Baby Elephant in Danum Valley
Danum Valley Conservation Area at 438sq km, is the largest remaining area of undisturbed lowland dipterocarp forest in Sabah. The Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) is primarily for education and research.
Tourists are an added on income and hence don’t expect to receive 4* luxury accommodation. But 4* wildlife was our purpose, and that we had.
After a 2 hour, 88k drive from Lahad Datu we were about ready to collapse in a heap but our enthusiastic guide, Hatti, who had travelled with us from town announced there would be a night walk. And so we had our first encounter with leaches. Crawling up our legs, dropping from trees and leaping on us from adjacent foliage!
Night time on foot, standing still for a few moments , through the crescendo of crickets other night noises gave creatures away. Rustling leaves and a privet cat skittered into the undergrowth while a mouse deer slid quickly from us when we disturbed his eating. On one tree a tarantula spider was perfectly posed as if he had been nailed there for us to see.
I had never imagined seeing birds at night, well may be owls, but Hatti was passionate about them and showed us that a strong light shone on a roosting bird would dazzle it to stillness. Far easier to photograph than in day time.
Black and Crimson pitta
A flash from a torch beam reveal the eyes of amphibians. Glistening frogs and toads with expanding chests giving greater resonance to their calls.
Spot the spider!
The giant monitor lizards feels no need to hide in the night shadow. They feast on rotting vegetation and meat and wander round the centre looking for any unprotected trash.
Mornings ring with the haunting call of gibbon. More often heard but not seen. Yet early one morning we stood, mesmerised, as a family jumped and bungeed over our heads.
Crocodile free the river Segema river flows through Danum. Animals and birds are drawn to it in the cool dawn and evening and in the hot and humid mid day when everything else is asleep, you’ll find the odd human or two.
Trails are easy to follow but after an afternoon down pour slither rather took the place of walk, and increased the leach activity. The cooler air brought out the birds and gibbons and eventually another orang-utan.
At first it just looked like an old hairy orange rug thrown over a pile of sticks. But there it was perched high above, glancing down occasionally to see what we were up to but basically unconcerned safe in the knowledge we had no capacity to intrude further Ito his life. There is still some sanctuary for these amazing men of the forest.
Pigmy Elephants – not that small!
Sad to leave what would be our last jungle stay in Sabah, we ordered elephants. Lo and behold on the way out of the reserve there were three adult females on the road with the tiniest baby. Our guide thought it may even have just been born that night. They were so protective of it. Shielding him from us and guiding him off the road. There was no doubt that they would have protected him with their lives. Their flapping ears and posture told usual we needed to know. It was ‘awesome’.
Sticky Rice travel organised our trip but you can go independently.