Travel responsibly. Take nothing but pictures. Conserve.
All photos on this website are copyrighted and exclusive property of Kiran Chakravadhanula
Danum Valley Conservation Area is a 438 square kilometres tract of relatively undisturbed lowland dipterocarp forest in Sabah, Malaysia. A dipterocarp forest is where the Dipterocarpaceae family of trees are found. These trees grow to exceptional sizes typically 70-80m tall. The seeds of these trees have aerodynamic wings that aids in their dispersal by wind. These forests are also greatly prized for their timber but what is special about Danum valley is that even before it became a conservation area there were no human settlements within the area, meaning that hunting, logging and other human interference was non existent making the area very unique. We wanted to see the best of the rainforest in Malaysia and so here we are.
In order to get to Danum valley you have to get to Lahad Datu. We flew into Lahad Datu from Kota Kinabalu. Danum Valley is 82km from Lahad Datu. The Danum Valley Field Center (DVFC) is going to transport us there once we get to their office located close to the airport
Our bags are loaded into a pickup truck and we ride in a mini van.
Rain protection for the luggage
Its better to carry a couple of water bottles from Lahad Datu which you can refill at the DVFC during your stay there. Bottled water afaik is not available at DVFC but they provide hot or chilled filtered water from the water dispensers. Hence the need for empty water bottles if you are not carrying one. You can also carry other food items as there isn't a convenience store there where you can buy a soft drink for example. The dining area is the only place where freshly prepared food is available at DVFC. They serve juice for breakfast though in addition to Coffee and Tea.
Lots of pickup trucks in Lahad Datu
After the security check its a long drive into the forest to get to DVFC
The dining area at DVFC
Lockers are available at the DVFC reception office. If you want to use the services of a ranger you must talk to the head ranger at this office. We decide to do the Tembaling waterfall trail the first day and Jusman is our ranger for the day.
Tiny mushrooms growing on a log along the trail
A dipterocarp tree
An old tree has fallen and is disintegrating on the forest floor. You can see how the bacteria, termites and other creatures break down the giant trunks.
Lots of fallen trees and if a large tree trunk obstructs a trail it is simply cut through
The trail goes under the fallen tree
A group of students who were visiting the DVFC
Some fallen tree trunks make very convenient bridges
In some area where the trail is steep, there are fixed ropes to aid in ascent and descent
Humidity is very high in the forest. Clothes tend to get drenched in sweat. Choose your clothes in a quick drying material. Leech socks are absolutely essential.
The dipterocarp trees are so tall you cant see the tops of these trees if you stood anywhere near their trunks. 70 to 80 meters is their average height.
When you see a patch of well lit forest floor it mostly means that a large tree that once stood there has fallen. This large tree trunk is still in good shape after it has fallen but a portion of its trunk towards the top of the photograph has shattered to bits.
There are all sorts of vines clinging to trees
Meera is standing against the base of a large tree. She also took a liking for the large leaf.
Jusman our ranger. Interestingly he had a pair of Leica binoculars and he was very casual about it. Leica binoculars typically cost upwards of a $1000. The Rangers from Danum valley are an interesting lot. They know so much about the forest and see things you would otherwise miss. The forest is always alive with sounds of animal/bird/insect calls all day and all night. If you hear something interesting ask what it is and out comes an answer instantly.
Interesting detail on the tree trunk. Its such a complex ecosystem on a micro and macro level.
The forest floor is full of interesting detail
A termite colony. I have asked Meera to stand next to it to get a sense of scale
A small termite mound. These mounds are so delicate, the slightest touch will knock them over. You will find so many of these on the forest floor. They are everywhere in all shapes and sizes.
We are back from the trail. The Tembaling waterfall was dry. I didnt take any pictures there. After this we do lunch and then another shorter trail
On the orchid trail, a short trail next to the DVFC office
One very large ant. Almost the size of a medium sized cockroach.
In the evening we decide to climb the observation tower
There is a second deck of the observation tower thats even higher and the trunk gets thinner. we were scared and didn't go up there. Thanks O' mighty insecurity.
In the night we do the night safari where they use these very powerful car battery powered lights to look for animals on the branches of trees. The trees are very tall already its interesting to watch how powerful the lights are and how sharp the rangers are in tracking the animals on branches. They scan every surrounding tree bottom to top in a quick sweeping motion to look for animals as the jeep drives along.
A flying squirrel high up on a tree. This is the view from my zoom lens all the way zoomed in so you can imagine how high up the squirrel really is.
Our room at the resthouse
I just love that window. Past midnight the generators are turned off until 7am, so there is no artificially created light or sound outside. The night sky is bright and the forest sounds very loud. You hear strange sounds and melodies constantly all night. The forest is a loud place in the night.
The resthouse. At the far end is the dining area.
Loading some bags on the trip back to Lahad Datu.
We have made some great friends during out stay at Danum valley. Most of us checked in and out together on the same days. Mark, Carmin, Lyall, Tony and Liz. You were excellent company during our stay at Danum Valley. Thank you.
It was a great trip to Danum Valley. I quite liked the academic research oriented atmosphere there. Experienced what a rain forest really is. Met some excellent ranger folks. Did a long trek to Purut waterfall (separate album on this site) and few short ones. Saw the most beautiful sunrise ever over a forest (separate album) and met some great folks from all over. The staff at the DVFC were excellent. They cooked vegetarian food for us during our stay there and handled all the logistics beautifully. It is truly a world class research center and like they say go to Danum and take nothing but photographs.