TUARAN: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew yesterday officiated at the new Rasa Ria Reserve, a 64-acre protected land within Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa.
She said the Nature Reserve which opened in 1996 had proven to be a successful programme for the resort that allows visitors a one-stop experience for both luxury accommodation and nature.
“Significantly, Rasa Ria also managed a successful collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre for 20 years from 1996 to 2016, and I am pleased that a passion for conservation still remains strong in the resort to this day.
“It is my hope that the guests at this resort will continue to learn more about it, and appreciate its strong focus on the conservation of both flora and fauna,” she said.
Christina, who is also the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, added that it is important that the Sabah Tourism Board and the travel and trade sectors come together to share ideas and exchange experiences to help support and further develop Sabah as a unique destination.
The recreational enhancements at the 400-acre resort encompass conservation and education programmes through nature and active experiences such as scenic walking trails, the Ria Lookout, a Discovery Centre, Canopy Walkway, Waterfall Garden Area, and an Adventure Point with a climbing wall and playground.
The nature reserve is owned and managed by the resort and leads the group’s educational work – Sanctuary, Shangri-La’s Care for Nature project, which was established in 1996 to protect an ecological asset and endangered species endemic to Sabah.
The resort has made impressive developments to protect the landscape and bring long-term benefits to nature and guests.
To help accomplish this, a Discovery Centre was built using sustainable materials to blend with the rainforest.
As the entry point to the Rasa Ria Reserve, the centre serves as an educational hub for guests to learn about the indigenous long-tailed macaques, western tarsiers, bear cats and famous huge-eyed slow loris, as well as over 60 species of birds, 100 species of butterflies, pangolins and a spectrum of native plants.
The Discovery Centre is also the gateway to the reserve’s unique trail system covering five miles of walks through the tropical jungle.
Six walking trails envelop guests in the different attractions of the jungle – from entomology to herbs, native, adventure, wildlife and canopy. Each trail takes up to two hours of exploration and fun.
An exciting opportunity to see the local wildlife is at the viewing platform of the watering hole. It enhances the natural habitat and is the perfect place to spot nocturnal animals, including the pangolin, who like other local animals roam freely around the reserve to feed and take water.
The Ria Lookout summit platform with views of Sabah’s iconic Mount Kinabalu – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has doubled in size to offer more guests the chance to experience the stunning sunrise colours.
Early risers can enjoy an early hike to the Ria Lookout followed by continental breakfast to immerse themselves in the beauty of the setting, and connect with views across the Tambalang River and the resort’s own 18-hole championship golf course, Dalit Bay Golf & Country Club.
For guests who prefer a wedding breakfast with a difference, the Ria Lookout can accommodate intimate celebrations for up to 20 people.
Youngsters love Rasa Ria Reserve with perennial favourites like Ranger For the Day allowing children to feed animals and help the team monitor flora and fauna whilst learning about the jungle.
To add to the experience for mini adventurers, the handcrafted Adventure Point, inspired by the reserve, offers children the ultimate place to run wild. Home to play sculptures which represent some of Sabah’s famous wildlife, net tunnels with zip line, tree trunk climbing zone, large basket swing and a sandpit for mini-archaeologists to go hunting for dinosaur bones.
Adding to the local experience are the Bajau and Dusun tribes of Tuaran, two of over 30 ethnic groups in Sabah who have preserved their culture by sharing their customs, festivals, handicraft and authentic cuisine with visitors.
Well-known for their warmth and friendly hospitality, guests can enjoy dishes such as Hinava (main course), Kueh Penjaram (dessert) and Pakis Vegetable alongside an evening of traditional dance and entertainment.
Also present at the event were Managing Director of Shangri-La Hotels (Malaysia) Bhd, Kay Kuok; Chairman of Sabah Parks Board, Datuk Seri Tengku Dr Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahamood; General Manager of Sabah Tourism Board, Suzaini Sabdin Ghani and General Manager of Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Fiona Hagan.