I had the grandest opportunity to visit Danum Valley this year and the fact is, it was one of my most worth visiting expeditions to the heart of Borneo rainforest. Our mission to Danum Valley required a short 45 minute flight from Kota Kinabalu to the palm oil township, Lahad Datu. Upon arrival, Borneo Rainforest Lodge staff met us and we proceeded to their office for necessary registration. Then, our journey on comfortable 4 wheel drive plied through semi-rugged terrains deep to the virgin lowland dipterocarp forest, faraway from human habitation. This whole experience was as if taking us back to centuries ago when civilization has just begun. Various images flashed through my mind as I mentally fidget what I see along the seemingly never ending drive. A small portion of Danum Valley are still reserved for logging activities but the rest are earmarked to protect this ancient asset from total devastation by human.
2 hours had passed and tadaaa!! A magnificent lodge appeared before our eyes. What a breathtaking location – a wooden accommodation in the midst of rainforest that overlooks a beautiful river, ornamented by a hill stood formidably in front of us. Happy! What greeted us here was not only the cheerful staff of Borneo Rainforest Lodge, but an appetizing buffet lunch, enhanced by a 3D view of the surroundings. As we checked into the rooms, we were puzzled to find such a luxurious comfort in Borneo’s wilderness.
Now for the activities – there’s no sunny beach to laze on except a huge city full of giant trees to embrace. We had a mesmerizing stroll on a 300 meter long and 26 meter high tree top canopy walkway with multiple viewing platforms. We were literally ‘wowed’ by the camouflage of the vegetations on the floor. This is certainly a perfect place to aim at exotic birds where the endemic Bornean Bristlehead was spotted here too.
At night, we hopped into the lodge’s vehicle for night safari. We can spot nocturnal wildlife, the likes of buffy fish owl, snakes, flying squirrels and clouded leopard, with the aid of spotlight and experienced guide. If you are lucky, you can even find sambar deers or other amicable ‘jungle’ natives frequenting the lodge. If time permits, we can even do guided night walk and the soothing jungle symphony will simply blow you away.
In our next morning’s adventure, we had to trek about 1 km on the coffin trail to the Viewpoint to enjoy a 180 degree view of the lodge and horizon. By the way, make sure you wear leech socks (available for sale here) if you mind that these friendly creatures would tap on your pants for a free ride. Not very far from the Viewpoint, our guide led us to the burial sites of the Dusun Segama people which was believed to have laid to rest some 500 years ago. That gave us goose bumps to imagine how the people from the past using primitive methods could have reached such a monumental breakthrough. With the devoid of sophisticated technology, no where I could imagine how they can trek that far and elevate the dead bodies so high up on the rocks.
Having marveled at those historical wonders, we descended from the Coffin Trail, and what awaited us was the rejuvenating dip into ‘Jacuzzi Pool’ (waterfall) where the water is so refreshing. Word of caution: Have fun with the fish massage as you swim!
There are a lot more to tell about this less known destination but it’s only worthwhile to be untold for your inaugural visit. A 3 day/ 2 night will be most ideal to enjoy the best of Danum Valley and other surprises.
Note: Danum Valley Conservation Area is consist of 43,800 Hectares of pristine and undisturbed tropical flora and fauna. It is also home to more than 340 species Birds, 124 species of Mammals, 72 species of Reptiles, 56 species of Amphibians and 200 species of plants per hectare.See Tour
By Willie Ki
Pix: Hailin G., Willie Ki, Agnes Lawrence & Victaria Morris