The Rasa Ria Nature Reserve was set up alongside the Shangri-La hotel in 1996 in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department. The reserve provides a protected ecological space for endangered species where they can be rehabilitated and when possible reintroduced to their natural habitat.
Each day a very limited number of people can take a tour with a ranger. Twelve activities are on offer depending on your interests, but we chose the orangutan feeding. The Shangri-La is some 30km out of town, but they’ve created a very attractive resort at quite a reasonable room rate, although little looks to be included in the price. The Nature Interpretation Centre blends into the jungle on the far side of the complex.
Once everyone is there they show an interesting and entertaining 20 minute video showing the work of the more famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. This memorably includes a wheelbarrow full of orang-utan babies.
Following a warning about mosquitoes we stood at the back applied repellent whilst all the seated people sprayed DEET over themselves and in the faces of whoever happened to be sitting nearby. We were then led on a mile long trek uphill to the boundary with the reserve where the orangutans were nowhere to be seen, but a troupe of monkeys waited expectantly.
As soon as the food was brought out the orangutans descended from the trees and competed with the monkeys for the food. All in all it was good fun, and according to one family who’d tried both, the small group made it a far more laid back experience than Sepilok.
At the time of writing tours cost RM70 each or RM40 for guests and is limited to 17 people per session with guests getting priority. For reservations email rrr at shangri-la.com, or call ext. 8012/8016. It’s also possible to visit Sepilok, but this is a short flight away from Kota Kinabalu and gets very mixed reports as it has more orang-utans but can be far too busy with up to 100 people jostling to take photos.