Nature Interpretation Centre (Rasa Ria) and Tuaran - Orangutans, a Tarantula and a White Chicken! And a bit of Monkey Business......!

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July 22nd 2007
Published: July 22nd 2007
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Nature Interpretation CentreNature Interpretation CentreNature Interpretation Centre

Entrance to our work for the 9 days we are at Rasa Ria
Just spent the last 9 days back at Rasa Ria this time not as a guest in the hotel but working at the Nature Interpretation Centre (NIC) attached to the Rasa Ria resort which is home to a variety of species as well as to 6 Orangutans.

Strangely enough it has been working with the other animals that I have enjoyed as much as working the Orangutans. I gained a really soft spot for the Whistling Teals, with their little cackly whistles when you feed them. Fell in love with a gorgeous Pied Hornbill called Gill who has eye lashes that I would die for and is partial to been feed papaya and greeting you with Ka ka Kah calls and then there was a sleepy Slow Loris that never seemed to move from one spot the whole time I was there but I am assured were still alive and move actively at night! But as a group I think we gained a soft spot for a ordinary plain white chicken you spent much of her time sat on an ash tray in the grounds but greeted us most mornings at the pantry door.

We looked

Hee-Hee. And you thought I needed to be taught to climb!!!
after the domestic animals as well as the Orangutans and at least part of each day was chopping fruit and veg for the breakfasts or suppers. Feeding time was mostly a pleasure especially when they all came running up when you put it out in the trays. There was one domestic that I did have an issue with or should I say she had an issue with me and that was a turkey. She took to chasing me around when I carried anything and sometimes to the point where the little gardener had to rescue me by chasing her away with a rake but soon as he turned away she came up to me again puffing up and making a big display and peeking for good measure. None of the others were recipient to her attention so I guess it was personal where she was concerned and not forgotten even on the last day; whilst I was taking photos she decided to have one final display and chase and nearly knocked me into the water!

Some of the other creatures at Rasa Ria were neither an intended part of the Nature Interpretation Centre or a wanted part with visit
Gill the Pied HornbillsGill the Pied HornbillsGill the Pied Hornbills

With Eyelashes to die for!
earlier in the week my a Scorpion which was found in the Orangutan Play Area. Deadly poisonous it was removed. Also looking for a photo opportunity as you can see I braved holding it on my hand. (OK I admit it by this time it was unlikely to be any real harm because it had been pickled but you must admit it makes a good photo!).

Not so risk free was the appearance of a tarantula on the scene. Lynn (one of the Rangers) and I were standing chatting after removing the Orangutans from the play area when she pointed to a spider walking on the wall just where we had climbed out 5 mins earlier with our orangutan charges and currently less that 1m away from me. Lynn tried to capture it in a plastic bottle for identification but got a bit of a shock when it made an attempt to jump at her but luckily for her it hit the edge of the bottle and was trapped. Close inspection showed it had a fearsome pair of red fangs. Vaguely remembering something from a wildlife programme about red and yellow in the animal kingdom are indications of a
Two Whistling TealsTwo Whistling TealsTwo Whistling Teals

One of my favourites of the other animals
poisonous intent then I could but assume that this yellow backed specimen was poisonous but it was not until later that it was identified as the Singaporean Tarantula and fatal to humans. Close call to Lynn (and to some extent myself) and the Orangutans that 5 mins earlier if they had spotted it would have probably attempted to play with it. And the tarantula now?....well sadly it went the same way as the Scorpion, pickled for training purposes. As an arachnophobic I remain impressed with myself that during the whole time I neither screamed or ran and even went as far as to hold it whilst it was still alive (though admittedly still in it plastic cell I should add). I did touch one of the it’s legs that poked out of the airholes which resulted in a venom spitting response - so glad there was plastic between us.

Now on to our main duties which was of course the Orangutans. The ones at Rasa Ria are bigger than the ones we have had experience of so far and we had a steep learning curve in handling them. Though some are very sweet in nature some have more issues
Sinaporean TarantulaSinaporean TarantulaSinaporean Tarantula

Deadly and it jumps
caused predominately by there time spent as pets which means there rehabilitation will not only be lengthier but more difficult because of their increased dependency on humans. This can often mean as volunteers without the same authority as the rangers in the Orangutans eyes we are the recipient of hair pulls and bites, this is not usually partly hard or painful and not a vicious attack. Mainly I t is because they do not realise we are not Orangutans and therefore our skin and hair is not as tough and able to handle the normal Orangutan activity of pulls and bites but partly because they simply want us to play or our attention rather than spend time learning to be an Orangutan again.

The Enrichment Program time was always fun and an experience including everything from teaching the Orangutans everything from Nest Building (shame no photos of this because it was highly amusing watching us Volunteers with not a clue trying to show 2 bemused Orangutans what to do with leafs and branches) to breaking coconuts for food. Sometimes the Orangs just showed us what we should do like with breaking coconuts!

But I have to say I think the Orangs and our Ranger friends (Zeno and Lynn) I think sometimes were just had a laugh at our expense because we spent much of the time encouraging the Orangs to climb in the Outdoor Nursery Play area, at this point we had not seen them at the feeding platform which was a last day activity for us and where we were given a spectacular display by all the Orangs that they were already experts in their climbing ability.

I now understand the little smiles that the Orangs seemed to often be wearing on their face and even sweet little Yoda, the cute youngster seemed to be in on the joke on the new Volunteers. Going to miss my little Yoda even if you did seem to be in on the joke to have the Volunteers by giving very spectacular demonstration of how well you can climb after we spent over and hour in the hot sun shine encouraging you on to the high ropes with pieces of fruit - now I understand that little smile!

The monkey business at Rasa Ria wasn’t entirely the Orangs alone because one advantage of been at the NIC was that
Monkey Business At LunchtimeMonkey Business At LunchtimeMonkey Business At Lunchtime

OK maybe we have spent a bit too long with the little darlings!
we got to spend our 2.5 hour lunch breaks (and some of our evenings) enjoying the resorts long sandy beach. Though we can’t enjoy most of the resorts facilities whilst we are on work placement but the beach was allowed. Sometimes we splashed around in the sea but other times after eating if the staff canteen we would just relax on the sun loungers but in high spirits on our last day we did get some very strange looks from the guests as we did a photo shoot. I should add we were doing Orangutan impressions at the time, so the strange looks were probably justified as were the looks we got when we had our photos taken in Rasa Ria lobby after we got dressed up for a meal for our meal on our last night. Admittedly we were wearing our fetching wellies at the time - did I mention it was a 5 Star Resort? - so I guess that maybe it isn’t quite the correct behavior but it was very funny seeing the expression of some newly arriving guests.

I have a feeling that this little misdemeanors may get added to Albert’s lists of Volunteers indiscretions
Us, our Wellies and a 5 star ResortUs, our Wellies and a 5 star ResortUs, our Wellies and a 5 star Resort

Nothing like dressing up to be in a 5 Star Resort - just so in love with a wellies that we felt the need to wear them with our outfits!
and the list of Do Not Do’s! Well you only live once……

The last night we enjoyed a meal at Rasa Ria after a week of eating locally or kettle pasta at our apartment in Tuaran. We ate at the newly completed Coffee Terrace and enjoyed some really good food. I enjoyed a leek and mushroom tart, spinach leaf salad and a portion of chips and then a very delicious Lemon Tart for afterwards. It was a nice way to end our time at Rasa Ria and I am sure my stomach appreciated something that was neither rice nor pasta and I definitely enjoyed the glass of wine accompaniment.

So having mentioned Tuaran I guess I should say that home for the week was an apartment in Tuaran, a small township about 20mins drive from Rasa Ria. The apartment was an experience in itsself and worth a paragraph or two.

The apartment resides on the edge of the town with a view of the key and probably the only reason for a tourist to visit Tuaran, the 9 storey temple which if we had known was open to all to visit and climb and get spectacular views of the surrounding areas but something we did not find out until after we left Tuaran.

Arrival at the apartment if we had not been pre-warned by the previous volunteers means negotiating 2 security grills to get in. Seemingly this is normal and didn’t mean that the area was unsafe but did take some getting used to. Our impression of the apartment was probably not helped by that on the first evening there was a water leak which by the second evening (after not getting fixed by maintenance) was a major leak and resulted in the ceiling in the bathroom coming down luckily not with us beneath. Not exactly a great home coming. But I think we got the bad stuff out of the way and by the end of the week we were becoming rather at home behind our bars.

Eating out in Tuaran proved a bit more difficult but strangely not for me as the veggie but for my fellow volunteers who did not appreciate the chicken on the bone with skin wrapped around it that came in the greasy curry which we got on the first night having ended up in a restaurant that spoke no English! Hence kettle pasta - the apartment has no cooking facilities but we managed to cook pasta in a kettle and combined with a Campbell’s Condensed Mushroom Soup made a rather tasty meal.

I continued to experiment with the local cuisine and enjoyed some pretty tasty local stuff including some rather nice sweet heavy pancake thing filled with a nutella type mix that I bought in the outdoor market. Not sure they are used to us buy things from the stall because I seemed to get quite a few comments and lots more hellos afterwards - not sure that was as a result of buying food or because I was on my own at the time.

The market especially the Sunday Market is pretty good to visit to get a real feel of the local culture and cheap fruit and veg.

Tuaran felt pretty safe to wander as a single female on my own and sometimes it is the best way to get to know a somewhere because I seemed to have far more conversation than when I was out with the other two. Though when out with the other two I did have my funniest
Tuaran MarketTuaran MarketTuaran Market

Where we brought our Fruit and Veg
conversation when I was asked whether Katy and Heather were my sons? I tried to keep a straight face. I can but hope that that this was just a language issue and an innocent mistake in that I neither look old enough to be mother to a 24 year old and that Katy and Heather look like boys!

The nice things about staying in Tuaran was the closeness of shops and internet facilities, literally on your doorstep which in cases of the Southern Cake Shop selling donuts was probably not such a good thing but it made such a lovely change not to have a ½ hour bus journey if you want to by something.

Going to miss Tuaran and definitely going to miss lunchtimes on Rasa Ria Beach but it is good to get back to the rest of the Volunteer groups and a menu that extends beyond rice and kettle pasta. And I am seriously going to miss the washing machine albeit a twin tub oldie as it is now back to good old hand washing!

Thought I would give me an opportunity to include a little section and a couple of pictures of my
Home Sweet Home - Sepilok ResthouseHome Sweet Home - Sepilok ResthouseHome Sweet Home - Sepilok Resthouse

And then back to Sepilok again
Home Sweet Home Again at Sepilok Resthouse so you know where I am spending most of my days and my nights from now on, just in case you are wondering.

Anyway back home and with a few days off to enjoy been back before starting work at Sepilok again.

Additional photos below
Photos: 34, Displayed: 31


Rangers and UsRangers and Us
Rangers and Us

Lyn And Zeno and Us
A Whistling TealA Whistling Teal
A Whistling Teal

One of my favourites at the NIC

We had a love hate relationship - she loved to hate me!
White Chicken in a Basket (ok Ash Tray)White Chicken in a Basket (ok Ash Tray)
White Chicken in a Basket (ok Ash Tray)

Firm favourite with us all. Variation on Chicken in a Basket!
Tastes Better a Second TimeTastes Better a Second Time
Tastes Better a Second Time

Alan checking out the bananas for a second time - taste better second time around?!

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