Wallowing in it......
danum valley Travel Blog› entry 30 of 44 › view all entries
As we still had not had enough of Borneo’s incredible wildlife we set out to the Danum valley conservation area, an area of great lowland rainforest managed sustainably and is one of the best places to experience the rainforest and its often illusive inhabitants. We made our way to Lahad Datu where we then got a bus to the field center where we would be staying. As luck would have it we met some researchers on the bus who were studying amphibians, such a stroke of luck and I managed to persuade them to let me help them out on one of their surveys. The bus drove through what seemed miles of forest along a dirt road.
We pulled up at the field center and were shown to our rooms, we could only afford the dormitory and they were separate sexed, each one could accommodate nearly 50 people. We had each dormitory to ourselves and it was really really eerie, the perfect setting for a horror movie. We took the fifteen minute walk along the banks of a river to the dining area and found a really luxurious place, it was great! free tea and coffee as well as biscuits and a view over the rainforest, does not get much better than that! There were only two other tourists in the entire place, and they were really nice it was our own private slice of paradise for the few days we would be spending here at Danum valley.
After dinner suz and I did the inevitable animal search. Our chosen hunting site was a small pond from which we could here frogs croaking and chuckling from, a quick sweep of our spotlight revealed loads of frogs sitting in the bushes and trees surrounding the canopy, diminutive harlequin frogs to huge file eared tree frogs the size of my hand with tiger striped thighs and bulging file like protuberances behind their bulbous eyes. It was great. We sat back at the dorms listening to the sounds of the night when a civet cat ran under the steps and off into the bushes. A rustling in the forest to our right revealed a nervous sambar deer waiting for the all clear before coming out to graze; we really were in the thick of it.
The following morning we walked to breakfast, the mist was rising out of the river valley, gibbons calling, hornbills flapping over head and huge swifts flew along the river.
After breakfast we spent the day walking round the forest trails near the field center. We had never seen such tall trees and we marveled at their height. One tree had a ladder leading up to a viewing platform about 75 feet up. I am not good with heights at the best of times but managed to get up their and was rewarded with a great view of the surrounding forest, there was another ladder leading to a platform 75ft higher but my legs were already shaking so I didn’t even attempt it as there would be no one to recue me!
We encountered a family group of red leaf monkeys which was pretty special, their body hair as the name suggests was a vibrant red, they had grey skin and the faces of old people, they were really bizarre.
Tonight was the night I was to accompany the amphibian researchers on their stream transect. The five of us spent about three hours wading up a thigh deep stream catching, recording and marking all the amphibians that we encountered. It was a great way to see the streams inhabitants and we saw spiny toads, tree frogs with spines above their eyes as well as tiny little frogs that called from water filled tree holes, their vocalisations like the sound of a bamboo flute. These fogs change the pitch of their calls to exactly match the greatest resonation of their tree holes so that there calls are amplified. It was great.
We had been given the GPS coordinates for an animal wallow by one of the amphibian guys.
Further on up ahead I noticed some really bright eye shine, two red globes on the track ahead I assumed they must belong to an owl. They vanished rapidly and we continued up hill towards them to the right of the track I saw them again and realised they were coming from a Tarsier! Such a cool animal.
After a couple of hours we were in the vicinity of the wallow and we made our way through the thick vegetation. The thought that we may disturb something large at the wallow only just dawned on us and we crept forward slightly apprehensively.
This frog is 'THE' flying frog of Borneo first described by the famous biologist Alfred Russel Wallace who stated "One of the most curious and interesting reptiles which I met with in Borneo was a large tree-frog, which was brought me by one of the Chinese workmen.
The frogs before us were huge, about 10cm long and were quite heavy, I was surprised that something that size could glide. They were stunning frogs, vivid green with huge feet, between the fingers and toes hung the yellow and black webbing characteristic of the species. Our photo session was interrupted by a Malay civet who was pretty inquisitive. This small creature a relative of the mongoose was black with leopard like markings on its coat and a banded tail and it was probably looking for frogs to! We returned back to the field center exhausted but really happy with our findings.
The last day was a wash out and we sheltered from the rain, only managing a brief walk into the forest. The weather cleared up by the evening and we decided to do a night hike to a waterfall. The four of us set out eagerly and we trekked along a ridge for what seemed an eternity. We saw the usual mouse deer and sambar deer but tonight was the night of geckos! we are long accustomed with the house geckos which hide behind your mirror and curtains, chatter round the lights in the evening, occasionally shitting on you from their perch on the ceiling but you forgive them as they hopefully feeding on the mosquitoes. But the geckos in the forest were huge and known as bent toed geckos, we saw two species hunting on the buttress roots of the giant rainforest trees, one was black in colour with intricate white markings that made it looked like it was wrapped up in a doily. We also saw another Tarsier, so so lucky. We never made it to the waterfall it was just too far so we turned back and slid our way back down the ridge.
Just near the hostel suz and I checked out some trees for another one of Borneo’s flying creatures, the flying gecko and we were in luck. The gecko was a monster, about 20cm long and had a flattened tail, huge webs between its toes and a long flap of skin along its side and under its chin. I tried to catch it and it launched itself from its tree trunk and glided towards Suzan falling short by a couple of feet where it awkwardly hopped and jumped across the ground as its flaps were inhibiting its movement. I picked it up and was rewarded with a savage bite, the gecko would not let go of my finger and remained firmly clamped for a couple of minutes even after I had put it back on the tree!
Our time was up in Danum and we were sorry to leave but we could not afford to stay longer, we had once again been very lucky with our wildlife and would love to return to this place again some time in the future.