February 4, 2011
After all the crazy places I had been and all the weird places I had stayed on my trip I wanted to end the trip with a few days of relaxation. I had heard wonderful things about the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort located just outside of Kota Kinabalu, Borneo and thought it would be the perfect place to spend the last few days of my journey. The resort is a beautiful beach resort complete with multiple swimming pools, great restaurants, tropical drinks and coolest of all their own nature sanctuary. The resort is a wonderful example of responsible tourism as they provide a wonderful island getaway and profits from the hotel help run their own nature sanctuary where they protect 400 acres of beautiful rainforest for local wildlife and four orphaned baby orangutans from Sepilok on the eastern side Sabah. Guests can go on various encounters and jungle walks during the day and night to meet the adorable orangutans and other native animals like hornbills, sunbirds, iguanas and more. There are a million activities to do at the resort and beyond like golfing, kayaking, bicycling, village visits, scuba diving, and jet skiing just to name a few. The only unfortunate thing about Borneo is it is on the equator and it is hot and humid and during December (the rainy season) it is prone to storms. Bad storms. Monsoon storms. And unfortunately we arrived the day a monsoon was hitting Sumatra and we were getting pounded by the edges of it. We did get lucky and had a few hours of sunshine almost everyday, but a lot of our plans kept getting canceled due to the weather.
Our night plans to visit the nature sanctuary got canceled every night due to weather, but we did manage at least one visit each day to the orangutans. The four orphaned babies at the sanctuary are all between the ages of 2-4 and are simply adorable to watch frolic in the jungle. Orangutans are very endangered and nature reserves for them to live in on Borneo are dwindling due to deforestation by the Palm Oil Plantations. Orangutan babies are also illegally captured as pets and in the process the mother orangutan is almost always killed. Often when the mother is killed the baby will fall from the tree it is in to its death and every captured orangutan represents dozens that died in the process of procuring it from the wild. The orangutans here have been rescued by the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center, which I visited while in Sandakan on the northeast part of the island. They will live at the nature reserve at the Shangri-la for a few years and then will be released back into the wild at Sepilok in their nature reserve. There is also a discovery center at the entrance to the reserve where you can learn about the animals and watch a video about the “man of the jungle,” this is the same movie you watch at Sepilok so if you can’t make it there you can still see the documentary (and if you did go to Sepilok you can skip it if you don’t want to watch it twice). It is a wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with this amazing endangered ape and learn how we can help secure their future on Borneo. You can even adopt one of the orangutans by giving a small donation to help protect your new furry orange buddy. I adopted the rambunctious Katie, my favorite orangutan, who I watched for hours swing from tree to tree and make a mess while she pulled branches from trees to scare off the macaques and fight with fellow orangutan Reg over a coconut. The hotel posts online a list of people going back since 2000 who have adopted the orangutans. You can see that list (with my name on it!!) here. For more information on how to help the orangutan check out the Orangutan Appeal UK.
I had a ton of fun at the Shangri-la and after all the crazy things I had been through in the last five months lying on a beach chair with an “Orangutan Special” (an amazing tropical drink signature to the resort) and hanging out with my furry ape friends was a perfect end to the trip.