Introduction and history
Danum Valley is about 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Lahad Datu, Sabah. It spans 438 square kilometers (170 square miles) making it the largest remaining area of virgin undisturbed lowland rainforest in Malaysia. Danum is recognized as one of the world's most complex ecosystems; lying within the upper reaches of Sabah's second largest river, the Segama, and its tributaries. The eastern and southern borders of Danum Valley are demarcated by the Segama River. Danum Valley is generally hilly but not mountainous. Its highest point is Mount Danum, at 1090 meters (3585 feet). Danum Valley is bordered all around by a vast timber concession area. Research in Danum has revealed a tremendous variety of plants and a full range of Sabah’s lowland fauna including rare and endangered species like the Sumatran rhino, Asian elephant, Clouded leopard and Orang utan.
As recent as the early 1960s, this nature sanctuary located in the southeastern corners of Sabah was virtually inaccessible. This is because the entire valley is cut off from civilization by the vast surrounding primary forests. In the early 1960s, between the waning years of the British rule and the nascent years of Sabah's independence through a merger with the independent Malaya, soil surveyors first carried out soil studies in Danum Valley. They observed that there was an abundance of wildlife and different forest types and then suggested setting up a wildlife sanctuary within the Danum Valley.
In 1976, the Sabah Natural Parks Board sponsored a scientific expedition into Danum Valley, which was funded by the World Wildlife Fund (as it was then known). The report recommended that Danum Valley should be converted into a natural park. A few years later, a state-wide fauna survey was carried out and its report concluded that Danum Valley was one of the most important conservation areas for mammals and birds. At around the same time, the Sabah state government allocated a vast area measuring 10,000 square kilometers (3,865 square miles) of virgin forests to the Sabah Foundation, a state-owned organization responsible for improving the welfare and education of the Sabahans.
The Sabah Foundation fulfils its objectives through generating revenue from logging, saw-milling and other timber processing activities. Fortunately, in 1980 the Sabah Foundation voluntarily retained the Danum Valley as a conservation area where natural vegetation and the wildlife will be preserved for the purposes of conservation, research and education. In 1986, the Sabah Foundation formally opened a scientific field study center, Danum Valley Conservation Area, in the eastern part of Danum Valley. To date, many scientific projects have been undertaken at the research centre. In 1996, the protective status of Danum Valley was further enhanced when it was announced as a Protection Forest Reserve. As a result, logging and other commercial exploitative activities have been banned.
Flora and Fauna
More than 90% of Danum Valley conservation area is covered by lowland forest with the canopy reaching a height of over 70 metres in places. The balance comprises small crown: very dense, low canopy, sub-montane forests at higher elevations. The largest area of this forest type is found on Mount Danum in the centre of DVCA.
At higher elevations the flora is quite different. On the upper slopes of Mount Danum the forest canopy seldom exceeds 25m and includes the gymnosperms Phylocladus and Podocarpus spp. Nepenthes are common at higher elevations as well as many species of orchid and a recently described climbing bamboo, Racemobambos pairinii.
Research efforts in Danum have revealed a tremendous variety of plants and a full range of Sabah’s lowland fauna, including such rare and endangered species as the Sumatran Rhino, Banteng (tembadau), Asian Elephant, Clouded Leopard, Orang utan, Proboscis Monkey, Western Tarsier, Flying Lemur, Leopard Cat, Bearded Pig, Malay Civet, Long-tailed Macaque, Slow Loris, Clouded Leopard, Giant Flying Squirrel, Lain Pygmy Squirrel, Malayan Sun Bear, Smooth Otter, Silvered Langur and five species of deer including the Yellow Barking Deer, the Mouse Deer, and the Sambar Deer.
More than 120 mammals including 10 species of primates, 40 species of fishes, over 300 species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, a profusion of butterflies, thousands of insects, worms, other mollusks and invertebrates are found here.
Over 300 bird species have been recorded so far at Danum, including the Argus Pheasant, Bulwer's Pheasant, seven species of Pitta (including the rare Giant Pitta), the Borneo Bristlehead, a rich fauna of babblers, bulbuls and flycatchers, and all of the 7 species of hornbill found on Borneo.
Attraction and activities
Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA) is an ideal location for nature and adventure tourism, with jungle trekking, wildlife photography and bird watching being particularly popular.
Tembaling waterfalls are the closest waterfalls to DVFC. It takes one to two hours along a scenic trail alive with flora and fauna to reach the waterfalls.
One of the most spectacular waterfall and pools found in Danum Valley Conservation Area is Sungai Purut Waterfall situated on the way to Gunung Danum. This waterfall is about 20 m in height with 7-tiered pools. It takes about 4 hours of jungle trekking from the Field Centre to reach the pool. Visitors can either choose to camp overnight or do a day trip.
Burial caves have a special place in the myths and legends of the Orang Sungai in Borneo. They believe in the powerful spirits of hills and water. In Danum Valley, three burial sites have been discovered; two near the Field Centre and another one situated below the cliff overlooking Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
This is where the local natives, the Idahans, have been harvesting birds' nests, a Chinese delicacy, for 21 generations. Many viewing platforms perched on high plateaus and observation decks attached to mighty tropical timbers allow visitors panoramic views and closer access into the forest canopy. The 27 meter high L-shaped canopy walkway gives a wonderful bird's eye view of the forests and is a perfect vantage point for bird watching.
Gunung Danum or Mt. Danum is the highest peak in Danum Valley Conservation Area at 1093m. Trekkers preferring a leisurely hike could take the 3 days 2 nights’ hike. However, strong trekkers can take about 4 hours to reach Gunung Danum. An international event, the Eco-Challenge 2000, took place in Danum Valley Conservation Area and proved this feat was possible!
Other interesting places are the nearby Rafflesia Hill where Rafflesias are found, Rhino Pool where the elusive Sumatran rhinoceros was once sighted, and Gunung Nicola, another peak within the area. Visitors must hire a guide from the Centre whenever they go for jungle trekking to ensure their own safety.
There are over 50km of marked trails for visitors, including a self guided Nature Trail. The Self-Guided trail is a 500m-loop trail with 28-numbered post, 225-labeled trees and an illustrated booklet in Malay and English. Take the Interpretation & Environmental Education trail near the EE building. There are also some trails designed for overnight trekking. Consult your guide for information.
Take note: for the safely of all visitors, you are request to trek or jungle walk accompanied by a guide.
Getting there and away
Access and permit
DVFC is located 81-km inland from Lahad Datu on Sabah’s East Coast. The journey takes about 2 hours and the first 15-km is along the main Lahad Datu to Tawau Road; the remaining 66 km is on an unsealed but well maintained private logging road.
Lahad Datu is served daily by Malaysia Airlines.
All visitors must get their entry permit from the sales office in Lahad Datu. If you drive your own vehicle, you must also first obtain a gate pass from the Lahad Datu office. The pass must be produced at the checkpoint at km 5.5 on the Main Line West Logging road. Follow this road to the major junction at km 56.5 where there is a sign-posted left turn to the Field Centre 10 km onwards.
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