Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sabah Trip. Day 2: 28th May, Kota Kinabalu - Danum Valley

An early start today, rising at 4.45am to get a flight to Lahad Datu. The hotel thoughtfully provided us with a packed breakfast - 4 egg sandwiches and 2 boiled eggs each - must have thought we needed a little extra cholesterol!

The scenery en route to Lahad Datu was a mix of spectacular - forest-covered ranges and early morning views of Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in South-east Asia - and sad - logging trails reaching out like sandy tendrils along seemingly every ridge top, and blankets of oil palm plantations as we neared Lahad Datu.

Kota Kinabalu in the early morning sun.

Gunung Kinabalu is a truly impressive mountain, even from a distance.

Lahad Datu airport is little more than a glorified coffee-shop. That's our plane through the window.

We were in Lahad Datu by 8.30am, but then had a seven-hour wait to get our ride into Danum Valley. So we dumped our bags in the DVFC office and whiled away the time playing endless games of Uno, and occasionally venturing out to see what the town had to offer in the way of food and other delights (which wasn't much). Hardware stores containing prodigious quantities of fertilisers and herbicides predominated, and 2 out of 3 vehicles on the roads seemed to be 4-wheel drives, giving the place a real frontier town feel.

Our van finally departed punctually at 3.30pm. After half an hour on sealed roads, we turned off onto logging trails for a bumpy hour and 45 minutes. Every few minutes we were forced to pull over to one side to allow huge logging trucks past. Looming out of clouds of dust backlit by the sun, they looked like prehistoric monsters, and carried tree trunks as much as twice as long as their trailers. We counted 29 trucks carrying, on average, 10 trees each, in the space of an hour or so - just frightening.

We finally arrived at the Field Centre in light rain, and were immediately urged by the friendly staff to come take a look at an orang utan that was feeding in a fruiting tree just behind the restaurant. Dusk was beginning to fall and the animal had already settled into its nest for the night, so all we could see was a langorously outstretched arm. A great introduction to Danum nevertheless!

Danum Valley Field Centre from the river.

After a superb evening meal, Roger and I went for a lamping session. No birds or mammals, but spectacular creepy crawlies aplenty!

A large spider under a leaf chomping on something tasty!

Another spider - different model, spiny like its host plant.

This attractive lizard sleeping on a vine overhanging the path is probably a juvenile Gonocephalus lizard. Can anyone tell me?

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