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Published: June 24th 2018
The Amazing Danum Valley
(Note: this post covers my first full day at Danum and was written that day. The next three days will be in one post coming a bit later)
I started the first day at Danum with an obscenely early start for a sunset watch. They drive you to a view point early in the morning to watch the sunrise over the forest. I wouldn't have done it, but they offered me the last seat in an already full vehicle so the cost was split. It was quite spectacular to watch the sunrise over the forest with the tree covered hills like islands and the cloud filling the valley below. There were sunrise birds about too of course including two species of parrot and the morning gibbon chorus and on the return drive we saw a Bornean Yellow Muntjac cross the road. A bit of birding around the centre produced a female Bornean Created Fireback Pheasant.
After breakfast, I had arranged to do a walk around one of the longer guide-only trails to be split with the one other independent traveler here (all the other tourists are with groups) because they charge a
rather excessive RM30 per hour for a guide. This would allow me to determine whether a ranger was actually necessary or useful and whatever I could get away with doing the guide-only trails on my own. We did the rhino pool loop which is supposed to take 3 and a half hours but took almost 5 because of stopping for birds. Tick-wise I got three birds: Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Bornean Wren-babbler which I was pleased with as I had looked for it and failed to find it at the RDC and most excitingly a species that has been high on my want list for years - the world's largest woodpecker - Great Slaty. A guide isn't necessary though. The trails are difficult but only in that they're slippery and steep, not that they're tricky to follow. And the guide just walks in front of you scaring away the wildlife and getting in the way when you do see something, although in fairness that's all they claim to do. They call themselves rangers anyway, not guides, and are just their for 'safety'.
There were lots of pill millipedes too which are fun as well as loads of tiger leeches.
I didn't see a single terrestrial leech so leech socks seem a bit unnecessary (though literally everyone wears them) but tiger leeches sit on leaves and attached to your body as you go past. They seem to crawl around for a while before actually biting though and their crawling as soon as they get to bare skin is very noticeable, unlike terrestrial leeches, so although I got loads on me, I was able to flick them off every time before they bit. Just as we got back to the field centre just near the dining room was a wonderfully showy group of Maroon Langurs and I got one a couple of metres from me at eye level eating leaves. I think I got some good pictures, they certainly look very good on the back of the camera.
At lunch I had a rather coincidental meeting: a group of three French birders and mammal watchers who I met at Taman Negara and hung around with a bit. The three of them showed up here at the DVFC! So that's a fun coincidence (I don't recall if they made it into the Taman Negara blogs at any point? I
think they did?). They're going to Deramakot after Danum, the lucky sods. And they got two Tapirs on their single night at Kumbang Hide with one coming out before dusk, while I had to wait until 4AM on the second night! Anyway. I should be able to get some locations off them for Mt Kinabalu though since they've just been there. This isn't the first time this has happened on this trip - birder/wildlife types tend to follow the same circuit. Though this is one of the more noteworthy coincidences.
In the afternoon I went back to the dorm for a rest but it's insanely hot. The locals are all complaining too because apparently it hasn't been raining enough and that's making the animals come out less too. The dorm itself is particularly hot and I found that I just really needed salt so I just went to the dining hall and ate some salt. I've been sweating so much in these last few places that I've had to wear too shirts a day, the morning shirt just absolutely stinks by lunchtime. I could really do with a 100 Plus which is a drink that seems everywhere
in Malaysia but not at the DVFC seemingly. It's basically like a salty cross between sprite and lucozade.
That night's night drive was already full (I thought my issue would be finding enough people to share with! Not the opposite!) So I booked onto the next. They do night walks here, but I decided that if I went on the self-guides sections of the trail just spotlighting it would be fine and I didn't need a guide to do a walk. It started raining just as I was about to go for the afternoon birding which is kind of what I was hoping for? So I just went and had a cup of tea in the dining room instead and watched the birds and Maroon Langurs from the balcony. The temperature did drop pretty much straight away though so that's good. I though the rain had stopped so I went out for a little bit of last birding. It had not stopped. It came back. I got soaked, naturally.
At dinner I got some good tips off the French guys and also gave them some suggestions and we decided to go spotlighting together thought
it wasn't hugely successful with a small unidentifiable mouse, a slow loris, and a red giant flying squirrel and a Malay civet with quite a few hours of spotlighting (just briefly pointing out that I found all of them :p despite the fact that all three of them were also spotlighting :p. I think I might actually be quite good at finding eyeshine)
New birds and mammals will come in the next post for all these days at Danum.
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