Into the Valley! (20th)

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June 20th 2018
Published: June 21st 2018
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(The situation with internet here is that there is phone signal which only works in a couple of spots, none of which are anywhere near the accommodation so I will post stuff occasionally while I'm here, but probably not daily. Though having said that, I just went to a spot which I though had a decent connection and it will give me achingly slow download speeds but effectively no upload so ratg the than faffing around trying to upload I've written this post and you'll get it when you get it.)

I had quite a bit of time in the morning and I had intended to have a lie in because I was feeling rather tired and a bit coldy. But I woke up naturally at 6:45 anyway.

After breakfast I went to check the situation with buses to Kota Kinabalu and found that it was far from ideal. All of the operators had a morning and night bus at 9:30 or 10 AM and PM. I would miss the morning buses with the scheduled transfer from Danum and a night bus for 6-7 hour ride to the drop off point near Mt Kinabalu then trying to work out how to get from there to my accommodation near the park HQ at stupid-o'clock AM sounds pretty horrendous. One operator had a 4:30 bus which wouldn't be much better. There's flights form Lahad Datu to Kota Kinabalu too but then I'd have to work out how to get to the mountain and they're obviously quite expensive. Worst case scenario, I have one day fewer at Mt Kinabalu (leaving me with 5 nights rather than 6) and have to stay somewhere on the way but I'll leave that until after I get back from Danum.

I relaxed a bit in the accommodation in the late morning then went out for lunch to a local restaurant nearby. This was my first time where I had a little bit of difficulty being understood with only English. None of the servers there spoke any, but they called someone out from the back who did a bit. I think this highlights just how widely spoken English is in Malaysia, the vast majority of people seem to speak at least basic English and it's used as an official language here. I think that makes Malaysia much easier to travel in compared to other countries in the region.

After lunch I sat around in the accommodation a bit more, they had agreed to let me check out late, as I only needed to get to the DVFC office by about 2PM. I decided that rather than walking back up the hill the 2km in the heat with all my stuff, I called an RM4 Grab Taxi. There was only one other tourist going into Danum on this transfer, but there were a few researchers. The bus left the town and went through plantations for a little while and then into logged secondary forest with small trees which became larger and larger as we entered more primary forest. The driver stopped for wildlife along the way including a Bearded Pig running across the road in full daylight.

It's a decently long way, 2 and a half hours in total, most of which is on appallingly rough gravel tracks. It would be fine in a 4x4 or just something with more clearance but it was fairly bad in a minibus. After a briefing and registration at the reception and dropping stuff off at the dorm, I went for a walk around the self-guided nature trail just for the hour of sunlight that was left and it was extremely successful. The best sightings were both flyovers one being a Bornean Falconet and before that, two massive hornbills flew over with extremely loud wingbeats and I noticed something: tail streamers! Only one massive hornbill with tail streamers around: Helmeted! That was quick for one of the biggest Danum targets! I'd still like to see one perched though to get a proper view of the distinctive 'helmet'. I've now got six out of eight Bornean hornbills: missing wreathed (which I saw in West Malaysia at Taman Negara anyway) and white-crowned. Beardes pigs and maroon langurs right in the field centre area too.

I had a night drive after dinner which was split seven ways making RM160 for over two hours but split 7 ways quite cheap. There were lots of Sambar around the field centre and we saw two slow loris as well as lots of Red Giant Flying Squirrels. As we were on the way back, the guide spotted another Red Giant Flying Squirrel but it looked small to me just from the eyeshine and when it came into proper view on the trunk I suddenly sharply inhaled breath and said 'it's a Thomas'. One of the two spotters knew what I was on about and it was the much rarer endemic Thomas' Flying Squirrel which is smaller, brighter red, and with no black markings and we even saw it glide.

The night drive lasted until 10 which is better than I had expected and they dropped me off directly at the dorms (which is a bit of a walk from the main area). The dorms themselves are very basic but fine and they wouldn't get away with charging RM95 if it was anywhere else but Danum. There are a few people in the dorm because there's a university group but apparently the female dorm is much fuller.

New birds seen:
Rufous-tailed Shama
Helmeted Hornbill
Whiskered Treeswift
Crested Goshawk

Thomas' Giant Flying Squirrel

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


21st June 2018

So good to hear from you William
Sounds like things are becoming a bit tougher as you go further, William.Please do keep us posted when you can and do take care.Is there a chance of seeing a tasier here?

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