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View over Danum Valley from the conservation tower.

Danum Valley | The Lowdown on this Magical Place in Sabah, Borneo

Danum Valley – Pristine Rainforest & Outstanding Biodiversity

Danum Valley Conservation Area is recognised as being home to one of the best rainforests in Borneo. Covering 438 square kilometres (170 square miles), the Conservation Area is the largest remaining area of a virgin, undisturbed lowland rainforest in Malaysia. Visited by David Attenborough and a myriad of scientists researching the vast array of flora and fauna species found here, Danum Valley Conservation Area really has to be a place to visit if you are a keen naturalist, a wildlife enthusiast, a bird spotter or you want to appreciate the natural beauty and magic of this place whilst you can.

Read on to find out the low-down on Danum Valley Conservation Area, or Danum Valley as it is usually referred to and why it should be on your ‘to-do list’ when visiting Sabah, Borneo.

History – The Development of Danum Valley Conservation Area

Historically, Danum Valley had no human settlements within the area. This was a good thing as it meant no hunting, logging or human-made interference in the area. As a result, the rainforest and its inhabitants could live, grow and develop over time naturally to result in outstanding biodiversity. It is also why it is one of the only rainforests in Sabah that the larger mammals can still be found. In 1995, Danum Valley Conservation Area was recognised as an informal protected area in the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve. In 1980, the decision was made to leave the area unlogged for conservation and “Danum Valley Conservation Area” formally came into being. In 1996, Danum Valley’s protective status was further enhanced when it was categorised as a Protected Forest Reserve. As a result, logging and other commercial exploitative activities have continued to be banned.

Danum Valley – Why is it Special?

Very simply – the sheer volume and variety of species (flora and fauna) found in Danum Valley are out of this world! Danum Valley is home to an immense variety of plants and a full range of Sabah’s lowland fauna, including endangered species as the Sumatran Rhino, Bornean Pygmy Elephant, Clouded Leopard, Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Western Tarsier, Flying Lemur, Leopard Cat, Bearded Pig, Malay Civet, Slow Loris, Giant Flying Squirrel, Malayan Sun Bear, Smooth Otter, Silvered Langur and five species of deer. Danum Valley is home to all ten of Sabah’s primate species. The Conservation Area and its surrounding are recognised as an important habitat for Orangutans.

If you like numbers, this should impress you – Danum Valley Conservation Area is home to over 15,000 plant species, more than 120 mammals, 40 species of fishes, over 300 species of birds, and reptiles amphibians, a myriad of butterflies and thousands of insects. For birdwatchers, the areas are home to rare species such as the Argus Pheasant, Bulwer’s Pheasant, seven Pitta species (including the rare Giant Pitta), the Borneo Bristlehead, Flycatchers and all 7 species of Hornbill found on Borneo. Danum Valley Conservation Area is the only place where the spectacled flowerpecker has been recorded.

What to do in Danum Valley?

From sitting back and taking in the beauty of the rainforest to joining guided trails – you can be as active or restful as you like. Most visitors go to Danum Valley to try and see some of the rainforest wildlife residents. The best way to do this is to join a guided trek and one of the many marked trails accompanied by an experienced, knowledgeable licensed Nature Guide. Early morning is typically the best time to see wildlife (so expect to go on a trek before breakfast) as you watch the rainforest canopy come to life. A night trek (or night 4WD safari) also offers interesting glimpses of the nocturnal creatures that come out when all other species are resting.

If you stay at Borneo Rainforest Lodge, you have a couple of extra activities to join. A walk along the raised canopy walkway must provide a perfect opportunity to see across the canopy and view the stunning birdlife. For chilling out late morning, or mid-afternoon you could go tubing down the Danum River.

For some, just sitting on the desk at your Lodge/accommodation and looking out into the edge of the rainforest provides a feeling of peacefulness and serenity that is hard to find back home in every day, life. You could also be lucky and see wildlife fly or walk-by you as you watch on.

Where to stay in Danum Valley?

There are only two options for accommodation in the Danum Valley Conservation Area, and they couldn’t be more different from each other:-

There is only one Lodge in Danum Valley Conservation Area aimed purely at tourists – Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Borneo Rainforest Lodge offers high-quality accommodation in nicely furnished chalets and very comfortable Lodge facilities. It is relatively expensive but offers an exclusive (with only 31 chalets), environmentally friendly, very comfortable accommodation option in this remote location.

The second option is the budget-friendly Danum Valley Field Centre. The Field Centre is actually set up as a Research facility with Scientists and undergraduate students as their usual visitors. The Research Centre recently opened its doors to allow tourists to stay there. It is a cheaper option for staying in Danum Valley – you need to realise there is a reason for this. The accommodation is fundamental (standard rooms are available and dorms), the food is simple local fayre, and you are staying at a working Research Centre. This can provide some interesting conversations over meals as you chat with the Scientists about the research they are currently conducting in Danum Valley. Electricity is turned off between midnight to 6 am so be ready for a hot and sticky night’s sleep ;-).

Whether you choose to stay at Danum Valley Field Centre or Borneo Rainforest Lodge, you will be staying in Danum Valley Conservation Area and able to experience the stunning beauty of this amazing location.

How to get to Danum Valley Conservation Area?

Danum Valley is about 70 kilometres (44 miles) west of Lahad Datu, Sabah. Lahad Datu, a small town, is collecting and dropping off point for tours to either Borneo Rainforest Lodge or Danum Valley Field Centre. There are two main ways to travel to Lahad Datu. Firstly, by plane with flights daily between Kota Kinabalu (BKI) Airport to Lahad Datu (LDU) Airport. Secondly, by public bus – you can cash the public bus from Kota Kinabalu (from the North Bus Terminal Inanam), Sandakan or Tawau to Lahad Dat bus station. If you use the public bus, you will need to travel to Lahad Datu the day before your trip starts and stay overnight in Lahad Datu on one of the small numbers of Hotels / Hostels found there.

Danum Valley – You’ll Fall in Love with it.

Danum Valley really is a magical place to visit. If you dream of visiting the rainforests you see in Nat Geo programmes or hear David Attenborough passionately talk about, then Danum Valley Conservation Area has to be a place you visit. You’ll see wildlife species you never even knew existed, and (fingers crossed) you’ll see some of the beautiful yet critically endangered species visitors associate Borneo with including the man of the forest, the Orangutan. And if you don’t believe it’s magical, just read what some of our customers had to say about their visit to Danum Valley:-

“Great place to see wildlife, the highlight of my trip!” Kate, 2017

“This was the absolute highlight of our trip to see wildlife in Borneo. Borneo Rainforest Lodge is lovely in itself ( great architecture, delicious food etc.)but add the incredible experience of seeing the rainforest wake up in the morning from a walkway above the canopy, wild orang-utans, gibbons and red leaf monkeys in the trees and a brilliantly well-informed guide, Syadiq, we will never forget this experience.” Nikki, 2016

“Magic! Go there!” Jenny, 2016

So, if like Jenny, you want to experience magic during your holiday in Borneo then contact the Borneo Dream Team for help arranging a visit to Danum Valley Conservation Area.

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