It’s a wonderful jungle out there at Kota Kinabalu’s Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa
One of the first things we’re told as we arrive at the Ocean Wing of the luxe tropical resort in Kota Kinabalu’s Dalit Bay is this: sometimes at night, by the main driveway’s banyan tree that’s been there perhaps centuries (you can tell from the heavy drape of roots and branches), you’ll see one of the resident bearcats, locally called binturong. Native to South-East Asia, the binturong are now classified as vulnerable — no thanks to dwindling forests, where they live in treetops, and poachers — but a few of them have found a home in the resort that prides itself in its arms-wide-open embrace of the great outdoors. Rooms come with spacious balconies offering views of the South China Sea on one side or the lush canopies of a 400-acre rainforest on the other. You’re free to just laze by the pool and soak up the sun while sipping a cocktail, but if you’re up for more quality time outdoors for your tropical escape (jungle trekking, anyone?) the resort offers loads of options.
Wild animals come with the territory. All weekend we obsessed over the binturong — it has the elongated, barrel-like body and small round ears of a baby bear, but also the whiskers and dexterity of a cat, although it’s neither bear nor cat. We finally saw it by the outdoor archery range — curled into a large, black furball and sleeping on a high branch with its tail dangling. While we cooed, one of the rangers warned that these nocturnal carnivores are not always docile-looking and cute: binturong can hiss and snarl, baring sharp fangs, when angered.
Less moody are the resort’s charming orangutan, who live in the adjacent nature reserve. Part of the resort’s aggressive conservation program is a public education campaign on the red-haired primates, who are endangered and are now only to be found in Borneo. At the resort, you may go on a tour to see the orangutan in their natural habitat, and animal-loving kids may sign up to get even closer by assisting the rangers.
There aren’t many establishments on this side of the bay, so you get the long and quiet stretch of Pantai Dalit Beach almost to yourself. Go for a run or go horseback-riding on the shore, or if the water proves tempting, sign up for watersports. Use of Boogie boards and ocean kayaks is free, as is a ride aboard the resort’s catamaran. For a small fee you can try other sports like jet-skiing, parasailing, windsurfing, standup paddleboarding and even deep-sea fishing.
Also read: Cruising around in Kota Kinabalu
Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Dalit Bay Golf & Country Club; +60 88 797 888; shangri-la.com/kotakinabalu/rasariaresort
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Smile magazine.