The region of Danum mountains is forbidden to the people without special permit. There are only two lodges in this huge area and one scientific base. Lonely Planet describes the Danum Valley Conservation Area like something out of children’s story book. Danum Valley is recognised as one of the world’s most complex ecosystems, and astonishingly, a new species of plant or animal is found by scientists here every week.
More than 100 scientist work in this area which is currently under the protection of Yayasan Sabah, a semigovermental organization. There are only three accomodation options in the valley and you need to book with them in advance: The Borneo Rainforest Lodge, the Danum Valley Field Centre and the one we chose: Kawag Nature Lodge. It is not possible to enter Danum Valley with your rented car and neither with public transport because it doesn’t exist. The only option is to agree with those lodges which time they pick you up, usually from the closest town of Lahad Datu.
After more than 6 hours traveling, starting in Sukau and stopping in Lahad Datu, a 4×4 took us from the Borneo Refugia Adventure offices. Once we arrived at the lodge it looked like we were alone. The staff welcomed us in a warm way, offered a fresh drink and showed us everything. We had a shower, relaxed a little bit in our room with a terrace with views to the jungle and walked along the wooden platforms to the dinning hall.
This is when we realized we were completely alone. We were going to spend a night in one of the remotest jungles in the world, completely alone. The dinner was delicious, definetely one of the best things of Kawag. We ate only typical dishes, sometimes unkown food for us, but it was always tasty.
At night we did a night safary. Our guide took us with a 4×4 through the jungle and we spotted many flying foxes, flying squirrels… and finally 2 tarsiers! Tarsiers are one of the most searched mammals in Borneo and they are super difficult to find. Their long tails and big rounded eyes in a so small body, not bigger than your fist, make them unique. Unfortunately, it was not possible to take a proper photo, and we saw them using binoculars pointing to the bushes. However, we need to feel fortunate for that encounter. Few people see them. The night safari ended with a flat tire.
The day after started with the melodic ray gun ‘zap’ of dawn gibbons and the chainsaw drone of cicadas. We had a perfect breakfast and met our guide for the trekking to Alibaba waterfall. Each trekking around the lodge is slow because of the dense forest but also because you need to take care of yourself. Some animals are dangerous and you need to look well above your head and below your feet. All along the path we had leeches climbing up our anti-leech socks and unfortunately one bit me. I didn’t notice it till I took out my T-shirt for having a bath under the waterfall. I had it just below my belly, sucking my blood. I used the anti-leech spray to kill it and it fell on the floor. Then I started bleeding because of the anticoagulant it put under my skin. It was an experience and I felt no hurt at all. Our day continued in a normal way.
In the afternoon we went to the river next to the lodge and had a wild bath. We felt like Adam and Eve. Dídac and Laura, the first two humans in the planet Earth. Or maybe the last two. Anyway, the feeling was so good that everything looked connected: the river, the stones, the trees, the birds… and us.
After playing a little bit with lianas, in the afternoon we had another trekking where we had an encounter with a male orangutan. Face to face, just 2 metres between him and us. We starred at each other in silence for few seconds and then he started climbing the closest tree till we lost him on the heights. We stopped there for some minutes, waiting for the male orangutan to move to other trees to see him. However, he didn’t move to other places, he just started moving branches in a violent way, then throwing big pieces of wood to us and finally pissing on us. Then we left.
Once back to the lodge we climbed the Observation Tower and pointed our binoculars to the direction we found the orangutan. There was no success this time. On the other side a Paradise Flycatcher danced in the air in front of us. What a beautiful bird!!! Check it here.
The last day started before the sunrise. We started trekking when it was completely dark to reach the top of a mountain when the sun raises above the misty Danum mountains. Walking through the dense dipterocarp forest at the dark is specially frightening. Strange sounds are everywhere, small mammals can be spotted just after a bush under the light of our torches and the slippery terrain of the jungle makes it more difficult, specially when going up to the top of the mountain. But watching the sunrise from the top while the mist caress the 70m high trees is unpayable.