Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Danum Valley – Borneo

I returned to Borneo: a place I visited during my last adventure around Asia three years ago.

And why? Well, firstly; I discovered that when one flies from the Philippines to Nepal, it actually works out cheaper to go via Kota Kinabalu.

There were a few places I wanted to see last time but sadly missed, due to not having enough time.

But the main reason, really, is that I fricking love Borneo, and the five weeks I spent there back in 2012 were some of the most memorable and exciting from that entire trip.

So, on the morning of 25th of February, James, Chloe and I boarded a plane from Manila. Pedro, who had been our travelling companion for the last four weeks, was flying back home to Taiwan, so it was now just three of us. James and Chloe (the lucky bastards) were going to be spending six weeks in Borneo, in all, but I was just going to be accompanying them for the first few days.

The plane touched down upon Kota Kinabalu in the morning and, after booking tickets for a sleeper bus heading south that evening, we went for a little wander around town. I spent most of that day experiencing flashbacks and feeling fondly nostalgic: walking past a bar and remembering it was where me and a friend drank beer a couple of times, popping into a restaurant to examine the menu and realising that I had eaten there before.

Remembering some of the things that I love about Borneo. Such as the crazy equatorial weather: the constant flux between dark clouds and blazing sunlight with blue skies; that damp scent of a storm about to happen, frequently in the air; the occasional rumble of thunder in the distance.

In the evening we boarded the sleeper bus. It was fairly comfortable but unfortunately we had to get off at 3am because it rolled into Lahad Datu early. Luckily there was a 24-hour café open so we took refuge there, eating mie goreng and roti canai while we waited for the Danum Valley Field Centre office to open.

Danum Valley Day 1

By lunchtime everything was organised and we were upon a 4WD for a bumpy two-hour journey to the Danum Valley Field Centre. We were all very tired by then, so our heads were slumping and our eyes kept rolling back. At one point I was sputtered back into a state of consciousness by James yelling my name. I opened my eyes and, as my vision switched from blurry to focussed, I saw that he was pointing to something outside the window and scrambled for my camera.

A group of bornean pygmy elephants; our first sighting.

A while later we rocked up at the dormitory, where we claimed our beds, and then James and I rustled up a vegetable curry in the communal kitchen. As we were cooking, a middle-aged German guy turned up with his parents and, as soon as I saw his face, I knew that I recognised him from somewhere.

“Errm, this might sound a bit weird…” I said. “But… did I meet you three years ago, when I was last in Borneo?”

“That depends,” he said. “Did you do any diving in Semporna?”

It turned out that he owned the outfit which I had done a few days of scuba diving with – the very same outfit which James and Chloe had booked to do their PADI Open Water courses with next week.

It was one of those ‘Small World’ moments.

We chatted for a while, as he cooked dinner for his parents. And after he left a group of Malaysian students came into communal area to make their dinners’ too.

Danum Valley Field Centre is primarily a research station for scientists – tourists are accepted, if there is room, but they are a minority – so it is not like a hotel or resort: the lodgings are very basic, and specifically designed so that people can do things independently. The Malay students were all from a university in Kota Kinabalu, studying subjects which ranged from the bio-diversity of ferns to renewable energy. They were all quite friendly and talkative, when they weren’t busy tapping away upon their computers.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Danum Valley – Borneo