Sabah 'The Land Below The Wind'Author: Brian W Fisher (More Trip Reviews by Brian W Fisher)
Date of Trip: December 2011
Of course, many (if not all?) resort hotels offer 'outside excursions'. From the Rasa Ria one can devote a day to visit the Mari Mari Cultural Village for a glimpse of times gone by and try their hand at Blowpipe Shooting -- or travel deep into the Forest Reserves to seek-out the world's largest flower -- the Rafflesia -- or venture a mile or so off shore to visit one of the islands located in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (one of which, Manukan, offers guided ventures on underwater scooters where the rider breathes naturally without a mask or mouthpiece). A word of caution and advice. Do ensure that the companies/owners that offer boat transfers to and from the Islands, are licensed and maintain all safety procedures, such as the provision of approved life jackets. Some are (Sea Quest) others are not. Choose wisely.
The highlight and real benefit of being a guest at this hotel, is the fact that it has its own Orang Utan Sanctuary located in the forest, which borders its northern edge. The jungle, its paths and canopy walks are maintained by full time hotel staff and inspected and certificated annually by the Malaysian Wildlife and Forestry Department.
From the building where an introductory film is shown, followed by expert advice from the senior Ranger, guests (for the meagre sum of £10) are then led onwards and upwards into the jungle. The trails are not beyond any able-bodied person to walk along. They lead in a number of directions -- one to the highest point atop the hills -- another to about a third of the way up leading to the canopy walks -- or the third and by far the most popular, the viewing platforms where, twice daily, those on them can watch in amazement, the acrobatics and antics of the Orang Utans, all of which have been rescued and saved from certain death by those who, without conscience, hew, slash and burn the very jungle habitat of these graceful and human-like apes. An hour passes very quickly indeed and a sense of disappointment can be felt as a Ranger ushers the guests back down the trail.
Just when those guests think that their 'Oos and Ahs' have been used-up, another very special treat awaits them on return to level ground. A senior Ranger awaits and clinging to him is, 'Ten-Ten' an 18 month old female Orang Utan. 'Up close and personal' is a must if one is to savour the moment. NO touching of course, as human ailments even as minor as the common cold, can be passed on. For 10 minutes or so, camera shutters click and camcorders are pointed, as the little ape tries its hand at tree swinging -- but never more that a few feet away from its carer. When it does stray that little extra distance, it immediately realises the fact, begins to cry and hastily returns into waiting and comforting arms. The entire experience is a delightful mix of 'awe' and entertainment as these endangered species display their natural wont -- to live in peace and harmony with the rain forest.
Reflecting on what I had experienced in under 2 hours, I was left with mixed feelings. I just couldn't get out of my head, the vision of illegal loggers shooting dead any and all Orang Utans should they have reached the age of self-reliance (3 to 4 years) and thus leaving behind the young, to die of hunger and depression.
Those I saw at Rasa Ria Resort's sanctuary, were all orphans but fortunately rescued, loved, fed, cared for and taught to rehabilitate themselves back into what is left of the primeval Rain Forest. I have every admiration for all the Rangers and carers, who devote so much of their own lives to the welfare of the Orang Utans.
I commend the management of the Resort for its dedication and persistence in this field and compliment (and urge) the General Manager, Timothy Wright, in continuing to maintain and develop such a vital endeavour.
On a closing note, as with any country, there are myriads of other things to see and do. I merely 'scratched the surface' during the 12 days I spent there.
What is certain however, is that I'll allocate more of them when I return.
November 20th 2011.
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