WITH JADE FORESTS, SPRAWLING SHORES AND A HEAVY TROPICAL HEAT that encourages summering of the most indolent sort, Sabah draws tourism as a resort and wildlife destination offering recreations of plenty. Home to Southeast Asia's second tallest mountain, as well as the world's largest flower, the state also shelters one of two species of orangutans, native to Borneo and currently found solely in its rainforests.
Two friends and I whiled away a weekend at Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort in Tuaran, just 45 minutes north of Kota Kinabalu. The resort features an impressive stretch of beach and 400 acres of tropical forest, in which the hotel has established a nature reserve with Sabah's State Wildlife Department. We spent an afternoon there, viewing orphaned orangutans idle about like off-duty acrobats. Visitors didn't appear to bother them, though they shooed away approaching deers, eventually feeding them some fruit. "Take nothing but photographs. Leave nothing but footprints." states reserve policy, though it didn't quite apply to the monkey crew that came after the orangutans had fed.
Once at an appropriate stage, the orangutans are rehabilitated into the wild, as they are otherwise unlikely to survive. Until then, the nature reserve provides sanctuary to the apes, sheltering them from the risk of human-induced injury and domestication. Other activities at the reserve include a walk through the 10-meter-high canopy bridge, breakfast at the summit, viewing of over 60 bird species and night visits for viewing nocturnal fauna.
Outside the resort, we made a trip to Kota Kinabalu's Masjid Bandaraya, or City Mosque, on Likas Bay. The building features four minarets and a dome, with an overall design inspired by the Nabawi Mosque in Medina. Bare feet and traditional hijab is required to enter the building, with robes and headscarves available for rent at the grounds. For those unaccustomed to the layers, ceiling fans fortunately abound inside the mosque, providing a semblance of ease from the tropical swelter.
Back at the beach, foliage keeps temperatures reasonable. Of course I speak for myself, a native of the tropics reared in humidity of up to 90 percent. But if sticky heat is something foreign to you, sunset cocktails should make you feel right at home.
Kota Kinabalu City Mosque and Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort and Spa, Sabah. Photos by Lady San Pedro, Lara Santico and Jennifer from the car service.