Culinary Adventures
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Eating Borneo #8 – New Years at Mañana

New Year celebrations have always been epic for us. Many businesses are closed during this time in New Zealand so we holiday like there’s no tomorrow. It’s a time when we leave the city and flock to beaches all over the country to get absolutely trashed with their friends. There’s good food and good times to be had and the celebrations often last a week.

I saw in last New Years with The Koala, my friend A, my sister Joey, her boyfriend D and the guests and staff at Mañana Borneo. Mañana is a small resort on a private beach about an hour north of Kota Kinabalu in the Sabah north of Borneo Island. It’s not on a separate island but this beach is only accessable by boat. No cars. No shops. No power during the day. Just a private, sheltered beach, snorkeling, swimming, books, hammocks, monsoon every afternoon (mandatory downtime). It was heaven.

We stayed in 3 private villas with our own outdoor bathrooms.

The menu here was limited but that was fine, it meant we got to try everything on the menu. Beers were cheap and they didn’t have a spirits license, but was ok by us. We had our own duty free to drink if we wanted.

We were picked up at our backpackers in Kota Kinabalu by owner Yan and his right hand man Jo Jo. Yan promised to meet us later and Jo Jo kindly stopped at this amazing roadside market on the way so we could stock up on a week of amazing tropical fruit.

The beds are handmade by Yan.

Our private outdoor bathroom.

The view from our bed: 2 hammocks on our deck, sand and sea.

This is François our room mate. He is patron saint of outdoor bathrooms and watching you pee.

They have sizable moths that land on brightly coloured backdrops for photos.

I love how fries are served next to rice.

Sweet and sour something. Maybe chicken?

Sweet and sour something else. Maybe fish?

Sweet and sour whole fish.

And again.

Fried rice.

Small whole fish with spicy coconut sauce. When I asked about the degree of spicy, Jo Jo promised that it was only little spicy and he was right. It was creamy tourist spicy (not spicy at all).

Tuna pasta.

Stir fried greens.

On New Year’s Eve we banded together as a community and sculpted a big octopus from the sand.

The Koala’s original design made 2011 from the 4 tentacles. Does that make it a quadtopus?

We got a visit from some pirates and the rumour was they were men from another beach that wanted to see how things were done at Mañana.

The New Year’s Eve Party at Mañana Borneo.

The beach looked magical that night.

The feast.

Chicken wings.

Fish steaks.


At midnight, a fire was lit. As was the 2011 quadtopus.

When Yan saw The Koala’s drawings, he asked for him to do a mural on the wall. Here is the Mañana mural.

We loved our stay at Mañana and were sad to leave. I would recommend Mañana to anyone that was looking to relax at a private beach without paying a fortune. Rooms are limited though so it really does pay to book ahead. A stay here will range from 180RM for a villa to 50RM a night for a hammock in The House of Hammocks.

Mañana Highlights:

  1. Early nights and early mornings = swimming to the sunrise.
  2. Snorkeling Trip.
  3. Lovely villas. We loved our outdoor bathroom with resident frogs.
  4. Wakeboarding for the boys.
  5. New Year’s Eve feast and celebrations.
  6. Compulsory nap or hammock-based reading time every afternoon due to monsoon. I read 2 books in 5 days.
  7. Getting to hold a live octopus.

Mañana Tips:

  1. Get there.
  2. It’s island time here and the service can be slow. Just get used to ordering your meals a little earlier than you need to eat and take advantage of the board games, books, pool table, foosball, ping pong or talk to other guests while you wait. It’s no biggie.
  3. Use their pick up/transfer service. It’s worth it for the peace of mind. I’m not a good navigator and the roads to Mañana’s boat are country. They are steep, can be muddy and groups of cows stand or lie down on the road creating interesting obstacles.
  4. Enjoy your own peace of paradise.

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