A Travellerspoint blog

When hiking in the jungle, eat breakfast.

Summer Vacation 2008 - Danum Valley Conservation Area Day 2

sunny 32 °C

Word to the wise: if you are hiking in the jungle, eat breakfast before you go. Even if you don't need to eat breakfast at home, REMEMBER you need to eat it in the rainforest. Or you may not come back from the hike. I was kind of worried that my hiking partner (not Court) wasn't going to make it back today. But, that happened on our second hike of the day. He didn't come on the first hike. So, his first hike.

Someone came to knock on our door at 05:45. We had to meet Leo, our guide, at 06:00 for the canopy walk. All I can say is that 05:45 still comes really really early in the rainforest. We got ourselves sorted out and made it down to the lodge only about 10 minutes late. We waited until 06:15 for the other guy in our group, which was when we got word that he wasn't joining us. Court didn't look too impressed with the early start.


We set off for the canopy walk. It's a 240 m suspension bridge walkway that they've created near the tops of the trees. From the walkway it is a whole lot easier to see birds and other wildlife. You're not standing there craning your neck up for an hour or so.


Because of the rain last night there was a mist throughout the air, the sun hadn't had a chance to burn it off yet. This mist reduced the visibility dramatically and not many animals were up and moving around. However, Court did manage to spot a big, orange hairy thing moving in the tops of the trees. She picked out another orangutan just waking up and starting to hunt for food. Even luckier, it was a mother orangutan and there was a juvenile with her. Some of the pictures turned out but others didn't. Oh well.


We also noticed a lot of other little wildlife along the way. We found this gorgeous looking spiderweb and a host of termites trudging food up the tree. There were two columns of soldier termites facing outwards and all the worker termites were moving up and down the tree between them. It was quite impressive.

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Then we reached the end of the canopy walkway and came back for breakfast. We were both tired and hungry! For sheer volume of animals the walk was disappointing, but the quality was great!

After breakfast we had a little time and quickly ran back to our cabin. As we were sitting outside, Court promptly fell asleep sitting upright in her chair. This pretty much determined that she would not be going on the morning hike to the viewpoint. Which was probably a good decision.

We met again at the main lodge at 09:00 to go on our hike. It was planned to be a 3 hour hike with a stop at the jacuzzi pool for a swim. But this did not work out. We were going to hike up to an ancient burial ground and the viewpoint, the highest point in Danum Valley. There's an excellent view over the whole area. It was a pretty difficult trek. To give you an idea the trail is only 1.2 km long, but the change in elevation is about 225 m. Up. Which means it is about a 25% slope.

We set off for our hike. This time it was me, Leo and one other guy. Court was asleep. I was worried about the other guy before we even started; he struggled with the little walk yesterday. Then at the lodge Leo asked if he ate breakfast. The other guy said he hadn't but filled his belly with water and tea. I thought, “Oh crap. This isn't good”. But we set off anyways.

Leo and I kept up a pretty good pace for a while. We stop every so often and I'd ask some questions about any random thing that I could see: insects, plants, animals, anything. I was interested in it, but I also hoped it would give the other guy a breather. Oh, I also forgot: he had only one 500 mL bottle of water with him. I think I had 2.5 L or something ridiculous. I am a Cameron. I sweat a WHOLE lot normally and in the rainforest it's worse.

We saw some more pill millipedes, tractor millipedes mating, some giant forest ants and lots of other neat little insects. We didn't see many other animals though.

We eventually made it to the junction for the burial ground and the viewpoint.


I wasn't sure if the other guy in our group was going to make it, but he did. He passed on the hike down to the burial ground and sat while we went. This was a burial ground for the Suppa people of Sabah. Instead of burying the body in the ground, they would climb up and place the coffins in a small cave or alcove on the mountain face.

There was a ladder built to climb and see the grave sites. On one site there are still bones that you can easily see, including their teeth. Scientists have carbon dated the bones at over 250 years old. There was also some old pottery to see.

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We climbed back down the ladder and went over to see the ancient coffin. It was made of a very very very hard wood. They would have to soak the wood for months before it became soft enough to carve. Leo said that this coffin would be reserved for someone extremely important probably a tribal chief. You could also see the blowpipe that he was buried with. I assume this was meant to protect him in the afterlife.

We went back and picked up the other member of our group and started the climb to the viewpoint. This was the hardest part, but the other guy in our group was determined to get there. I wasn't sure if he'd make it. Actually, I thought he'd make it. But, I wasn't sure if he was going to make it back down the mountain.

The view was excellent. We couldn't see any animals or anything. But, the view was still great. Oh, I forgot. The other guy in our group was here in January and did the hike then. Wow!

This is the main lodge and some of the chalets.


We rested up there for a while longer. Leo asked if we wanted to go on to the fairy falls. It was only 20 minutes further along the trail. Except it was 20 minutes downhill at about a 25 degree slope. Which is fine going there. But it also means it 20 minutes back up the hill at a 25 degree slope. I think the other guy in our group thought briefly about it, but I said No, I didn't want to go.

We started back down the hill. We got back to the junction and about 5 minutes later we stopped and the other guy in our group almost passed out. He managed to steady himself on a tree, but he was in rough shape. Leo quickly sat him down, took off his shoes and asked him if he had more water. He was out. I however, still had about 1.5 L left. I gave Leo some of my water and an empty bottle. He mixed this with a rehydrating pack and made the other guy drink it. Then we waited for another 20 minutes or so.

Eventually we got up and moving again. We went pretty pretty slow. We passed the jacuzzi pool, where you can go swimming if you want. Again the other guy in our group was tempted to go, but I said I didn't want to. I was actually getting quite hungry by this point. And we made it back down to the main lodge. Phewf. I'm glad we didn't have to carry him down the mountain.

We arrived back later than expected and I stopped at our lodge to get Courtney to go eat. This involved more than I thought. First I had to wake her up. She was still asleep. When she got her act together it was lunch time. Another excellent meal.

While I was hiking Court did some exploring and picture taking. Here are some shots of our room. Remember it was built for the Sultan of Brunei.

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She also found some fire ants. Leo said fire ants are very aggressive and it hurts when they bite you. I don't think Court got bit by one though.

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We all met up again at 15:30 to do some more hiking. After the morning excursion the other guy in our group opted out of the afternoon activity. This was probably for the best. We went for a hike on the Danum Trail to the river.

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We didn't see a whole lot of animals. That was fine. It was still a great hike through the rainforest. We did see/were found by many leeches. We got them before really dug in. We found them mostly on our pants and shirts. Most of the were on Court.

We got back with a little time to spare before dinner. After dinner we connected with Leo and the other guy in our group to do a night walk. Basically we walked around the lodge area, in and around the cabins, and, using flashlights, tried to spot stuff. I felt like we were prowlers, sneaking around someone's backyard with a flashlight. It was a lot of fun.

We found a wild boar almost right away. It was just waiting behind the restaurant. I think they feed it leftovers; apparently it's there almost every day.


We also some same sambar deer, greater mouse deer, and lesser mouse deer. I found this cricket. It was EXTREMELY loud. It was quite amazing.


Then we went to the pond near the lodge to look for frogs. Court was on fire spotting the frogs. We ended up seeing four different species of frogs:

  • file eared
  • img=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/59032/IMG_0051__Large_.jpg thumb=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/59032/thumb_IMG_0051__Large_.jpg
  • cinnamon
  • img=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/59032/IMG_6021__Large_.jpg thumb=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/59032/thumb_IMG_6021__Large_.jpg
  • harlequin
  • img=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/59032/IMG_6022__Large_.jpg thumb=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/59032/thumb_IMG_6022__Large_.jpg
  • white-lipped
  • img=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/59032/IMG_6026__Large_.jpg thumb=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/59032/thumb_IMG_6026__Large_.jpg
  • and one toad.

The picture of the toad didn't turn out.

Leo, our guide, was really excited about this. It was kind of fun trying to spot the frogs.

Then it was back to our lodge. Court found this airplane moth sitting on the ground by the restaurant.

I had just enough energy to take my first shower of the day. Then as soon as I laid down I was out cold. We had to rest up for another day of exploring.

Posted by agc_cwm 07:26 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Watch your step; there might be snakes.

Summer Vacation 2008 - Exploring the Danum Valley Conservation Area

sunny 31 °C

“Watch your step; there might be snakes.” The last thing I heard before our guide veered off the path into the jungle in search of... Oh wait. I'm getting ahead of myself.

We woke up in our lovely (imagine sarcasm here) hotel in Lahad Datu excited for our trip to Danum Valley.


We had to finish the last minute packing and make sure that they actually got our laundry done in time. On the way down for breakfast we found out that the lady at the desk didn't know where our laundry was, or anything about us having dropped off laundry to have done. Uh oh. We decided to leave it with her and eat. While we were eating we saw the lady who worked the counter last night come running in with our laundry. Safe! Half an hour late, but still. Just under the wire. As we were checking out, our van to Danum Valley arrived.

We got into the van and were on our way, with a couple of stops. First, for the sake of everyone else at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL) we had to stop at a pharmacy and buy more toothpaste. Secondly, (and from the BRL's point of view, more importantly) we had to stop and pay our bill.

With that taken care of we were on our way to Danum Valley. Danum Valley is part of the Sabah Concession Area, one million hectares of protected area in the middle of Borneo. Danum Valley consists of 438 km2 in this area, which is a relatively small part of the total concession area. Other parts of the Sabah Concession Area are still being explored. Current surveys continue to turn up lots of new plant and animal species. It's quite amazing there is still that large an area not explored on the Earth. The BRL is built in the heart of Danum Valley, it is surrounded by rainforest. Here's a shot from our balcony.


It was approximately a three hour drive to Danum Valley. In total it was about 99km: 17km on paved roads and 82km on gravel. It was a fairly bumpy ride (the agent at the BRL office joked with us about the ride being a 'free massage'). At one point the driver stopped and got out. We saw the other tour guide up front get out with a tire pressure meter and thought, “Oh crap.” They explained when they got back in that there was too much air and it made the ride too bumpy. That's a better explanation than a flat tire.

We arrived and were welcomed very nicely by the staff. They took care of our bags and told us they'd take them to our room when it was ready. At this point I took off to the bathroom. When I returned, Court, and the Japanese man who was in our group were each sitting upstairs with a nice fruity drink and a refreshing cool, wet towel to wash their hands with. The staff member gave us a quick introduction to the lodge and told us our guide would be Leo(nard). More importantly, she showed us where we could eat.

Lunch was excellent. There was a red and green bean porridge that Court loved so much she eventually got the recipe from the chef! We had to wait around for a little bit more for our room to be ready. Once it was ready, we got a HUGE surprise. The lodge was pretty busy and there were a lot of people, so we got upgraded. As we were walking down the staff member said that they were putting us in the biggest chalet at the lodge. And she was right. We have a separate living room with couch and chairs. Then we have our bedroom with a massive bed, lots of floor space and nice high ceilings. And a bathroom with separate shower and tub. Finally, there is a beautiful balcony overlooking the Danum River. WOW! In total we think this chalet is bigger than our actual apartment in Japan. In fact we found out from Leo that this lodge was built in 2000 because the Sultan of Brunei was going to come visit. At the last minute he canceled, but I think he came in 2003. There are actually three rooms, the main room and the right and left wings. The right and left wings were built for the Sultan's two wives!

We unpacked and relaxed for an hour or so. Court spotted this little green guy on the tree behind our room. As it turns out, it is a flying lizard!


Then it was time to meet our guide and do the Nature Hike trail. We met at 15:00. There are only three people in our group: me and Court and another man from Nagoya. The small group is ideal for this area. We left around 15:15 and were supposed to take one hour to do the hike. It was only 600 m on a boardwalk around the lodge. Within the first 20 metres Court spotted an agamid lizard on the side of tree. We ended up seeing 4 different agamid lizards: two females, one male, and one juvenile.

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We spotted one lizard on the tree and he was one color. Then about 5 seconds later he was a different color. Take a look. This is the same lizard as it was preparing to bite if need be.

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This is the male. Its fin is a lot longer than the females.


At the next stop, Leo was going to tell us about some white “stuff” on a tree and asked if we knew what it was. Court quickly piped up, “It's lichen.” I think at this point Leo realized we weren't just any people he was going to guide through the jungle. We discussed it afterwards and decided it must be nice for nature guides to get people who ask lots of questions and are really interested in the environment.

Leo also told us about the different types of plants and ways they've adapted to survive in the rainforest. Take, for example, the birds nest fern. This fern grows on the trunks of trees and its leaves are angled out, like a birds nest, hence the name. This fern catches leaves as they fall from the tree and absorbs nutrients from them. It also retains its own dying leaves to absorb the nutrients from them. Amazing.

As he was explaining about these ferns I noticed some pill millipedes. Leo was excited that there were two there. That way he could show us the difference between one rolled into a defensive ball and one not.


Leo also told us about lots of lichens, mosses, mushrooms, vines and many other types of plants along the way. One time while we were stopped, the other guy in group noticed there was a leech climbing up Leo's shoulder. It was a tiger leech. We watched it as Leo explained all about the leeches.


We also found a flat-backed millipede in our travels.


When in danger, this millipede secretes a liquid that smells like vanilla but is very acidic and tastes horrible. 'Secretes' may be an understatement: you could actually see it shoot the liquid out of its back. It was cool. The female slow loris will actually lick these millipedes and then lick their offspring if they have to leave them alone. That way if anything comes to eat the offspring they will smell this smell and leave them alone.

On our way back to the lodge we spotted an orangutan in the canopy. It was kind of difficult to get a great view of through the trees, but we managed. Then the orangutan headed off away from us. Next thing we knew, Leo said to follow him and took us along a different path. At this point we connect back to the introduction. Leo ventured off the path and took off into the rainforest, shouting back, “Watch your step; there may be snakes.” He eventually led us to the tree directly below the orangutan. We were so close, I was worried that it would drop something on us. This was definitely a good way to start our visit.

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We got back on the trail and started to head back when we noticed a maroon langur (or red leaf monkey). The picture's kind of dark, but it's there in the middle.


He started to jump from tree to tree and ended up in a tree just above the path we were on. This was a new type of monkey for us. One more down. Lots more to go.

Earlier on the hike, Leo had asked us what we wanted to see and I said I'd be happy with a flying squirrel and a gibbon. I'd never seen either of them. As we were walking back to the main lodge we noticed some people had a nice telescope set up on a tripod. We asked them what they were looking at and they said were looking at a sleeping gibbon. They also said they had a nicer view earlier. I asked to take a look and -bam-: a nice shot of a gibbon's arse. Well, at least I got to see a gibbon.

We had enough time to have some cake and coffee at the lodge before the slide show began. It was more of an information session than anything else. Ray, one of the guides, told us about the history of the lodge and the area. Then it was time for the “dusk” drive. It was basically dark out, but it was still called the dusk drive.

We piled into the back of the truck and headed out. Paul, our guide for the evening, sat up front with the high powered light to try to spot things. Over the course of the drive we saw four or five sambar deer (the largest deer in Borneo, but a lot smaller than white-tailed deer), a common palm civet, and four flying squirrels! Another thing off our list. We also saw two of them fly. Awesome. They started to twitch and then jumped out of the tree and glided down to a different tree (which is oddly familiar behaviour... Court twitches before every flight, too). Very cool.

And it was time to return for dinner. It was another excellent meal. The cook is great. There was a coconut pudding tonight that Court loved. Again, she's going to ask for the recipe. And finally it was time to go to sleep with the sounds of the torrential rain pounding down on our cabin roof (what's a rainforest without rain?). As long as it stops by 06:00 tomorrow, it can rain as much as it wants.

Posted by agc_cwm 07:16 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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