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When hiking in the jungle, please give blood.

Summer Vacation 2008 - Danum Valley Conservation Area Day 4

sunny 32 °C

This was our last day in the Danum Valley Conservation Area. We were quite sad to go. We really really enjoyed our time here. Leo, our guide, was excellent. He was a lot of fun and very informative to go hiking around with. He also told us that he was glad that he really enjoyed the last few days hiking with us. That was good to hear.

Last night, we decided we'd do one longer activity. That way we could sleep in a little bit later. We got up at 6:50 today. We're not sure if it's good that 6:50 now qualifies as “sleeping in”. But we felt more rested today. We quickly ate breakfast and met Leo at 8:00 to start hiking. He quickly answered the questions that had come up yesterday and we started off.

On our way to the restaurant for breakfast we found this snake on the ground. We had no idea what kind of snake was. We just assumed it was poisonous and stayed away from it.


We had about three hours to go hiking. We had to get back in time to pack and shower and get ready to go. Leo outlined a plan that involved about four different trails and a lot of if we have time we can do this. But we didn't have time. We found too much stuff to look at as we went along.

About 400 m into the first trail we heard something crash in the woods off to our right. We looked around from the path for a while to see if we could see it. It was too difficult to see. The next thing we know Leo was off into the woods and we were following him with the same warning to watch out for snakes. The animal turned out to be a maroon langur, but we didn't get a good look at it.

We were pretty far into the woods and I started to look around. It would be soooooo easy to get lost in there. Every direction looks similar and it's so dense that you can't see very far. Today it wasn't so bad because we could always hear the river. We figured if we got separated we'd make our way to the river. Plus, Leo knew where he was going.

We wondered if Leo had previously had a negative experience with snakes, as he seemed a little preoccupied with them and warned us about them a lot. We asked him a couple of leading questions to try to shed a little light on the subject. Leo told us a little bit about his fear of snakes afterwards. First, when Leo was a child a couple of his dogs were killed by cobras. I suppose that's a good reason to be worried about snakes. Secondly, every so often someone is killed by a python. He said the last one was in 2006. A man went out to his vacant lot and didn't make it back for supper. His family went out and found him with all of his bones crushed. The python had tried to eat him but his arm was folded parallel to his shoulder with his elbow sticking out so it couldn't swallow him. He did tell us what to do if a python does grab hold of you. Make sure your arms are free, and that you have a machete of some blade with you. Use the blade to cut through the just the scales of the snake. This way, if the snake tries to constrict you, the pressure the snake generates will start to apply outward force to its organs. The snake then has a choice: crush you, and in the process, force its organs out, or let you go and find another meal after it heals. Invariably, it'll choose the latter option. If you don't have a knife or machete there is another way. You have to make sure your arms are free. The pythons weakness is its tail. While it's crushing you it will tuck its tail under the other coils it's made. You have to grab the tail before it can tuck it under the coils. Then you can just unwind the snake. But I still didn't want to have to worry about that.

We made it back on to the path and continued on. We didn't see a whole lot in our travels. We saw lots of little insects and plants. As well, at one point we saw two Bornean gibbons swinging overhead. We tried to get some pictures of them but they swung too quickly then hid behind some leaves up in a tree. It's quite difficult to spot animals when they are at the top of the canopy and we are on the forest floor.

We made it to a junction point where we could do other trails but we all realized we didn't have enough time to do anything else. Here, I felt a little sting on my stomach and saw that a leech had crawled up under my shirt and bit me. It was just preparing to start taking some blood when I flicked it off. Needless to say I still bled a little bit. It took us a lot longer than planned to do the first walk. We settled on quickly doing the canopy walkway.

On the walkway we did see this little green insect. It was called a lantern bug, and is apparently quite rare. Leo was very excited to see it.


At this point we had to go back and pack. It was almost time to leave the Danum Valley Conservation Area. When Court was getting in the shower she noticed some blood on her sock. It turns out a leech had crawled up under her gaiter down her pants and bit her just above her sock. She was a blood donor too. We had to be checked out by 12:00. We didn't have a clock in our room. My watch broke and we lost the alarm clock we were carrying with us. But somehow we managed to get up to the main lodge by exactly 12:00. I was very impressed.

I cleaned off our boots and gaiters. We didn't clean Court's boots, because they weren't going to make the trip home. They were finished. There was a hole forming in the heel of her boot. Duct tape and a bandage on her heel were the only things standing between her and blister city. She just left them there. We had a moment of rememberance for the boots. They've carried Court through seven countries and countless miles; they will be missed.


Then it was lunch time. Another fantastic meal.

Just before we left, we met up with Leo again. He came out with a form for us to sign and a stack of books to answer some previously unanswered questions. We really appreciated this. Then it was time for the ride into town.

The ride into town started off well enough; it was bumpy and kind of hot in the van, but what can you do. Then we noticed a big line of logging trucks waiting for something. When we got to the start of the line we saw that one of the logging trucks was stuck in the mud. Its left wheel was up in the air, its right wheel in the mud and the logs embedded in the ground. This was kind of interesting until we realized we had to go through this mud as well.

There was a truck traveling with us and it went through first with no problems. Then it was our turn. We all got of our vehicle. It was a little 8 seater mini bus. Our driver figured it would be safer for us to wait on the other side. We got out and watched as the bus tried to get through. It didn't go very far at all. It got stuck about 2m in. Out came the chains. They hooked the chains up to the back of the truck and to the bus. After a few attempts, and some panicked looks from all the people with a flight to catch, we were back on the road.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. It was still bumpy and hot, but no more problems. We arrived at the “airport” (I use that term loosely, it was more of a bus station) in Lahad Datu. We had about an hour to spare. This airport was so small that the lady that checked us in also was the lady who took our boarding pass to go on the plane and made all the announcements.

Our flight was a little over an hour to Kota Kinabalu. But, we hit some turbulence. Man was it ever turbulent. I suppose when you are in a flying school bus, any little turbulence feels worse. Surprisingly for Court, we made it in to KK in one piece. Her sanity, however, did not. She though she was going to die.

Then we had to catch a cab to our hotel. We are staying at the Tune Hotel. These hotels are owned by the same company who owns Air Asia. There business strategy is to charge you a bare minimum for the room and then charge for the other stuff you need. MYR5 for towels, MYR7 for the TV, etc. We wanted to try to it out and see what it's like. The hotel we are staying at is located next to 1Borneo, a 'hypermall'. We strolled into the mall to find some dinner and stumbled upon “Malaysian Idol” (it wasn't Idol, but it was close enough, so that's what I call it) auditions.

We went back to the lobby of the hotel to report back we made it safely out of the jungle then back up to our room. It didn't take too long for us to fall asleep. We have half a day or so in KK then its on to KL and back to Osaka. Our vacation is almost finished.

Posted by agc_cwm 07:45 Archived in Malaysia Tagged animal Comments (0)

When the elephant charges, don't run straight.

Summer Vacation 2008 - Danum Valley Conservation Area Day 3

overcast 32 °C

It's always reassuring to be told what to do when an animal charges but the thought of actually having to do it is another thing. These words let to Court and I sharing an “What the..?” look as we were all standing silently in the rainforest as our guide was off smelling for elephant urine. Yes, that did happen. But let me tell you about the other stuff first.

Last night, the option was put to the other guy in our group; two short activities, the first one at 06:00, or one longer activity leaving after breakfast at 07:30. Court and I were both happy that he choose the latter option. We didn't want to get up for 06:00 again. We got the wake up call and made our way to breakfast. The other guy in our group was already there. He was actually warned last night that if he didn't eat breakfast he wasn't going to be allowed to go on the hike. He made sure he was there for breakfast.

We set off on another previously unexplored trail. Well, unexplored by us. About 30 minutes into the hike Court started to get worried about the other guy in our group, too. I think he wiped out on a trail at some point. The hike was good until we finished the first short trail and moved on to the next one.

As we started the next trail Leo, our guide, stopped suddenly. Almost as an afterthought, he said, “Oh, at our briefing last night, one of the guides said he saw a lone elephant out here.” We weren't sure what that meant until he continued and said, “lone elephants are more aggressive because they feel safer in a herd.” That made sense then. Then he told us the infamous words, “So, when the elephant charges, don't run straight. Run in zig zags.” Um, ok sure. At this point I remember the old joke. “I don't have to outrun the elephant. I just have to outrun everyone else.” But, instead of going with that, I told Leo we'd all follow him.

After the briefing we set out on the trail, with ears peeled for elephant trumpets or a rogue elephant stampeding throughout the forest. When all of a sudden Leo stopped because he could smell the elephant urine. This is where we shared the “What the..?" look. Or, more appropriately, “What are we going to do with the other guy in our group if this elephant does, in fact, charge us?” Leo didn't seem too worried, so we kept going. We successfully made it to the end of the trail without seeing or being charged by the elephant. However, because we were so focused on the elephant, we didn't see many other animals. It was a more tense and stressful walk than expected, but still excellent.


After we finished that path, we stopped to rest and collect ourselves. Then, went on the canopy walk again. Court found some mystery bird in a tree. We could only see parts of it, a bit of the tail, the top of its head. It was kind of difficult to figure out what bird it was from the piecemeal description. But Leo, with some help of other guides, figured it out. She also spotted this bird on the walkway wire.


After the canopy, it was back to the lodge. As we were traveling on the road back to the lodge, we saw some maroon langurs up above us. We had to traipse through the forest to get a good look at them. But, we found them.

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The other guy in our group was leaving soon after our return to the lodge, and he had to pack and do all that stuff. We rested in the restaurant and had a short little coffee/tea break. We were sitting at a table relaxing when we heard this loud, THUMP. We looked over on the floor and saw a gecko lying there kind of stunned. He had fallen from the ceiling, which would be a good 7m up. It eventually scuttled off after learning its lesson. We had learned a lesson as well: it was possible for geckos to fall into our plates while eating, as we had pondered in past trips.

After this rest we went back to our lodge and took another rest. It was turning out to be a tough day. Once we both woke up it was time for lunch. After lunch we took another rest. Wow, it was a really tough day. Then we met with Leo again for an afternoon hike.

We started out to do a couple of trails and end up at the canopy walkway again. This was turning out to be our favourite “trail”. Leo said it should take 1 to 1.5 hours to do the total hike. But it took us closer to 3 hours. We always find stuff to look at and he always finds random things for us to see.

On this hike we ran into some orangutan researchers who had spotted a male orangutan up in a tree. He was really difficult to see. All you could make out was his arm. He was sitting behind some ferns holding on to a branch above him.

We also saw this little insect. It's called a mobile fungus insect. The insect stays still long enough for fungus to grow on its back. This will hopefully protect it from birds and other predators.


We finished the trail and ended up back at the canopy walkway. While we were taking a rest Court saw this butterfly on the ground. She crouched down next to it and started to take some pictures. Next thing she knew the butterfly flew up and landed on her knee. What a perfect spot to photograph a butterfly. It turns out that the butterfly was hurt. There was a small hole in one of its wings.

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We went back over the canopy walkway. This time we didn't see a whole lot of stuff, but we did enjoy the fantastic view.

These are some shots of and from the canopy walkway.

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We stopped at one tree to check out the termites again. Today they were under attack from some ants. The ants were trying to break through the line of soldier termites and take the food that the workers were carrying. The ants are bigger, faster, and stronger than the termites but the termites vastly outnumber the ants. An ant would run up and try to test the line and about 5 termites would charge and jab it, forcing it back. The ants continued to test the termites' defensive line for weaknesses. One time an ant did get through the line but it got swarmed by a whole lot of termites. It didn't stay in there very long. Court liked that on one part where the bark was raised out a bit, like a ridge, there were tonnes of termites waiting there. She kept calling it Vimy ridge and saying the ants will never take Vimy.

We got back to the main road and started our way back to the the lodge when we heard a crashing in the bushes to our left. It turns out there was a sambar deer there. We managed to be quiet enough not to scare it away.


As we were watching the deer, we saw another group of people behind us looking at something. Leo started to gesture to the other guide to find out what they were looking at. Leo asked us if it was a red leaf monkey, if we wanted to go back. We said we were ok. But then Leo said it's a snake. We took off to make sure we saw it before it slithered away.

It was a Sumatran pit viper. Highly venomous. When we got to the snake Leo's first comment was that it was in the “ready to strike” position, and that we should stay far back. That was no problem for me. I didn't want to get bitten by it. While we were first watching it it opened its mouth to bare its fangs. That was enough of a warning for me.


We watched the snake for quite a while then went back for dinner. Dinner was outstanding again. Court was happy the coconut pudding made a comeback.

After dinner, it was time for another a night drive. All the birders went in a different truck than us. We were in with a European couple and a British family. The British family was the one with “chatty Cathy” as Court described her. She was an 8 or 9 year old girl who just kept gabbing away at meals. She seemed nice enough, but she just kept on talking and talking and talking and talking. And, of course, she was on our truck. She managed to keep quiet for a little bit of the drive. But not much. Oh well. The sound of the truck would scare animals off quicker than her voice.

For the amount of animals that we saw, the night drive was successful. Right near the start of the drive a flying lemur “flew” directly overhead of us. It was so close, our driver was worried about it landing on us. We also saw some sleeping birds, sleeping maroon langurs, a common palm civet, a lesser mouse deer and a flying squirrel.

We got back to our lodge around 10 and we were out cold by about 10:15. We have one more day left in the Danum Valley Conservation Area.

Posted by agc_cwm 07:36 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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