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Danum Valley is a conservation area and rainforest located in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia. It's a haven for diverse wildlife and nature enthusiasts.
Danum Valley’s rainforest is known to be the oldest in the world, with an age of over 140 million years. This primary virgin rainforest boasts one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth and stands as one of the most ecologically essential forests worldwide. There are more than 340 different bird species, 124 different mammal species, 72 different reptile species, and 56 different amphibian species found in Danum Valley. That is why naturalists, wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers from around the world visit Danum. It is one of Sabah’s most famously protected areas and a favoured location for wildlife filmmakers.
Danum Valley is primarily classified as a tropical rainforest. It is renowned for its diverse and pristine ecosystem, characterized by lush vegetation, high biodiversity, and a humid climate. This rainforest type is known for its dense canopy, abundant plant and animal species, and high levels of rainfall throughout the year. The core of Danum Valley is among the largest continuous areas of primary lowland dipterocarp rainforest left in the area, which makes it extremely significant for preserving Borneo's biodiversity.
Danum Valley is estimated to be 140 million years old, and it is one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Compared to the Amazon rainforest, which is only 55 million years old, Danum Valley’s rainforest is considered unbelievably old!
It is worth it, though? Danum Valley really does live up to its reputation! Danum Valley is widely regarded as one of the most unique places for wildlife in Borneo. It is one of the main crossings for Bornean pygmy elephants – the world’s smallest elephant. If you are lucky, you may spot a herd traveling through the rainforest. You can spot banteng, orangutans, slow loris, wild cats, macaques, gibbons, red leaf monkeys and – if you are very, very lucky – clouded leopards. Also, the world’s tallest tropical tree of Yellow Meranti tree species (Shorea faguetiana) is also found in Danum Valley, Sabah. At a recorded height of 100.8m (330.7ft). This giant tree is locally known as ‘Menara’ (Malay for Tower).
The Danum Valley conservation area is about 70 kilometers from the nearest town, Lahad Datu. The nearest local airport to Danum Valley is located in Lahad Datu town. From Lahad Datu town to Danum Valley, it takes 2.5 hours by land on unpaved road surfaced with gravel. Although it is in fairly good condition, it is best to travel with a 4×4 as the roads there are frequented by heavy vehicles like logging trucks.
You won’t be able to travel on your own as you need a licensed guide to bring you around the conservation area. Self-driving is also prohibited as permits are only issued to relevant bodies. It's about 81 kilometers (around 50.3 miles) from Lahad Datu to the Danum Valley Field Centre. The first 15 kilometers (approximately 9.3 miles) of the journey follows the main road towards Tawau.
Lahad Datu is the nearest local airport to Danum Valley. If you travel from Tawau airport, you will need to take a bus or taxi to go to Lahad Datu which is about 120 kilometres from Tawau airport.
The roads in Danum Valley are gravel and traverse a diverse terrain, including winding hills, steep ravines, long bridges, and rocky creeks. It's important to note that self-driving to Danum Valley is not recommended due to the challenging terrain. Additionally, you'll need an entry permit to visit Danum Valley, which can be obtained through a tour operator.
Yes. You will need an entry permit to get into the Danum Valley Conservation Area. This permit can be arranged by making a reservation with a tour operator before visiting Danum Valley. Other permits such as a researcher permit, and filming permit can be obtained from the secretariat of Danum Valley Management Committee. No walk-in tourists to this area are allowed. Without a permit for you and your vehicle, you will be blocked from entering this protected forest.
Accommodation in the Danum Valley Conservation Area is provided at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge and the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC). The Borneo Rainforest Lodge is a premium accommodation facility providing a hint of luxury and comfort during your stay in Danum Valley while the DVFC serves as a research centre equipped with more basic living amenities.
There are three accommodation types within or near Danum Valley, ranging from basic to more luxurious options. Borneo Rainforest Lodge and Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) are located inside Danum Valley. Kawag Nature Lodge is in Kawag Forest of the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve area, one of the several forests that make up Buffer Zone II in the Danum Valley Conservation Area.
The Danum Valley Field Centre was established in 1986 as a place for scientific research within the rainforest. Today, it's considered one of the top research centres in Southeast Asia. The centre is equipped with laboratories, a meeting room, accommodation for researchers to stay, dormitories, campsites, and a cafeteria. Originally designed exclusively for researchers rather than tourists, DVFC has gradually opened its doors, welcoming nature enthusiasts and independent travellers to stay. DVFC is located within an area with a combination of primary and secondary forest. DVFC is the cheapest option to visit Danum Valley, offering basic but liveable rooms and lodging. Guests can choose to stay in dormitory rooms or chalets for their stay.
The Borneo Rainforest Lodge offers the ultimate jungle retreat, being the only lodge that is located within the primary rainforest area in Danum Valley. Tastefully designed, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge has a strong focus on sustainability.
This eco-friendly lodge offers a top-notch jungle experience complete with a selection of beautiful chalets and villas ranging from its Standard Chalet to Premium Villa, and facilities such as restaurant and bar. Guests staying at Borneo Rainforest Lodge can enjoy various tour activities, such as nighttime safari drives, nature walks, treks, and guided nighttime safari walks.
Kawag Nature Lodge was previously named Kawag Danum Rainforest Lodge. It is located within Kawag Forest in the Ulu-Segama Reserve, one of the many forests making up Buffer Zone II for the Danum Valley Conservation Area. This lodge is the closest from Lahad Datu town so you can expect a shorter travelling time. Although Kawag is a secondary forest, it is home to a diversity of plant and animal species where many are endemic to Sabah and the island of Borneo. Some may argue that due to the less dense vegetation in Kawag Forest, it can be easier to spot wildlife here. There is a 15-meter-high Observation Tower and platform to have a bird’s eye view of the area.
There are 20 rooms (10 Standard Rooms and 10 Deluxe Rooms) with balconies equipped with either aircon or ceiling fans. There are options for twin sharing or double room. Rooms are equipped with power plugs and slippers. The open concept dining hall can accommodate up to 40-50 people at one time.
While Kawag Nature Lodge is equipped with basic facilities and amenities, it provides 24/7 power supply and sources fresh, clean water from a water catchment system.
Visitors can engage in activities like guided rainforest walks, wildlife spotting, birdwatching, and night safaris. There are several hiking trails of varying difficulty levels, allowing visitors to explore the rainforest and observe wildlife. Apart from that, visitors can also take a dip in the Danum River or take part in river tubing activities.
Danum Valley has a tropical rainforest climate in which there is no dry season. It is typically hot and wet throughout the year and rainfall is both heavy and frequent. One day in an equatorial climate can be very similar to the next.
From March to October the recorded rainfall recorded is slightly lower, therefore, it is generally considered the best time to visit for higher chances of wildlife sightings. Due to limited accommodation availability, it is advisable to plan your trip to Danum Valley in advance and book early to avoid disappointment. The bed spaces in Danum Valley fill up quickly particularly in the months of April, July, and August.
Danum Valley is home to a wide range of wildlife, including orangutans, pygmy elephants, western tarsiers, various rare bird species, gibbons, red leaf monkeys and more.
Yes, there are certain rules and regulations to ensure the conservation of Danum Valley. These include following designated trails and minimizing environmental impact. Visitors should refrain from bringing disposable items and are encouraged to bring back any trash to be disposed of after they leave Danum Valley. Visitors are also prohibited to start a fire in the conservation area or introduce/bring outside animals into Danum Valley. Flash photography is also not allowed especially during night walks/safaris.
No, visitors are required to be accompanied by licensed guides to explore the conservation area.
Yes, families can visit Danum Valley but it's important to consider the suitability of activities for children and adhere to safety guidelines.
Here's a list of things to think about bringing on your trip:
There are no medical facilities in Danum Valley. The nearest hospital is located at Lahad Datu Town (2.5 hours’ drive from Danum Valley). The lodgings may keep first aid equipment and some medicines on the premises; however, staff are not allowed to provide medicine to guests as it is against the law. Automated external defibrillator (AED) machines are currently only available at Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
If there's a medical emergency, immediately notify the lodge authorities. If it's an injury from one of the activities, stay calm and inform your guide. Guides and in-house staff operating in Danum Valley usually have a basic first aid knowledge and can provide initial assistance.
Depending on the severity and urgency of a medical emergency requiring a doctor’s consultation or hospital admission, the lodges will arrange transportation either by land or air.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge has a designated doctor on call who can offer advice before and during evacuation to the nearest hospital in Lahad Datu. Helicopter evacuation is an option but might take some time as it's typically dispatched from Kota Kinabalu city. In most cases, land transfer remains the most efficient means of transport and each lodge will have emergency vehicles for this purpose.
Internet and phone coverage might be limited or unavailable in most areas of Danum Valley due to its remote location. Only certain areas have internet, and you may find that downloading or uploading of large files can be very slow due to the limitation of satellite-based bandwidth.
Photography is allowed, but it's important to show respect for the wildlife and follow guidelines to minimize any disturbance. Additionally, please be aware that a camera fee will be imposed if you are using a professional camera.
While the main focus remains on nature and wildlife, you can learn about local cultures and indigenous communities through interactions with local guides and staff. Before Borneo Rainforest Lodge was constructed, a discovery was made deep within the primary rainforest of Danum Valley. There are a series of limestone holes on the edge of a cliff, determined to be an ancient burial ground from the Sugpan tribe (Orang Sungai), who lived in the forest centuries ago. The Coffin Cliff Trail, one of Danum Valley's best paths, winds behind the lodge and goes uphill to the highest point in the conservation area. This trail takes hikers to the old pagan burial site, which is now covered by the jungle.
There are various activity levels available, however a moderate level of fitness will enhance your experience of the rainforest trails and activities.
A stay of at least 3 days 2 nights is recommended to fully immerse yourself in the rainforest experience and increase your chances of wildlife encounters.
Research activities within the conservation area will require special permits and arrangements with relevant authorities.
There are restrictions on the number of visitors allowed in certain areas at a given time to maintain the pristine environment. It's recommended to book your stay in advance.
Before your trip to Malaysia, please review the list of vaccines and medications you may require here and schedule an appointment with your doctor at least one month in advance to receive any necessary vaccinations or prescriptions.
It is not obligatory to consume malaria tablets prior as Danum Valley is presently a low-risk area for malaria. However, for precautions you are advised to apply mosquito repellent and wear suitable clothing to protect you from mosquito bites.
The areas within Danum Valley are well maintained to prevent mosquito breeding, however due to the rainforest ecosystem other insects such as sandflies are common. It is recommended to use natural insect repellent to stay protected.
Indeed, leeches are common residents of Danum Valley. If you find yourself bitten by these creatures, there's no need to worry. Leeches in Danum Valley are harmless and you can easily remove them by gently flicking them away a couple of times. Avoid harming them if possible. It's essential to remember that leeches are a natural part of Danum Valley's ecosystem, so it's best to let nature take its course.
To reduce your chances of being bitten by leeches, it is recommended for those visiting Danum Valley to come prepared with leech socks and suitable clothing.
The Kinabatangan wetlands is surrounded by a diverse range of ecosystems, including rainforests, mangroves, and oxbow lakes, making it a crucial corridor for wildlife movement. The Kinabatangan is famous for its river cruises, which provide opportunities to spot a wide variety of wildlife, including proboscis monkeys, crocodiles, and a plethora of bird species.
Danum Valley is situated in the Brassey Range, because of the unique topography of the area Danum Valley records a high level of endemism. The area is relatively remote and less accessible than some other locations, making it an ideal place for those seeking a more secluded natural experience. Activities include hiking and trekking.
Tabin wildlife sanctuary was declared as a wildlife reserve mainly due to the large number of animals inhabiting its forests, some of which are highly endangered. Tabin is also popular as Malaysia’s biggest natural aviary for the vast species of bird life that can be found here. In fact, all 8 of Sabah's Hornbill species; Black hornbill, Rhinoceros hornbill, Wreathed hornbill, Pied hornbill, White-crowned hornbill, Wrinkled hornbill, Bushy-crested hornbill and Helmeted hornbill have been recorded here. Visitors can also enjoy a mineral rich mud bath at the mud volcanoes.
In summary, while all three locations are recognized for their remarkable biodiversity and offer unique wildlife experiences, they each have their distinct characteristics. Danum Valley is celebrated for its untouched rainforest and research opportunities, Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary emphasizes conservation and rehabilitation, and the Kinabatangan River is known for its diverse ecosystems and accessible wildlife watching experiences.
When rain falls in Danum Valley, it adds a unique layer of enchantment to your experience. While it might adjust your plans a bit, there are still plenty of activities and ways to make the most of your time in this lush rainforest paradise:
Jungle walks: Put on a raincoat, grab an umbrella, and embark on a jungle walk. The rainforest takes on a different character in the rain, with vibrant colours and glistening leaves. Many animals and insects also come alive during rain, offering a chance to witness their activity.
Rainforest photography: Rain can create stunning photography opportunities with raindrops clinging to leaves and animals seeking shelter. Capture the rain-soaked beauty of the rainforest and its inhabitants.
Relaxation and reflection: Use the rain as a chance to unwind and reflect. Enjoy a cup of tea, read a book, or simply listen to the soothing sound of rain on the forest canopy.
Night walk: Rain doesn't necessarily stop night time activities. Join a guided night walk to witness the rainforest's nocturnal residents in action.
Wildlife spotting: Animals can be more active during or just after rain. Keep an eye out for animals taking advantage of the weather change, such as frogs, insects, and some bird species.
Rainforest soundscape: Rainfall creates a symphony of sounds in the rainforest. Record the soothing sounds or simply immerse yourself in the meditative ambiance of nature's rainfall orchestra.
Remember, rain is an essential part of the rainforest ecosystem, and experiencing it adds a whole new dimension to your adventure. Don't let a little rain dampen your spirits; instead, embrace the opportunity to explore Danum Valley in a different light.
Yes, there are snakes and venomous animals in Danum Valley, as is the case in most natural ecosystems. The rainforest is a diverse and complex habitat that supports a wide variety of species, including snakes and other venomous creatures.
It's important to note that encounters with venomous animals are relatively rare, and they are generally more interested in avoiding humans than confronting them. However, if you're exploring the rainforest, it's wise to take precautions to minimize your risk:
Stay on trails: Stick to established trails and paths to avoid accidentally disturbing animals in their natural habitats.
Wear appropriate clothing: When hiking or exploring, wear closed-toed shoes, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts to minimize exposure to potential hazards.
Be alert: Pay attention to your surroundings and where you place your hands and feet. Avoid reaching into areas where you can't see.
Use a flashlight at night: If you're walking at night, use a flashlight to illuminate your path and be cautious of where you step.
Respect wildlife: Keep a safe distance from any wildlife you encounter. Remember, you're a guest in their habitat.
Follow local guidelines: If you're accompanied by a guide or local expert, follow their instructions and advice on safety.
While there is a small possibility of encountering venomous animals, practicing caution and respecting the natural environment will greatly reduce any risks associated with exploring the beautiful Danum Valley.
Danum Valley is the ideal spot to witness wild orangutans in their natural habitat. The Danum Orangutan Research Project (DORP) has been stationed in the Borneo Rainforest Lodge since 2006 and they have been studying the orangutans around its proximity. Researchers have observed and named 65 orangutan individuals around the lodge.