From jungle trekking to enjoying the view from a treetop walkway, the Malaysian Bornean lush rainforest is brimming with things to do for nature lovers. Imagine watching the sunrise, strapping your walking boots and going for trekking through some trails while breathing in the fresh air. Whether you are a keen naturalist or an adventurous traveller, there are many ways to soak up the atmosphere and lose yourself inside this 130-year-old pristine rainforest at Danum Valley on the southeast coast of Sabah.
Located about 80 kilometres from west of Lahad Datu (a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the airport), lies the 43,800 hectare of Danum Valley Conservation Area – Sabah’s largest lowland rainforest that is home to more than 500 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Spend the day exploring this natural habitat for orangutans, proboscis monkeys, endangered Sumatran rhinos and pygmy elephants as well as the rare Wallace’s flying frogs.
Do you know the world’s tallest tropical tree was found in the mixed dipterocarp forest of Danum Valley? This 100.8 metres tall Yellow Meranti or scientifically known as Shorea faguetiana was discovered by a team of scientists from the United Kingdom and Malaysia through a research collaboration of the University of Nottingham, University of Oxford and the Royal Society’s Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) in Sabah.
Research programmes in Danum Valley began in 1982. Later in 1986, Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) was established by Yayasan Sabah - the state government’s statutory body, which is a custodian of Danum Valley.
And now, DVFC has evolved as one of the top tropical biodiversity research, education and training centres in the world with extensive facilities, attracting more than 350 collaborative research projects involving international and local researchers. Visitors exploring the Danum Valley can also look for a basic stay at DVFC, either in a chalet, dorm, rest house or campsite.
The centre has a helipad and visitors are advised to have a travel insurance policy that includes emergency helicopter evacuation. Visitors must also be accompanied by a ranger when entering the forest, and therefore it must be pre-arranged to obtain permits and secure transportation under tour packages. Besides that, keep in mind that electricity at DVFC which is powered by generators, is only available from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., so schedule your time accordingly.
Start your day by trekking up Bukit Atur to catch the lovely sunrise from a five-storey observation tower and savour the 360-degree view of Danum Valley’s forest canopy. There is a suspension bridge that spans across the Segama River. Alternatively, one can also explore a self-guided trail from the centre or the two-hour trail leading to Tembaling waterfall, ideal for swimming.
Question: did you know that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Kate Middleton had visited Danum Valley in 2012? They spent about three hours at Danum Valley, visiting DVFC, walking through the rainforest and canopy walkway before adjourning to a private lunch at the lodge. So, if you want to add a touch of luxury to your rainforest experience, consider a stay at Borneo Rainforest Lodge. From a standard chalet to a deluxe or premium deluxe river chalet, this international standard, award-winning eco-lodge offers a limited capacity to sixty guests on a full board basis.
Escape to your very own premium villa chalet for panoramic views and serene forest atmosphere at Borneo Rainforest Lodge as this latest offering has its outdoor tub attached to the spacious viewing deck.
There are plenty of nature activities to enjoy apart from guided trails and bird watching, including nocturnal wildlife spotting (if the weather permits) in the open-top four-wheel drive. If you’re lucky, spot some civets, sambar deer or flying fox on this night safari drives.
Not only can visitors enjoy a treetop walkway from 27 metres above the forest floor, there is also a trail leading to Coffin Cliff, an ancient burial site of indigenous Orang Sungai. You can spot coffins made from Bornean ‘belian’ wood and the remains of ceramic spirit jars.
Whether you’re discovering the sounds and sights of the rainforest or just observing Mother Nature from the vantage point that will surely make your day, there are countless opportunities to explore at this hidden gem. To get the most of your stay in Danum Valley, consider trekking to Fairy Falls and Serpent Falls and follow the nature trail to the ‘Jacuzzi Pool’ or tubing down the Danum River!