More than just an add-on experience for visitors to the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa — a 162ha property encompassing a luxury resort, a golf course and a 3km stretch of beach — the 26ha Rasa Ria nature reserve at Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia is reason enough to jet over for a holiday on its own. Since the resort first began conservation and rehabilitation work at the reserve in 1996 (it was established in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department), nearly all of the original indigenous plants and animals from the area have been restored.
Today, it’s home to both rare and endangered animals such as long-tailed macaques, western tarsiers and — for Zootopia fans — the bug-eyed slow loris. It’s also a paradise for the winged ones, with over 60 species of birds and 100 species of butterflies. A guided tour along the Herbal Trail focuses on the medicinal plants that grow in the wild, while the Entomology Trail has been mapped out for those who are fascinated by insects.
We recommend joining the pre-dawn hike along a trail that curves upwards through the forest to the Ria Lookout, where you can enjoy a sunrise breakfast with a view of Dalit Cove, the sprawling shore and Mt Kinabalu in the distance.
Don’t miss the 45m Canopy Walk, a series of enclosed suspension bridges connected to three fig trees 10m in the air that takes you across rattan, tongkat ali, bamboo and fishtail palm treetops. And those looking to bring out their inner explorer will probably want to go on a Night Vision Nocturnal Trek through the different paths that criss-cross the reserve — complete with special infrared goggles — with a chance to glimpse creatures such as the sambar deer, pangolin and the bearcat along with birds like the kingfisher and purple heron. Unlike zoos that have animals kept in designated spaces, here you get to glimpse the wild ones in their natural environment. There’s no guarantee of spotting these creatures, but that’s part of the thrill.
This article first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Smile magazine.