Malaysia: Sabah

4D3N - A Lost Tropical Rainforest in Sabah: Danum Valley

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My time finally came to go into a rainforest! On 21st November 2006, Tuesday morning, I gathered all my stuffs along with my enough wearing attires, and headed to assembly point at 8.30am in Sabah Kingfisher Garden bus stand. I was waiting for about 30 minutes for the bus to come which arranged by University Malaysia Sabah students and our trip comprised of 40 travelers. We were departure our journey at 9am from Kota Kinabalu to Danum Valley and the spent hours totally was took us approximately 10 hours. It could be said that we almost spent our first travelling time for a day in the bus. 

I remembered that it was about 2.5 hour journey into the jungle from Tawau city on an extremely muddy and bumpy road. The entire contents of our bus rattled around and we all had to hold on tight so as not to bump our heads on the ceiling. Finally we all arrived at Danum valley lodge at 7 pm and it looked awesome.


Danum Valley, Sabah has its tallest tropical tree in the world. Its attached ladder constructed with safeguard rail provides safety to climber when in high.

A welcoming message displayed on the main entrance signboard in front of the Danum Valley lodge.

There were two separated dormitories where one for male and another for female. It was much more luxurious than what I expected a jungle dorm to be like. The kitchen was fully stocked with a gas stove, a few pots and pans, a large wok, spices like turmeric and curry powder, and a refrigerator. I expected I would be hanging my groceries from a tree and if I had known there would be a refrigerator and such a nice kitchen, I would have brought a giant jug of orange juice and so many other things. Instead, we brought noodles, dried rice, carrots, green beans, apples, garlic, and other stuff that did not need to be refrigerated and could be thrown into a quick cooking.

A yellow brick building that stands about 2 stories high, centered in the jungle of this valley. Each floor has 2 dorm rooms for male and female respectively.

What a comfortable and well-furnished Danum Valley dormitory!

All of us were already hungry with our empty stomach and some organizers were then eagerly to cook the dinner for us. Since there were other new travel buddies who some were doing wildlife research and I got to know them during our bus journey, after dinner, I hung out on their porch and talked with them. I always thought I knew a lot about wildlife, but hanging out with these guys made me realize how little I actually know. These guys were the real deal. The types of people with skills like “professional tree climbing” and “canopy fogging” listed on their resumes. That night, while we were talking about the nesting habits and incubation periods of wild animals, a wild boar visited our dorm to raid the trash. It was so cute act in an ugly kind of way. 

This ugly wild boar was raiding the trash to find balanced food.

------------------------------------------------<<DAY 2>>-------------------------------------------------

On the next morning, 22nd November 2006, we all woke up around 5:30 am and took off on a group adventures into the Danum Valley jungle heading to a natural waterfall place. This Danum Valley is only 25 km from Tawau town and it has the world’s tallest tropical tree with various flora and fauna rarely seen in other forest reserves. 

The lush area of 27,900 hectares forests serves as an important water catchments area for Tawau and Semporna. This forest is being taken care by Malaysian government to protect the natural environment with its unique plants and animals to ensure an uninterrupted water supply for the region. In Danum Valley here, it is compulsory to hire a guide (RM 20 an hour) when going on jungle trekking because many visitors have gotten lost despite the clear and wide trails. 

This Danum forest is a home to macaques, red leaf monkeys, forest tortoise, giant squirrels and hornbill and occasionally one may chance upon clouded leopard and civet cats. For those who are seeking peace in beautiful surroundings, this is the ideal getaway with one can go swimming in the stream, jungle trekking and bird watching.

Within the first and half hours of steep jungle trail trekking, rivers of sweat were streaming down my body, but it was great to be in a group with the jungle sounds. Along our trekking path, I did not see any promised monkeys, but there were many different mushrooms, little lizards, fluttering butterflies, fascinating insect life, big ants everywhere, slowly crawling millipedes over the place each with their own defend strategies. 

Some millipedes roll up to a perfect sharp, hard ball, size of ping-pong ball, others pull their head underneath their body and freeze instantly, pretending to be dead. On top of the hill, there was a long canopy walk with little tree platforms connected by several hanging bridges, high up in the trees. The views over the jungle were so beautiful, surely worth the sweaty climb.

This truss bridge those built in forest were strong and stable and made by making the material into a triangle. These worked well because the trusses that made it up all support same weight.

After we snapped a group photo on this hanging truss bridge, we continued our trekking journey heading to waterfall scenery place. The waterfall place is another about 3km jungle trails away from this hanging bridge. On our trekking way, I got to see what I have been hearing of quite a while, the monkey-like yells and cries, loudly moving tree branches and a heavy sound of hornbill wings clapping in the air. 

We took about 2 hours to reach the waterfall area from the starting point of Danum Valley field center entrance. We all were very excited when we arrived at the waterfall. The scenic view was breathtaking. One of our teammate took out his camera and captured some photographs of this gorgeous scenery. This beautiful waterfall named Tembeling Waterfall with the hopes of another wild encounter which created a natural swimming pool situated in the middle of this Danum Valley forest.

This Tembeling waterfall was atlantis-blue gushing over the rocks. It had a beautiful serenity-pool at the bottom.

We put our belongings under a shady tree and some of our teammates started to cook their fast food for our lunch using brought kitchen utensils. After about 30 minutes later, one of the little deer showed up and past by the waterfall area within our vicinity. I thought the deer was looking for some food and that is why the deer appeared here. The deer was just stood on the stone and stared at us, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about our movement because it looks in a panic situation. When we tried to take a step closer towards him, it took a big step away. 

We decided surrounding the little deer to force it fall into our trap. After several attempt of our struggle catching, the deer was finally caught by us. One of our team hunters was bitten by the deer as your feeling on it was probably to freeze and draw you back slowly. He was never screaming and shaking instead but his hand was bleeding in minor. We took a photograph and we let go the deer back to its home in this natural forestry.

It was my first deer hunting experience with anticipation and wonder together with this group of trekkers by bare hand.

It was time now to have our lunch and the scrumptious food was ready to be served after we had fun with the wild deer. We drank also the drinks we brought and prepared. After eating, we cleaned the surrounding and threw the rubbish into our plastic bag. Some of them were started to dive into the water immediately after taking off their clothes meanwhile I was just sat in the clear water and relaxed under the waterfall gash. We had so much fun.

The waterfall formed naturally for its own flow of water and beauty. I can feel the coolness and the power of the water as it rushes over the rocks and into the pool. We were really enjoyed the fun.

At about 5pm, it was late afternoon and we were all felt tired with the water activities. We were ready to change our dry top and pack our belongings and continue to move on our jungle trail back to dormitory place. On the way back, there was a yellow river with a depth of 1meter need to be crossed over. We all had to take off our shoes and lift up the bags to avoid wet. The water current was very stagnant and slow moving. 

We follow the forest trails to the edge of the river, being cautious not to disturb any wildlife that might be in our vicinity. I carefully crossed the river using the slippery stones, which stick out of the water surface.

A memorable photo taken before the next challenge day to come.

We all were fatigue after so many walks took on the trekking trail and slept soon after we had taken our dinner, waiting the next adventurous day to come.

------------------------------------------------<<DAY 3>>-------------------------------------------------

The next morning, some of us woke up at 6am to see the sunrise and took off on separate adventures again into the jungle. This time we were heading to the place to see the tallest tropical tree in the world.

The sun began to rise and the sky turned into a yellow-orange colour. It was a stunning sight.

It is located about 1km from the main entrance of the Danum Valley field center. It took us about 30 minutes of jungle trekking to reach there and the trails were wet and it was good for the little leeches to do some hunting. My friend got one bit by the leech and then bled without any realization. 

This tiger leech was trying to suck my friend's blood by clinging on his wearing pant.

I felt very small while walking in the jungle as all the trees was big and it felt very creepy as we heard somebody whistling and the sound was very nice. It was a wild bird and whistled beautifully but very creepy. After 30 minutes, we were reached at the highest tropical tree in the world and yes it was damn high and beautiful. 

In this place, there is a tree top platform which measures about 30 metres in height with ladders firmly attached to enable visitors to reach the canopy. It takes about a good 5 minutes to climb yourself way to the top and that effort will be greatly rewarded by a 360 degree view of the surrounding pristine canopy top.

Tree top platform give you a sense of appreciation to feel the nature.

A very rigid and strong ladder construction leading to the top platform.

After spent about 30 minutes there we were headed back to the entrance as we were felt very creepy about being eight persons with trees and so many alien sound and as well we want to check out body to make sure the leeches were not nesting in our body.

When you are in Danum Valley, it is easy to think you are in the middle of a giant, endless expanse of jungle. Unfortunately this is false. Danum Valley is really only a tiny spot with 438 square kilometres of protected wildlife. All the land surrounding it consists of palm oil plantations and logged forests. In truth, Borneo’s rainforest is disappearing at a rapid rate. In fact, Borneo has the highest deforestation rates in Asia.

The next two decades or so will determine the fate of hundreds of species unique to Borneo. What the world stands to gain in terms of a few pieces of hardwood furniture or a few million barrels of palm oil, it will lose in terms of unimaginable and irreplaceable living forms. One of the most important things we can do as travellers is to go to Borneo now and get out there on the front lines to see just what this battle looks like up close and to see what we all might lose.

This is exactly why I wanted to go to Borneo. Only I had no idea that destruction was looming so close in the future. I saw it for myself. And it is pretty shocking how much of the forest is already gone.

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