky noodle stir fry that’s pretty much a national staple. Today these cheap and tasty dishes can be found in Hawker centres across the city, but hawker food has its roots in the itinerant food vendors of colonial Singapore.
Street hawkers were a common sight in colonial Singapore. Cooking at home was rare so there was a big - and steady - market for quick, low cost meals sold at the roadside. And the hawkers were an entrepreneurial bunch. They made their daily rounds at regular times, carrying food in wheelbarrows, carts, pots, or baskets balanced on a bamboo pole and alerting potential customers to their presence with a clatter of bamboo sticks. The food was served in wrappers made from recycled paper, fresh banana, or dried palm leaves.
By providing cheap, nutritious food to the masses, these travelling hawkers met a vital need, but the colonial government regarded them as public nuisances who threatened public order and health. It's true that some of their food hygiene practices left a little to be desired (hawkers didn’t have access to portable water, for example, and disposed of their waste in the streets), so attempts were made to clamp down, but it was only after Independence in 1965 that hawkers began to be successfully regulated. By 1986, all 18,000 street hawkers had been relocated into 135 open air complexes.
Hawker centres can still be found right across the city and much of the food on sale has evolved from dishes created by the itinerant vendors who preceded them. Pig’s blood pudding may have all but disappeared, but ‘Popiah’, a savoury spring roll filled with braised turnip and vegetables, is still widely available. Street food is a delicious part of daily life in Singapore and if you want to get a real taste of this city’s rich, multi-cultural heritage then a meal or two at a Hawker centre is the way to do it.
Singapore is city of architectural contrasts; a place where cutting-edge skyscrapers sit next to historic buildings that speak of the city’s rich multicultural and ethnic history. One of the most visible of these must be the shophouse, the two or three-storey homes/commercial shops which sprang up in the city from the 1840s onwards as immigrants began to arrive from China.
The archetypal shophouse features a pitched roof, internal air wells to allow light and air into the narrow interiors, rear courtyards, and open stairwells. They are joined to their neighbours via common party walls and sheltered corridors known as ‘five-foot ways’. (So called because they were supposed to be built five feet from the house.)
Stylistically, shophouses vary according to when they were built. The first wave, known as the ‘Early Shophouses’, were built from 1840s-1900s along South Bridge Road to support trading activities on the Singapore River. These low, two-storey buildings were functional with almost no ornamentation, reflecting the poverty of the early immigrants. As the 20th century dawned, the shophouses began to reflect Singapore’s growing economy. They grew taller and more decorative, often featuring tiles, panels, and carvings and before long were incorporating an eclectic mix of cultural influences, from Chinese porcelain-chip friezes and Malay timber fretwork to French windows and Corinthian pilasters. Some of the best examples of these ‘Late Style’ shophouses can be found in the neighbourhoods of Clarke Quay, Joo Chait/Katong, Chinatown and Emerald Hill.
Shophouses continued to be built up to the 1960s but, following independence, many were demolished, particularly in Chinatown, as the government began to resettle residents in new housing estates. Fortunately for Singapore’s architectural heritage, the Preservation of Monuments Board was formed in 1971 to conserve heritage buildings and objects and a programme of renovation began. Today, the facades and foundations of these fascinating buildings are fiercely protected, but behind these historic frontages lie temples, boutique hotels, cafes and clubs ensuring that shophouses continue to be a vibrant part of daily life in Singapore.
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