Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Danum Valley Field Center, Borneo

The Danum Valley Field Center is basically a research facility that provides accomodation, permanent research plots, well-equipped labs,  and necessary equipment and staff for international and Malay scientists. It also accept visitors – although a little grudgingly.

For example – for some unfathomable reason – they impose a two-week limit on tourist visits.  (What are they afraid of, what would happen to a tourist after two weeks there? Fall irrevocably in love with the forest?) Although, I have to admit, most of the visitors stay only for 2 or 3 nights – which is definiately not enough time to explore the area.

Visitors can choose from a few different types of accomodation – the guest house provides a comfortable room with two beds, overhead fans and shower. There is electricity running for most of the day, and the walkway to the dining area is covered with a roof so you don’t have to get soaking wet if dinnertime coincides with a heavy rainstorm. (Those staying in the hostel are a little bit less fortunate – they have almost a ten-minute walk to cover each time they are hungry.)

The dining area provides one of the biggest attraction – you have the chance to chat with the scientists who do research here and get an insight into their work. (Seems like an awfully lot of investigation is going on concerning dung-beetles). It is the best place to have serious discussions about serious subjects: – Should environmental protection be based on the intrinsic value of nature or on the “economic services” it provides? Can we – should we – put a price tag on nature? Can we – as individuals or let’s say consumers – have any influence on major political decisions that have serious environmental consequences? etc. Or to be entertained with some horror stories that sound like urban legends – like the scientist who carelessly wiped his forehead and managed to get a tiger leech on his eyeball. (on his EYEBALL!! ahhh!)

Mealtimes also provide a nice opportunity to strike up a conversation with other guests. The visitors fall into some quite distinct categories: first, there are the “bird people”, crazy fanatics, who can come back from a long hike all disappointed (even after they run into a rare rhino), just because they did not see the blue marbled chested trumpleteers (the name is used fictitiously, any resemblance to actual birdnames is coincidental) which was the last one on their list. Yes, they arrive with a list, and they methodically work they way down this list and they seem to be blind to any other animals that do not have a beak, two wings and feathers.

Then there are those tourists who only come for a night or two to get a fleeting impression of the forest and a glimps of the orangutans. They usually disappear early in the morning on one of the trails (after the first hike they usually visit the little store in the reception building to purchase a leech-sock) and finish the day with a night-ride, just to cram as many animals as they can into a 2-day visit.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Danum Valley Field Center, Borneo