The Karambunai coast in Malaysia’s eastern state, Sabah is rich in history with strong ties from her neighbour Brunei. History tells of an ill-fated journey along the coast of Karambunai resulting in a ship wreck and later an unrecovered ship at the bed of the sea, hence its name ‘Karam’ which means sinking ship and ‘Bunai’ referring to Brunei.
Today Karambunai is home to two local villages and a few notable island resorts, one of which is the massive Nexus Karambunai with an 18-hole perfectly manicured golf course. Situated 45 minutes from Kota Kinabalu’s (KK) airport, the resort has a range of accommodation options suitable for honeymooners, families, groups of friends and even big corporate groups. Away from the KK buzz, Nexus offers the idyllic snappy beach holiday with loads to do around the resort such as water skiing, kayaking and trekking or simply settle into one of the many beach chairs and laze the day away. The beach is private for the resort’s guests’ and my 18-month old son absolutely enjoyed sinking into the sand while the waves lapped on him. Private beaches are quite a luxury for resorts nowadays, especially when it is somewhat of a quiet coast with a backdrop of palm forest and rolling hills.
The hotel’s nature guide, Leroy tells us that there used to be a trail at the end of the beach climbing up the hill, swinging round the jagged cliffs leading up to a vantage point with unobstructed views of the great South China Sea. However, for safety reasons, the trail is no longer accessible. Instead we headed off on another trail into the palm forest just behind the resort. As we entered in, Leroy warned us of mosquitoes. Those blood suckers came in all directions, and the warning was a good caution for preparation. We went in covered with a layer of repellent and was mosquito free. The quiet under grove had plenty of diversity from pitcher plants to the local traditional aphrodisiac, tongkat ali. The trail continued to climb up until we reached Pangiran lookout point. The view was spectacular with nothing but ocean and forest to behold. We descended after 40-mins and returned to the resort by van.
Arriving back at the entrance of Nexus, I get a sense that the resort’s interior is a reflection of the Malay traditional kampong grandeur. Furnished with dark wood, the high A-framed entrance etched with floral carvings opens to a spacious lobby with a spiral staircase at the end leading to the pool and beach. The rooms have the same rustic Malay traditional design with a minimalist approach.
Imprinted with the 80’s glory days of big resorts, the Nexus Karambunai has a choice of eight eateries to choose from. Unfortunately, during my visit, two of the main restaurants were closed for refurbishment. Noble House, the resort’s only Chinese restaurant is as Chinese as you can get, with its interiors lined with intricate embroidered-designed wallpaper, hanging lanterns and tall slender wooden furniture with circular marble top tables. Food at the Noble House is uncompromised, with the freshest seafood coming from the coasts, the menu offers a range of famous Chinese dishes such as herbal soups accompanied with fresh seafood, Peking Duck wrapped in rice paper rolls and dim sum.
Perhaps what I appreciated most about the resort was the friendly staff. They were at our service anytime of the day with a big smile and a hand across their chest as a gesture of welcome and respect. Stepping into Nexie Club, their indoor kids recreation area, I get a sense that many little people have stepped into the room busying their hands with arts and craft, watching cartoons and listening to stories. The murals on the wall suggests that the resort has had at least two decades of visitors streaming in – donald duck, lion king and mickey mouse.
Back in the room, our retreat continued. Our Ocean View Room boasts of spanning sea views along the coast lined with swaying pine and coconut trees. The spacious room with wood panelled flooring has undergone some maintenance but still manage to maintain its simplistic charm with every bit of modern facility needed for a comfortable stay. Vacationing at the Nexus reminded me of days when my family retreated on beach holidays to Penang and Port Dickson, the kind of family friendly resort with expansive ground to explore.