The Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley

The lounge area of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge

We started our day with a two hour drive from the Kinabatangan River to the town of Lahad Datu. Here we are taken to the office of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. The Lodge is an additional three hour drive up into the rainforest. Guests are put into a pickup or a Toyota Landcruiser and we begin the journey. The paved road ends about 1/4 of the way into the drive. The remainder of the road looks and feels a lot like the logging roads at home in Oregon.

We even cross a few creeks on our way to the Lodge.
Buffet style eating at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.

Once at the Lodge, we have lunch and are shown our room. This lodge has been described by the Lonely Planet Borneo guidebook as for “Indiana Jones types with healthy wallets.” Pretty accurate. The rooms are beautiful, the food is good, and the guides are knowledgeable. They also have a proper wine list and real coffee to my delight. No Indiana Jones movie would be complete without a suspension bridge, and there is even one of those.

Our room overlooks a river.

We relax in our room, and watch a torrent of rain as a thunderstorm moves overhead. Our first hike is a short afternoon orientation walk. Leech socks are essential. Leeches sit on the leaves and reach out as you pass, trying to attach themselves as we walk by. Every now and then we stop for a leech check. The socks are pulled over your pant leg, and if a leech climbs up your shoe and lower leg, they can’t penetrate the sock. I picked up a leech on the first walk, but did not get bitten. By the end of our three day stay, both my sister and I were bitten by at least one leech, and we did wear leech socks.

Our first evening at the lodge we walked the short distance to a frog pond looking for frogs. We found some. Maybe not as exciting as an orangutan, but it was fun.

On our second day at the BRL we started out at 8 am to walk up to the overlook. It is a four hour round trip hike. It was not a flat walk, and it was warm and humid. We crossed several suspension bridges, and saw at least three wild orangutans in the tree tops.

The trail at times was steep and muddy.
A view of the lodge below, from the top of the trail.

From the viewpoint, you can either return back down the same trail, or continue a bit further, on even steeper terrain, to Fairy Falls. We opted to continue. It was worth it.

Fairy Falls, a little walk past the viewpoint.

We were told to bring our swim suits along on the hike, and there would be a natural pool for swimming. As promised, hot and tired on our return hike to the lodge, we plunged into the cool natural pool. It was heaven.

We were back down to the lodge by 12:30. It was a good walk despite the heat, humidity and leeches, and I had a massage scheduled for 3 pm.

There is wildlife in the area surrounding the lodge, you really don’t have to go far. We saw a Malay Civet not far from the lodge entrance. The photo below is not good, but the best I could get, as it was at night, zoomed in with an iPhone. The civet cat was under a landscape light eating bugs.

The next morning, before breakfast, we headed to the canopy walk. The mist hangs in the tree tops most mornings. We left the lodge near sunrise, and watched as the shadows faded and the colors turned from dark to green.

Sunrise on the canopy walk.
In the morning, as mist hangs over the tree tops. As the sun rises the colors change from grey and dark to a vibrant green.

In the afternoon of the same day, we got a very close look at a rather large orangutan. He had been in a tree close to the lodge and decided it was time to climb down. We watched as he made his way under the boardwalks that connect the rooms. Suddenly he grabbed a small tree and easily swung up onto the boardwalk. A guide called out “Back, back”, to us, not the great ape. The orangutan slipped between the rails and then down over the other side. It was wonderful to see him so close.

That afternoon, my sister and I joined the guide for a walk in search of the Red Leaf Langur. We set out to see that specific monkey, and darned if we didn’t. We found three, playing in the trees and watched them for a while. If was just the two of us and the guides, so we were able to be quietly watch them for as long as we wished.

Red Leaf Langur

On our last evening at the lodge, we did a night walk, hoping to see deer. We didn’t see the deer (we did see their tracks) but we did see a Tarsier, also called a ghost monkey. They are very small, about 4 to 5 inches tall, nocturnal creatures. We saw it hanging onto a reed stem. My photo was so blurry as to be unusable, so I am using a photo from the book in our room. I don’t like to use photos other than my own, but it was a relatively rare sighting and I don’t think many people would be able to picture what a Tarsier looks like, so I am using this. I am sorry that I didn’t take notes to be able to site the name of the book or the photographer.

We saw a Tarsier like this one on our night walk. This is a photo from a book in the room.
We also saw this Lantern Fly on our night walk.
Lantern Fly

On the morning of our departure, from our deck we saw eight otters scamper along the river. This was the second morning we saw them, playing and catching fish. They are Small Clawed Otters. I did one last nature walk in the morning and was rewarded with Gibbons. I saw two, high in a tree. It was the first sighting of Gibbons for us.

Our list of sightings here was pretty good. There were many more birds than I can name, but here is a short list of what we saw:

Malay Civet


Small Clawed Otter

Blue-throated Bee-eater

Rhinoceros Hornbill

Monitor Lizard

Tarsier, “ghost monkey”

Red Leaf Langur



We did not see any elephants at the RFL, but a few guests saw them on the drive up. Our return drive to the airport in Lahad Datu was much faster than the drive up. It felt like we were participating in the East African Safari Classic. The driver took 30 minutes off the trip, but probably 3 years off my life. We staggered out of the vehicle at the airport, glad to be getting into a turboprop. The 45 minute ATR flight to Kota Kinabalu was much smoother.

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4 Responses to The Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley

  1. Teresa Favazza says:

    Wow, would have loved the sunrise canopy walk and you got to see a lot of wonderful animals like Red leaf larger, colorful lantern fly and of course the cute orangutans Would not have like the leeches.

  2. Hisae Homma says:

    I’m curious what made you feel the drive to the airport took 3 years off from your life. Steep cliff/. Difficult road?

    I’m envious you have documented most of your memorable trips in this portal. I’ve had only countable trips with one hand but the memories are all blurry now. I can’t even identify where I took the photos.

  3. What a fantastic trip thank a for sharing!

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