Danum Valley – day 1

Those who regularly read my posts will by now have realised we don’t stay in luxury accommodation very often or lash out on expensive activities. However we made an exception during this trip by booking ourselves into the Danum Valley to stay at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.

After arriving from Sukau at the office of Borneo Nature Tours we were briefed on what to expect during the trip into the Danum Valley Conservation area. A staff member also gave us a metal embossed water bottle – a nice touch. In our vehicle as well as Karen and I there was a young couple from Sweden who were also going to stay 3 days and two nights. After leaving the sealed road at the outskirts of Lahud Datu we had a trip into Danum Valley of about 70kms traveling on a gravel road with a surface of varying quality. Initially we were travelling through secondary rainforest before coming to the heart of the Danum Valley Conservation area where it was totally untouched primary rainforest. The first wildlife we spotted was this bird.

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The next was a bit more dangerous. Not long after our driver slowed up and came to a stop, for what reason we weren’t sure until he pointed out why. Crossing the road was this grey tail racer snake, measuring 3-4 metres in length. We photographed it from a small gap in an open window. It was quickly gone and so we drove off too.

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After about an hour and a half we came to a wooden bridge that looked somewhat rickety. The driver stopped where the road met the bridge and informed us that we should get out and walk over the bridge first. The four of us did so taking a few photos as we walked.

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We were actually crossing quite a small river but the weight on the bridge was potentially too much.

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Once we were on the other side the minivan came over last, creeping quite slowly over the bridge.

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About an hour later we arrived at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Each couple was welcomed to the lodge by a staff member. After receiving a welcome drink and a face-washer to wipe ourselves down we were shown to our room in the eco Lodge. Our luggage arrived soon afterwards. This our is chalet. It was very spacious with a separate en-suite bathroom. There was a large bed and some lounge chairs, a fridge but no aircon. The cooling was done by drawing up cool air from beneath the chalet into bamboo slatted cavities in the walls and then using a combination of a regular ceiling fan and an exhaust fan the hot air was expelled. Thus maintaining a temperature of about 25 degrees celcius.

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We also had a double door leading out to our own balcony.

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Once we had settled in and had another drink we decided to go for a short walk along the boardwalk to the river. It was one of the rare places we could walk unaccompanied.

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On reaching the river we were able to see this beautiful reflection. it just typified how peaceful it was there.

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When we returned to the lodge we were introduced to our guide, Darryl, who had been with other guests on a walk when we had arrived. He seemed a really lively, friendly young guy. He informed us of events we could attend for the rest of the evening and night. Darryl also reiterated that when we went upstairs to the bar and dining area we should always remove our footwear, something we had also done at the lodge in Sukau. He took us upstairs to the bar and dining area and we met with some other recent arrivals for a drink and chat. The first activity of our official program at Danum Valley was a film and talk by one of the young rangers at 6:00pm. The film was really interesting and whetted our appetite for what we could expect in the next two days. The young ranger was a very engaging speaker and we were pleased to find out she would be our guide for the night safari after dinner. From there we headed back upstairs for a delicious hot and cold food buffet dinner.

Our night drive safari was in a small group of about 10-12 other guests. We sat in the back of an open truck on slightly padded seats.

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As we drove back out on the road we had come in along during the afternoon our guide started to use a very strong spotlight which she shone in each direction, high and low as the truck moved slowly along. It didn’t take long for her to spot a samba deer. Sorry, but good clear photos were not really possible as you can see.

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However, it proved hard to spot wildlife. You had the impression they knew particular spots to go to from previous sightings but generally we were out of luck until way up high she spotted movement. Then we could pick up two red eyes in the light.

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Suddenly the creature leapt from a tree and amazingly our guide followed it through the air with the light as this small creature seemed to glide about thirty metres to the safety of another tree. Most impressive. However the guide said ‘wait, there’s more’. Apparently we had seen the female and the male was moving higher in readiness to make his move. They were glider-like flying red squirrels. Sure enough after patiently watching and waiting for several minutes, leap and glide he did. Again our guide was able to follow him with the light. On and on he glided. You’ll have to take my word for it, but we guesstimated he glided about 60-70 metres. Truly breathtaking. Sadly no more wildlife sightings happened but that alone made our night safari worthwhile and quite memorable. Couldn’t wait to see what the morning would bring. Well, actually we probably could have waited in bed a bit more, as our first activity the next day meant a 6:00am start!

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