Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Borneo: Danum Valley Conservation Area: Day One- An Encounter with a Wild Rhino!

As agreed with our Kinabatangan tour, we were escorted by minibus to a bus ‘shack’, where a double-decker public coach awaited our arrival.

There were a lot of odd characters aboard the bus and not to mention a handful of crying kids.

The lack of European people on the bus also made us a little anxious and paranoid that were we even on the right bus!

Nonetheless we rocked up to Lahad Datu about 2 hours later- a town which despite being one of the more prominent locations on the Borneo Sabah map, was only about 4 streets wide and long and, much like Sandakan, a bit of a dump.

Despite this we still had trouble trying to find the Danum Valley Science Research Centre Office and, despite asking numerous locals, no-one seemed to have a clue what we were on about. 

Alas, 30 minutes later we found it- realising we had probably passed it two or three times…Its not actually hard to find- we’re just idiots!

Science Research Centre

Before travelling, this is one thing I did a lot of research on.

In fact our entire trip around Borneo was scheduled around the transportation into and out of the valley;

Buses return from the valley on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays at 8.30am and head back into the valley on the same days at 3pm. To make the most of the valley, we planned to head in on Friday, giving us the weekend to explore, before heading back on Monday morning.

The Science Research Centre is, well- as its title suggests- and is located at the heart of Danum Valley- an area visited by fewer people than have climbed to Everest Base Camp!

The place is a real nature find- where if lucky, you will encounter wild orangutans, elephants, rhinos, gibbons, cats, monkeys and so on and so forth.

It isn’t a hostel, nor is it advertised as one and I read many blogs about the main office being pretty sticky and reluctant to let standard tourists in.

However, we had no such problems- didn’t even have to rely on a backup story.

Our only problem was that there weren’t enough people to necessitate two buses and as the first bus was already full, we would have to fork out on private transport to navigate along the 2 hour dirt track into the cloud forest.

We also had to find a computer in Lahad Datu, to print off our University confirmation- which would ensure we got the student discounted price.

It took us a half hour to source out a computer which, when we did, there were a couple of dozen school kids going mad on World Of Warcraft, briefly turning their attention to the fact that there were now two white people interrupting their social lives.

Student slips printed we returned to the Office, where we were informed that now there would be two buses going and therefore we wouldn’t have to pay extra for a private taxi..result!

It did mean we would have to wait a little while longer for our bus to arrive.

In the meantime we paid up for:

A Park Permit: 20MYR
Dorm Rooms: 45 MYR per night
Return Transport: 60MYR

We opted out of the full board option and thus saving money by stocking up on peanut butter and noodles.

We took extra money to pay for ranger guides/ night safaris/water that would be sorted at the centre within the valley.

In total we spent about 220 MYR/$60 for the 3 nights!

After briefly introducing ourselves to the other eager-goers in the office we saw off the first mini-bus, leaving 8 of us to wait for the second.