Most of us have a bucket list and it often includes seeing Orangutang’s in the wild. Sabah has grown its international reputation as the place to spot them. Whilst some will make the trek to Sepilok, Rasa Ria collaborated with the State Wildlife Department to protect a 64 acre ecological reserve to facilitate rehabilitation programmes for endangered species. First impressions are that this place is on a Jurassic scale; it’s a five minute drive from entering the gates to reach the newly launched Ocean Wing creating a more exclusive environment for couples. This space warrants comfy footwear as the walk to room 2830 is a long one but totally worth it when you open the doors.
Say hi to your king-size bed and a jaw-dropping sea view balcony with circular day beds and a spa bath complete with electric blinds to keep alfresco bathing for your eyes only. Staying here is an adventure; from the horse-riding at dawn, to nature walks, spa and smorgasbord of dining experiences such as the elegant Italian at Oceano, award winning Naan restaurant or fun filled street food dining experience of Tepi Laut where chefs create food a-la-mode. A stay here is all about the ‘men of the forest’.
A short walk brings you to the nature centre where you’re briefed on orphaned orangutans, the excitement is palpable. Many have waited for this moment all their lives. It’s not 70 people walking towards the reserve but 70 souls united in a love for orangutans. The heat and humidity is gruelling but on the platform we can hear rustling and catch movement in the canopy above as these beautiful animals descend for their breakfast. A careful programme of rehabilitation means their food gradually gets restricted as the forest becomes their dining table. Amusingly, they drop from the trees as a thousand cameras click in a way which will never caputure this moment, no matter how many megapixels on offer.
The young orangutans amusingly eat with their backs to us (let’s face it who wants to be stared at while you eat?) then tumble and play on the rope-ways. Soon they are gone. One of the keepers calls out: he has a mango, their favourite treat/bribe. No-way… these gorgeous personalities are having too much fun in the forest; they are weeks away from going to Sepilok, to be returned to the wild, as it should be before we took away their world, yet it was a privilege to be part of it for just a few minutes.