Danum Valley

The heart of the Borneo rainforest

Danum Valley is a world-famous nature reserve in Malaysia. It is part of the immense rainforest in the heart of Borneo. This valley is home to a huge variety of animals.

When people think of Borneo they often picture a big green rainforest, and that’s because it has been just that for a long time. The northern part of Borneo belongs to Malaysia and is right on top of the equator, between many other islands.

An orangutan in Danum Valley. ©Corno van den Berg

Danum Valley Conservation Area

This rich natural area was opened to researchers and biologists in 1986, and only recently did the Danum Valley Conservation Area become accessible to tourists. There are more than 270 bird species in this nature reserve.

Trekking in Danum Valley

Although the rainforest seems almost impenetrable, you can do numerous excursions here. When I was here I spent no less than four days and did countless things. The most important thing is hiking. You can go on your own; there are several hiking trails.

But, you can easily get lost and the weather can suddenly change. Prepare your trip well, you can get quickly into trouble. Let people know you are going out. And bring enough extra clothing and food and drinks.

Hiking with a guide

You can also go trekking with a local guide. In addition to safety, he can also tell you everything about what you see. Such as plants that can serve as medicine, the remains of the first inhabitants and much more. And how everything is connected here.

Night excursion with a guida

A pit viper on a night walk in Danum Valley.

In the evening you can make a night walk. A special guide shows you the jungle. You will see countless insects, such as spiders and other animals with many legs. Which does not appeal to everyone. But it is magical. This tour shows the versatility of this area.

You might also see sleeping birds, frogs and possibly a snake on the hunt. You also have the chance to see reptiles and countless other animals. Remember, everything is strikingly close.

Night Safari

The night safari is most intriguing. Instead of on foot, you go out in a jeep. On the front feet is a guide, who has a special light with him. The goal is to spot many animals. And you will be amazed at how much wildlife you'll see.

I saw a Bengal tiger cat, several flying squirrels and some animals that I could not identify. And neither did the guide. Which makes it extra special. But the idea that this dark rainforest is full of life makes it an absolute wonderful experience.

Danum Valley Canopy Walk

The lovely Danum Valley Canopy Walk.

The Danum Valley Canopy Walk is an amazing walking bridge between the treetops of the rainforest. The walking path is 300 meters long. You can walk on several bridges. The highest point is 26 meters.

You can visit it any time of the day. Often birds can be seen. The best time to go is early in the morning, or rather before sunrise. The sunset is also a good time to see animals. You see the least animals in the heat of the day.

The wildlife of Danum Valley?

Borneo dwarf elephants in Danum Valley.

The lowland rainforest is home to large, but mostly small, animals. Danum Valley is home to many animals including orangutans, hornbills, sun bears, western tarsiers amongst others. Also the sunda clouded leopard, Borneo pygmy elephant and the Sumatran rhinoceros can be found. It’s a rainforest full of life. 

There are also eight kinds of hornbills, which you’ll see quite regularly. The number of insects here can barely be believed. The flora here is also very diverse and unique, there are around two hundred kinds of trees per square hectare. You can really see the Asian rainforest in all its glory, and it seems to almost breathe.

History of Danum Valley

A view of the Danum Valley rainforest. ©Corno van den Berg

Many islands used to be attached to each other via land bridges, allowing animals to roam from one to another. When the lower-lying ones disappeared into the sea one by one due to rising sea levels, the animals and plants became isolated.

It can be hard to explain for an island like Borneo, because it’s such a large island. The plants and animals here have evolved to adapt to their surroundings, literally creating new species. This makes Borneo one of the most biodiverse places on earth.

Human interference

These days there isn’t much left of the rainforest due to deforestation, there are only a few parts that haven’t been touched by human hands. When you look at a map of Borneo it doesn’t seem like there is much left of the rainforest, but in reality those areas still cover hundreds of kilometres.

And so they should, many of the animals need large habitats. Especially the centre of Borneo is untouched, though logging companies have established roads and are logging all around.

The climate here is tropical, humidity is high and it rains heavily and frequently, but briefly. Everywhere you look you see green, a green wall almost eighty metres high. Danum Valley is quite an experience.

Danum Valley accommodation

Spending the night in Borneo Rainforest Lodge. ©Corno van den Berg

The only option to stay is the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. This is a relatively luxurious accommodation in the middle of the rainforest. All excursions are also organised from the lodge. It is also the place where you eat (breakfast, lunch and dinner). everything is included so you don't have to worry about that. Except for the drinks, of course.

Best time for Danum Valley

The driest time to go is between mid-March and the end of October. But it’s not called a rainforest for nothing, it could rain any day. The showers are heavy but brief, and you’ll soon understand why it’s so green here.

Be aware

Leeches are also part of the Danum Valley creatures, so if you walk around here (the main activity) you’ll encounter these inconvenient little suckers. They can be in low scrubs, and also on the forest floor.

You can buy leech socks that prevent these critters from getting their teeth into you, but they will still climb up, so you still need to check your clothes. They can also try and make their way into your shoes, so do be cautious.