As you can probably imagine, our full day in the Danum Valley was all about spotting living things. We were up before 6.00am again to head out on our first trek of the day. As we prepared to start our trek, a wild pig and it’s twelve piglets crossed the road ahead of us, followed by the boar shortly afterwards. It had rained a lot, so the leaves on the jungle floor were all wet and the clay was slippery and muddy. And the leeches were active.
That’s a tiger leech in the above photo. They tend to live on leaves that are about 1 metre above ground level and attach themselves to your legs or any other part of you as you brush past them. They move fast and are attracted to body heat. They can grow up to 3 or 4 cm long, but plenty are smaller. It mostly hurts when they fasten on to you, and they pump in a lot of anticoagulant when they’re feeding. Yes, I know this from experience after one having a large meal on my back. Eurgh. We pulled off a couple of others from our bodies when they’d only just attached – it leaves a round bruise that looks like a blood blister (which I suppose it is, essentially). The leech socks did work effectively to keep them off our legs and feet though!
Now I have to admit – this is not Stella’s idea of how to spend a holiday. She does love the animals – especially the baby ones – but she most definitely does not love bugs, leeches, mud, sweat, treks and food with flavour. I was actually pretty proud of her – she showed courage in doing things that were out of her comfort zone and were things that she didn’t really want to do. And in the end we progressed to ‘I have complaints – but I’m keeping them in’. Well done! That’s the spirit!
Clare also hates being sweaty, dirty, and threatened by leeches, but she’s a hardened Girl Guide and Gold Duke of Ed participant, so just gets on with it. That said, we were all pretty happy with our cold showers while in the Danum Valley – I think that Clare took two on this day! We did three treks – the early morning one, another straight after breakfast, then another before dinner. That did leave us with some time to chill before and after lunch. The girls and I took the opportunity to catch up on our novels while Dan went for a swim in the river (in the rain).
From the Danum Valley Field Centre website: Prior to may 1995, Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA) was an informal protected area in the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve of primary, undisturbed, predominantly lowland rainforest with an outstanding complement of Borneo flora and fauna. It was part of the almost one million ha forest concession assigned to Yayasan Sabah. In 1976, WWF-malaysia suggested that the area be declared a national park. The Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA) is a 438 sq. km tract. However, Yayasan Sabah Board of Trustess resolved on November 28, 1980, to leave the area within Yayasan Sabah concession but shall leave it unlogged for the purpose of conservation. Thereafter it is known as “Danum Valley Conservation Area”.
The Forest Management Plan for Yayasan Sabah Concession Area was drawn up and approved by the State Cabinet in 1984. Principle to this plan was the designation of two areas as protected conservation areas, one of which being the Danum Valley Conservation Area. In May 1995, the area was declared a Class I (protection) Forest Reserve by the Sabah Legislative Assembly, meaning that it cannot be logged except by decisions of a two thirds majority vote by the Sabah Legislative Assembly. In 1999, Danum Valley Conservation Area was further gazetted under The Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment 1998, as a Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Area.
To facilitate activities realated to research. Education, training and wilderness recreation, Yayasan Sabah established the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) IN 1986. Located on the edge of Danum Valley Conservation Area, the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) is open to both international and local scientists/ researchers, who must first apply in waiting to the sectary, Danum Valley Management Committee.
Danum Valley Field Centre has evolved into one of the foremost rainforest research establishments in South East Asia. The extensive facilities include permanent research plots and an extensive trail system, well-equipped analytical laboratories, computer and email facilities, a library, climatic station data, phenology monitoring data base, trained field staff, vehicles, housing and sports facilities, a Nature Interpretation and Environmental Education Building and a Nature Discovery Centre, several canopy observatation platforms and towers, and a suspension bridge over the Segama River.
There was quite a bit of rain over the course of the day, which makes some animals harder to spot. Unsurprisingly, they like to get out of the rain too! But there were always other things to find.
Research programmes at Danum Valley began in 1982….To date over 350 collaborative research projects have been completed or are underway resulting in about 400 publications. Major studies focused on natural forest dynamics, regeneration within artificial gaps, nutrient cycling and the effect of logging on water quality and vertebrate populations, and a long-term research related to climate commenced in 2008 by a consortium of 8 institutions with collaboration from Malaysian universities/ institutions and headed by University of Lancaster, UK.
A large group of botany and zoology students from Swansea University in Wales had arrived on the same night as us. They were busy during the day in classes or trekking around on various projects. They were all sleeping in the simple hostel accommodation that was a short walk from the dining room. Dan and I had commented to one another on how subdued and well behaved they seemed on the first night; on the second night we could hear the murmur ‘there’s beer for 15 ringgit!’ travel from one end of the verandah to the next, shortly followed by a rush of students to get whichever cans they could. They were much more chatty that night!
Danum Valley Conservation Area is dominated by dipterocarp tress, with the canopy reaching a height of over 70 metres in some places. Some 90% of the Conservation Area is classified as dipterocarp forest, with the remaining 10% being low canopy, sub-montane forest mainly found on Mt. Danum in the heart of the Conservation Area.
After dinner we hopped on to the back of a 4×4 with a couple of the park rangers armed with spotlights. They were able to find a few creatures that we hadn’t seen previously! I have no idea how they can spot them from a moving vehicle in the dark – but they do! This was Stella’s favourite activity in the Danum Valley. We saw plenty of sleeping birds (all puffed up with their heads tucked under their wings, sitting in a row on a branch), a flying squirrel (that didn’t fly for us), sambar deer, mouse deer, Malay civets, and a tarantula! And of course there were plenty of geckos around.
I was a little sad the next day when I discovered that a couple who did a night walk (while we were out on the 4×4) spotted a tarsier! This was one animal that I had really hoped to see while we were in Borneo; alas, for us it wasn’t to be. However, we were really lucky to have seen the mouse deer, and this was the only time that we saw civets. It really was an amazing day. Once again many thanks go to Mike for his excellent guiding abilities.