Monday, 14 May 2012

Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley

Hello! Greetings from STA, I hope everyone has been having a good time this month. :)

After spending almost a week on the road travelling from Sandakan to Lahad Datu, we came to our last destination in our schedule. On the 17th-19th of April, we had the chance to stay at the award-winning Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL) which is run by Borneo Nature Tours (BNT), situated in the heart of Danum Valley. BNT began operations since 1996, and is a subsidiary of Sabah Foundation Group of Companies (Yayasan Sabah). BRL is situated alongside the Danum River, flowing through the Danum Valley Conservation Area, Sabah's largest protected lowland rainforest which covers 43, 800 hectares and comprises almost entirely of lowland dipterocarp forest.

This happened to be my very first time being in Lahad Datu and going to BRL as well, and I was extremely excited (very cliche). The moment you step into the Borneo Nature Tours (BNT) office at Lahad Datu town, you are greeted with warm smiles and service. The office itself had a luxurious feel to it, with the cool ambiance and friendly staff. In order to get into BRL, you will have to go to the BNT office first to have their transportation pick you up, as entry to BRL is based on vehicles that are granted a permit by the forestry department. 
BNT Office@Lahad Datu Town
Filling in the reservation form.
Mr.Isabelo Garcia (Director of Operations) in black with Martin

From the BNT office in Lahad Datu town, the assigned driver will then drive you to BRL. Danum in itself is a beautiful place, a picturesque destination with trees in abundance. The journey to BRL takes approximately 2 hours and a half, from Lahad Datu town. The road on the way is quite bumpy, but I assure you, the drivers are all very experienced and will make the journey as comfortable as possible for you.
The ride

After the 2 hours and a half journey, passing through many government tree replanting sites and the well-known Danum Valley Field Centre, we arrived at our destination.

Soon as we got out of the car, we were greeted by the floor staff as they draped us with a wreath of  'pandan' leaves around the neck, and handed an icy cool face towel to boot. Mind you, the weather was slightly humid when we got there. We were then escorted to the lobby, and served a 'pandan' lime drink. Just the right kind of drink, refreshing, as we listened to the Operations Manager, Mr.Henry Llames, brief us on the activities and facilities available at the lodge. He then introduced us to our guide, Mr.Dennysius Aloysius, or as he preferred to be called Denny, who further explained the activities that we will be doing and what to expect. (The whole time this was going on, I can think of nothing except for.... LEECHES!)
Henry in action (big smiles)
Denny, our passionate guide

After the briefing was done, we were then taken to our rooms. I must say, I was really excited to see the room, what with the lobby looking like that.. one has to wonder. Well folks, wonder no more, I present to you our room!
ah, what captured our eyes instantly. :D
Yes I know it doesn't look pretty here with all the mess. Girls. hehe
Seating area
View from the inside

What I really liked about our room was the fact that we were facing the river, a calming view. After settling in, Chloe and I headed to the boys' rooms to check out the scene. Boy oh boy, did I love Martin's room too. Spacious and comfy, he shared the same view as us; the serene river. After a quick snap of the room, all of us headed to the restaurant for lunch. 

Nobody snapped any photos of the food we had, we were all famished after the journey to BRL. Suffice to say, everyone had a pretty good lunch and it was worth the wait. *winks*

At 3pm sharp, we experienced our first walk of the day, a welcome to the virgin forest of Danum. For this afternoon walk, Denny brought us around the Nature Trail, which is 0.6km in length. The walk took us about 1 hour, roughly. So okay, let's get real here, Danum Valley is well-known for its population of leeches, especially the Tiger leech. *cringe*

Me being me, I was of course afraid of encountering it. What Chloe and I did was (yes ladies, tips here, don't forget it :)) we sprayed ourselves with insect repellents and made sure we didn't miss any body part. Naturally, I'm sure it makes sense why you would need insect repellent in the jungle, right? Unless you don't mind getting mosquito bites :p
The Nature Trail
Denny telling us more information about the Mengaris tree

We began our trek shortly after the introduction of the Mengaris tree, usually found in a tropical rainforest. Along the trail, there were a lot of flora habitats and we even saw a wild orchid. My first time seeing one, it is real pretty. We didn't see much of the fauna during this walk, but we managed to see the trails it left behind. In particular, a wild boar's trail. *piglet~~~*

After the walk, we returned to the lodge to freshen up for the night safari briefing and dinner. Due to the large crowd for the 8.45pm drive, we went for the earlier slot at 6.45pm as suggested by Denny. The drive lasted about 2 hours, and we were seated behind a big truck with the capacity of carrying at least 8 people. The ride was comfy, with cushioned seats on both sides and Denny was seated right on top of the truck as he was our spotter for the night. It was a quiet night for us, unfortunately, as there were not much to see due to the heavy rain earlier during the day. We then returned to the restaurant for dinner and to catch up on some much needed snooze after the long day.

what I had on my first night :)

The night ended pretty quickly, as I soon found myself all geared up, walking to the lobby for our early morning trek to the Canopy Walkway, which is 300m in length with multiple viewing platforms and stands at 26m at the highest point as stated in their website. The view from the top platform was simply breathtaking, coupled with the fresh air and cool morning breeze... ahh, it just can't get any better than this! Shortly after, we headed back for breakfast and to prepare for the 3 hours walk to the well-known Coffin Cliff.

Canopy Walkway
We paid a visit to the famous friend of Danum Valley, the Tiger Leech *cringe*
Tonny (STA Chairman), yours truly, James, Chloe & Martin (STA Treasurer)
The magnificent view from the Viewpoint. I think I can see my room from here.

The journey to the coffin cliff wasn't an easy one for me, as I rarely ever go for long walks. We were advised to each bring a walking stick, and it sure was useful going through the steep slopes along the hills. However, when we got to the viewpoint, it was worth the walk, as the view is just amazing. I was out of breath by the time we got up (warning: fitness level not good enough), so was everyone else except of course Denny. After a few snaps, we proceeded to go down to the burial grounds of the Dusun Subpan tribe. Walking to the burial site was kinda eerie in a way, what with it being extremely quiet and breezy, looks like a scene from another horror movie if you think about it...... kidding! :p

There are various coffins that are still visible on the cliff, with that of the Chief of the Subpan tribe as well as little children. Denny gave us a brief explanation on how to differentiate the coffins and how it was made during the olden days. After viewing the coffins, we then headed to the jacuzzi pool for a nice cold afternoon dip and fish spa. (picture a nice looking waterfall, clear water and lots of fishes) :)
Coffin Cliff
Jacuzzi Pool+Fish Spa
Martin's reaction to the fishes. LOL

A little after 1, we made a move back to the lodge as it began to drizzle. After lunch, we had a few minutes to rest before heading out for tubing session. I bet you must be wondering what exactly is tubing, is it even a word? Well, yeah, I did too. I've never heard of tubing before until I came to BRL, I even googled the word to see if it exists! Tubing was, as Calixtus (Operations Manager for Jungle Activities) said, a form of relaxation as you cruise through the river with minimal movements. Hmmmm....

Getting ready to hit the river
Almost reached the lodge, I was holding onto Denny's leg. (Si Penakut, LOL)
The 'After' faces (didn't realize we were that tanned)

Funny thing before we went tubing, it was super humid and there was nothing but clear blue skies (oh it stopped raining after we got back). The minute I changed my mind to join, it started pouring heavily and made the tubing experience more adventurous than what we had expected due to the heavy current. Super fun, and I would've regretted it if I hadn't tried. By the time we reached the lodge, it was still raining. The weather just seemed so cosy to sleep-in, but we had other plans instead. Chloe, James and I decided to soak ourselves in the tub outside our room. It just seemed like the most rewarding thing to do after a long journey, to just relax the body.

I think I almost fell asleep in the tub, bad idea. hahaha. After soaking session, we quickly got ready for dinner as we had the night walk right after. For the night walk, we took the Nature Trail again. It was a bit chilly that night, and it even rained a little. We saw many kinds of amphibians and insects (none of which I can recall, due to the strange scientific names. sorry, hehe). Night walk ended around 9pm, and soon as we got back, both Chloe and I headed straight to the bar for a chill-out session. We spent the remainder of the night just chit-chatting with the staff and headed to snooze at 12. 

The next morning was our last day at BRL. Initially, we were supposed to go for an early morning walk but the day before we changed plans to visit the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) instead. Thankfully, we managed to get everything arranged at the last minute. We checked-out of our rooms around 10am, and headed straight for breakfast. A heavy one at that, as we were informed that no food is provided during the journey to DVFC and at DVFC itself. Before leaving, as per usual, we snapped photos with the BRL team.  I felt sad upon leaving, as we had such a good time there with its amazing staff service and hospitality. Alas, time had come for us to go back to reality~~

Thank you so much to BNT and all BRL staff, I loved every single minute of my experience here and I hope to visit again in the future!!!

P/S: I apologize for the long overdue post, it took me quite sometime to put all this into words due to my imagination getting the best of me. hehe. If you have read so far as to this line, THANK YOU! I do hope you enjoy reading this :)

For more information, kindly contact the BNT office and visit their website. :)

Kota Kinabalu Sales Office      

Block D, Ground Floor, Lot 10
Sadong Jaya Complex
P.O.Box 11622
88100 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia

Tel: +60 88 267637
Fax: +60 88 251636

Tour Operator Number: KPL/LN: 3719

Lahad Datu Operations Office  

Lot 20, Block 3, MDLD 3285, Ground Floor,
Fajar Lorong 9, Fajar Centre
91120 Lahad Datu

Tel : +60 89 880 207
Fax : +60 89 885 051

Tour Operator Number: KKKP: 3026



  1. Looks like an amazing place to R&R! The nature scene is absolutely breathtaking. Ahhh... One of these days. Oh btw, love the blog post and thank you for the info. :D

  2. My cuzzie you are sooooo lucky!! next time we go Danum Valley together and meet the leeches again yerhhhh!!

  3. wish there's more photos on the view.. gosh, the place seems so FUN~! eerie too. hehe

  4. Glad you all enjoyed it, will be posting photos of the whole place in the STA facebook account and link it. kindly check back soon :)

  5. Hey,
    Can I use your photo of tubing? I work for the UK based Experience Travel Group and I'm finding it tricky finding tubing photos - no one knows what it is here and I think I should show them. I can credit the image to this blog? Do let me know - Philly