“ Luxurious lodge in Darum Valley, Borneo. „
We chose to have a couple of nights at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge after the nights we spent in the riverside lodge at Sukau on the Kinabatangan river just so that we could actually have some time walking in the rainforest and possibly see other animals we had not been able to see from the boat on the river. The Danum Valley is a primary rainforest jungle, is far removed from human habitation and renowned for its rich variety of both plants and wildlife
We were driven by our guide and driver in a 4x4 from Sukau Lodge on the Kinabatangan river to Lahad Datu where we met our guide/driver who would take us by 4x4 to the Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley, a drive that too about two and a half to three hours along some fairly 'interesting' roads. We kept our eyes peeled as our previous guide had said they often saw wildlife on the drive but sadly we saw nothing of any great interest. You can fly into and out of the tiny airport at Lahad Datu and in fact when we left we flew from here to Kota Kinabalu. The driver/ guides from the lodge will pick you up from the airport and return you there and that is included in the lodging price.
When we arrived after this long and quite uncomfortable journey we were met by a lovely lady who took us upstairs (take shoes off first please) and sat us down with a cold drink decorated with an origami grasshopper made from grass. She explained that all food was included, what time the meals were and also introduced us to our guide who would take us on our walks while we were staying at the lodge.
Our guide told us a bit about the programme of activities and then told us that our first experience would be a jungle walk straight after our lunch.
Our luggage was taken to our room and we were escorted to the room by the young lady. All the rooms are above ground on stilts and you access them by wooden board walks. These were incredibly slippery when wet and we walked along them with great care. Another lady we had met at the previous lodge slipped over when she arrived and hurt herself. The staff at the lodge were so apologetic and upgraded her and her husband to the superior accommodation with balcony and spa bath overlooking the rainforest.
Anyway we were taken to our lodge which was pretty impressive after the previous jungle lodge. This lodge was huge and had really high wooden eaves in the roof/ceiling which had been carefully designed to let hot air out and helps cool the room. It gave a feeling of space and was also very impressive. Each lodge had a large king sized bed but it looked quite small as the room was so huge. Beside the double bed there was a single bed and then in one corner a sofa bed and across the room near the bathroom was a sort of single sofa which could also have been used as a bed. I think it would have slept at least five people but no doubt you would only have been allowed to have that many if it was a family with younger children. There are designed to accommodate two or three people officially.
The over riding impression in the lodge was of space, openness and light but we did notice that all the lovely big windows also meant that you were in a bit of a goldfish bowl once it was dark as everyone could see straight into the room. Although the lodges were meant to be positioned so that you didn't look directly into another one many people walked around the lodges as they were looking for wildlife and wildlife are not respecters of people's privacy.
In the room apart from all the beds and sofas we had a wall of shelves and some hanging space. A safe was fixed high on the wall so useless for me as I couldn't reach it never mind see to put in numbers on the lock. We also had a fridge with constant cold water available over at the main lodge and also replaced in a jug in the room. A kettle was provided with coffee and tea as well as two jars of home made mini biscuits.
The floors in the lodge were dark polished wood except for in the bathroom were there were ceramic tiles. We made sure that we took off our muddy jungle shoes and leech socks before we entered the room and left them outside the room tucked under a seat so that they didn't get wet
The rooms had been carefully designed to keep them as cool as possible using the least amount of electricity. There were ceiling fans and louvered windows all around the tops of the walls of the rooms which were insect screened and could be opened from below with handles. The balcony over looked the rainforest but ours was not quite as private as the luxury ones were and we could see other lodges and people on their verandas too.
The balcony was pretty big and had a really giant sized chair with a sponge cuchion that looked more exciting than it was comfortable. It was too big to sit on as a chair and not really quite long enough to be a chaise long but it looked good.
The bathroom was also pretty big with a really large walk in shower and the shower head was a rain shower which was lovely after you came in filthy and sweaty from a muddy hot jungle walk. We were left plenty of eco friendly toiletries and I was very happy to use those even though they didn't smell that exciting.
THE MAIN LODGE BUILDING AND FOOD
The main lodge building was similar in design to the individual room only far larger. It was all polished wooden floors and you had to take your shoes off when in the building. It was all one large room but had different sections on the floor. In one area were several groups of comfortable chairs and tables where you could sit, enjoy a drink and have a chat or just sit and look out over the rainforest. If you were lucky then some animals may come down and sit in the trees or walk around under the lodge. One day we were sitting there and a family of Red leaf monkeys came and had their breakfast in the trees at the level we were sitting.
In one corner was a raised platform with a low table and cushions. This was the only area where you might get some wifi coverage but it was a bit hit and miss. You have to remember it is in the middle of nowhere so they were relying on satellite coverage I think.
In the centre of this huge building was a bar and then behind that was the buffet and the tables where we sat for meals. All the tables overlooked the gardens and the rainforest and looked up to the hill behind which we climbed one day. The bar was well stocked and you paid for the drinks by billng them to your room.
The food was excellent and a big improvement on the Kinabatangan River Lodge.
Lunch and dinner were both buffets and I started each meal with a selection of very tasty fresh salads. The hot dished were all very good and served with rice, potatoes, bread and a number of local vegetables. One section offered local food and for lunch dishes such as roti Chennai which is a chapatti with a veggie curry and is eaten locally for breakfast or a snack at any time. I liked it for my lunch after the salad but couldn't cope with it for breakfast. You could have whatever you wanted from a range of curries, plenty of vegetarian dishes and different chicken and meat offerings too. The menu changed for each meal that we were there and I was never stuck for something different to eat.
The desserts were great too which is unusual for Malaysia as they like very bright coloured jelly desserts which are very tasteless I find. Here we had a choice of fresh local fruits as well as at least two non neon jelly offerings.
Breakfast was far more than I would ever need. I always enjoyed the fresh fruits as I love tropical fruit and then I opted for yoghurt and if I felt very naughty I looked for something sweet. My husband loves his cooked breakfasts and was in his element as there was just so much to choose from. They had all the usual beef bacon, eggs of various types including omlettes and fried eggs freshly cooked as well as the Japanese options and the Malaysian chicken porridge which is exactly as it sounds a kind of thick chicken flavoured soup offering which looked disgusting and my husband has only tried it once so it obviously is not good! Malaysian breakfast such as roti Chennai and Nasi Lemak, a strong fishy one and not a good breakfast food in my view were also available should you want something really different.
I can't leave this section without mentioning the exotic toilets. They were rather Japanese in style with dark wood cubicles and white ceramic toilets but what I was most taken with was the scented steam blower that emitted gorgeous smells. I was so taken with it that I bought one from Amazon when I got back. They also had mini real towels for you to dry your hands on and lovely round basins set on the counter as well as nice hand lotion to finish off with.
The first activity we had was a jungle walk and for that we had to don our full gear, long sleeved light shirts, leech socks and walking boots and long trousers. We really looked like intrepid jungle explorers. We then met our guide under the lodge and they offered us walking sticks. We declined but regretted this as we were with three Swiss people who obviously did mountain climbing as a hobby and galloped at speed through the jungle. It was really muddy and slippery and many of the 'paths' were up and down slopes which became a bit like a muddy water slide. You couldn't hold on to anything in the way of vegetation as leeches were there waiting to grab you ad many of the plants had barbs, stung or were poisonous. One of the Swiss men gave me his stick and they were great at grabbing hold of me as I slithered down these slopes. I really didn't want to end up on my backside! I have to say apart from leeches we didn't see much on that walk, I think maybe that was a test walk to see if we could cope.
The next activity was a slide show about the Danum Valley, the rainforest and the project to care for the rainforest. Oil palm trees have replaced many of the rubber estates that cleared the rainforest about a hundred years ago and they are trying to stop too much more forest being destroyed at the same time being aware that local people need to have an income. It was quite interesting and they also told os what sort of animals we might see as well.
We then went for a night drive after our evening meal. This was in a huge truck with benches at the back. It was not that comfortable and as the truck slipped and slithered its was along the mud roads my buttocks gripped the narrow wooden seat and my arms the metal rail so that I didn't end up on the lap of the man next to me (not my husband). The guide had a huge spot light and stood at the front and he was the spotter. The idea was that he would see the eyes of the nocturnal animals and once he found them he them shone the light on them so that we could see them. I have to say we were not lucky and only saw beasties so far away that I couldn't make them out and I do wonder if anyone else did either.
The next day we had our long jungle walk up the hill behind. It was about a mile and a half uphill climbing to about 100 feet. This would be okay but it was 100% humidity and about 40 ° C and the ground was muddy, slippery and once again you couldn't hold onto any vegetation. This time we did accept the sticks as they gave you a handle as you came down and stopped you sliding further than you wanted to!
It was an interesting walk and on the way we passed an ancient burial site where the local tribes had placed bones in crevices in a rock wall. Once we reached the summit we had great views over the rainforest and could see our lodge and the resort below. You could see for miles and we did see toucans fly across in front of us almost at our eye level.
On the way down was my favourite part. I hate going downhill as when it is so wet and slippery I spend all my time slithering and scared I am going to end up on my bum. However when we were almost at the bottom there was a clear pool with a waterfall and we could change in the rather rickety huts and have a swim there. I did take my swimsuit as did my husband but when I saw how tricky it was to change and the fact that we only had one small towel I decided that I would stick to paddling. The water was also pretty cold as the sun doesn't get through the trees.
The best part of this experience was the garrufa fish in there. If you sat on a rock or just stood in the pool then these little fish came and nibbled at your dead skin. I was not altogether sure I wanted them doing that all over my body either. My husband said that if he kept moving they didn't nibble him as he swam. I loved the feeling of them nibbling my feet and these were far more' toothy' than those I had experienced in 'Appy Feet' in Manchester (review written about that a while back). These seemed to almost have teeth while the UK versions sort of sucked you these felt like they had teeth. After I had been there for a while I had to dry my feet and put my socks and shoes back on. My feet honestly felt like I had had a foot massage. It was brilliant and I wanted to go back there the next day for another treatment.
We got back from here for a late lunch and relaxed in the afternoon around the lodge. That evening we went for a night walk which again sadly proved disappointing but it is luck with wildlife and nocturnal ones are even more elusive.
The following morning we went for a walk over the canopy bridges which offered some great views but once again the wildlife stayed far too well hidden. In the afternoon we were luckier as we saw an Orangutan quite close and another with a baby as well as several red leaf monkeys which look similar to Orangutans but are more social so travel in a troupe while Orangutans stay by themselves unless the mother has a baby with her.
The lodge accommodates a maximum of only 60 people and the staff are so good at making everything easy for the guests. As you get back from your walks in the muddy jungle there are seats where you can remove your muddy boots with special squirty hoses to wash the boots off. You then leave your boots downstairs and go up barefoot for your meal or drinks upstairs. When we got back from the long walk we were met with fresh cool drinks. There was a water refilling station wher e you could refill your drinking water bottles prior to going on the walks. The shop sold leech socks at a reasonable price as well as other jungle shirts and gear and some souvenirs but nothing that tempted us.
For two nights experience and return transport from Lahad Datu by 4x4 as well as meals at Lodge - 2 Breakfast, 3 Lunches, 2 Dinners per person costs U$656 for a standard lodge which we had but a superior one would be U$767. That price included all the activities as well as the guide who is a trained expert naturalist and a guide must be present for all walks/hikes. No one is permitted to go on walks/hikes without a guide except just around the lodge area. This is because there are animals in the rainforest and not all of them are friendly and of course it also protects the animals too. It is also |VERY easy to get lost in the jungle as there are no landmarks that are obvious.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
Yes the accommodation is superb and you have so much to do in the way of activities but you do have to be prepared not to see any wildlife as rainforest creatures are notoriously shy and difficult to see. We had been spoiled in Madagascar as we had been so lucky and seen so many animals and this was a bit disappointing. Perhaps if we had not already experienced the rainforests in Peru, Costa Rica and Madagascar then it would have been more of a novelty just to be in the rainforest.
The place is really lovely, the rooms luxurious for rainforest lodges and the food really good.
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