Where the Wild Things Are
Kota Kinabalu’s tropical islands’ lush rainforests are a must for nature lovers.
Providing visitors a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to see the tree climbers swinging playfully and munching on fruits, making for plenty of photo opportunities.
If you’re seeking to lose yourself in the great outdoors, Kota Kinabalu is exactly the place. Sabah’s capital on the island of Borneo has become a resort hotspot over the years, situated on the coast of the South China Sea with the hills of Mount Kinabalu rising spectacularly in the distance. Wildlife flourishes here with a cornucopia of animal species represented in its varied landscapes, from flawless beaches to steamy jungle – the perfect setting for adventure.
Waves to Woods
Experience both habitats with day trips that showcase the region’s diverse beauty. Kota Kinabalu is home to world-renowned dive sites, including fascinating World War II wrecks. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a picturesque option for snorkelling and scuba diving, comprising 50 square kilometres of gorgeous archipelagos and reefs. The Gaya wreck, believed to be that of the Japanese ship Nittetsu Maru, is located off the west side of Pulau Gaya, offering advanced divers a one-of-a-kind experience.
On dry land, Lok Kawi Wildlife Park allows a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, gibbons, Sumatran rhinoceros, tigers, local deer and elephants, while the park’s aviary and reptile section are also a highlight. Spanning 280 acres and managed by the Sabah Wildlife Department, it is among the largest of its kind in Malaysia. Animal enclosures have been designed to mimic natural habitats as closely as possible and its botanical gardens are home to a host of exotic plants.
For an indulgent stay that encompasses both stunning shoreline and luscious groves, Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort, Kota Kinabalu on Pantai Dalit Beach is nestled within a nature reserve, perched on a verdant hill combining beachfront panoramas with 400 acres of tropical forest. It is perfectly positioned for intrepid explorers who wish to scale the impressive heights of Mount Kinabalu, while those seeking a more relaxing sojourn can find plenty of other treats.
The hotel is known for its outstanding eateries, with one of its most revered restaurants, Naan - Flavours of India, showcasing Northern Indian and Goan specialities, known also for its great mango lassi. Order the lobster masala, a decadent red-onion-and-tomato-based curry fit for a maharajah. For something more casual, Tepi Laut Makan Street showcases Malaysia’s vibrant hawker stall culture with open-front shop-house restaurants serving local favourites ranging from Sabah-style satays to earthy rendang and refreshing shaved ice.
Although you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor pursuits, from white-water rafting to deep-sea fishing, it's possible to experience the untamed wild without leaving the resort. Start your morning with a visit to the Nature Interpretation Centre established by Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort, Kota Kinabalu in collaboration with the State Wildlife Department of Sabah. The protected ecological space provides rehabilitation for the endangered species while providing visitors a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to see the tree climbers swinging playfully and munching on fruits, making for plenty of photo opportunities. From bird watching to orangutan viewing, a myriad of activities are available throughout the week for nature lovers to explore the animal extravaganza. Those who are keen for some nighttime adventures can take advantage of the nocturnal animal watch, with any luck you might encounter rare species of Borneo's nocturnal wildlife, such as the sambar deer, civet cat, slow loris, common porcupine and many others.
The natural beauty of Borneo provides an impossibly romantic setting, the highlight of which is the sunset cocktail cruise that meanders through low-lying marshes framed by stilt houses and rural fishing farms before coiling into open water, with silhouettes of fringed palms and lone boats cast across the pastel-streaked sky. It’s a striking prelude to a decadent treatment at CHI, The Spa. The signature Romance Journey treatment comprises 2 hours and 45 minutes of pure bliss, in which an invigorating foot and body scrub is followed by a steam and petal-laden bath. A soothing oil massage is saved for last and promises to send you swiftly to dreamland. Reality can wait for now.
Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort’s Ocean Wing is currently being expanded and the extension is slated to open in early 2015. With the newly added 83 rooms, the five-storey building will have an expanded capacity of 173 guest rooms as well as a new lobby with a lush courtyard, showcasing vertical walls of granite and columns of cascading water. Guests of the Ocean Wing can also enjoy an array of exclusive privileges that would make their Shangri-La stay that much more memorable.