You’ll find the world’s highest concentration of wild orangutans and a rainforest lodge fit for royalty. Throw in exceptional biodiversity, insects the size of your arm and world-class research facilities. Welcome to Danum Valley: Malaysia’s very own Galápagos Islands.
Borneo’s 130-million-year-old Danum Valley is home to unmatched biodiversity and a world-class research facility. This bowl-shaped valley houses hundreds of species of wildlife, many of which remain undiscovered. Culture Trip explores Malaysia’s untouched jungle paradise, a favourite of both Sweden’s King Gustav and Britain’s Prince William.
Borneo’s most elusive jungle
Early morning mist hangs above the valley as the enormous equatorial sun rises above the dense, verdant canopy. The forest wakes to the buzz of cicadas and a chorus of hoo-hoo-hooing gibbons. Danum Valley, a jungle in Borneo covering an area roughly the size of Singapore, holds many titles. Most can see why this spot is known for its biodiversity—after all, it has the planet’s highest concentration of wild orangutans. It also houses almost every species of primate in Malaysia, including the strange pot-bellied proboscis monkeys. Rangers claim a handful of the critically endangered Sumatran rhinos occasionally roam near Danum Valley too. It’s easy to see why European royalty has travelled halfway around the world to explore Danum Valley’s deep interior.
Biodiversity Darwin would be proud of
It’s a long way to Danum Valley, but the journey is worth it. Witnessing Borneo’s biodiversity is a privilege: Picture eating breakfast while a family of long-haired orangutans sit in the nearby tree branches. Imagine the thrill of following trails to the tiny pygmy elephants (Asia’s smallest elephants). Look up into the colossal trees (Danum Valley has the world’s tallest tropical trees) and see cute black sun bears hugging the trunks. Danum Valley is also a bird-watching haven: More than 270 species of birds, including eight types of the cartoon-like hornbill flutter around the canopy. In 2017, the previously undiscovered spectacled flowerpecker made an appearance here—so keep your eyes peeled for this little fluffy black-feathered bird!
Enter the smaller lifeforms. Researchers discover new species of insects on an almost weekly basis. Butterflies the size of your head flutter around while countless supersized bugs march along the forest floor.
More than 15,000 species of plants and flowers grow in Danum Valley. These include colourful orchids and the creepy carnivorous pitcher plants. The inverted bell-shaped pitchers entice bugs inside by omitting a sweet scent before digesting them alive.
Night safaris and canopy walks
Countless activities are on offer in Danum Valley, catering to the eco-tourist within us all. Guides with over 20 years of experience hiking through the rainforest take tourists around trails to waterfalls, rivers and habitats.
Brave travellers can follow in Prince William’s footsteps and climb the bamboo ladders attached to the soaring trees. On the canopy walks near the Field Centre, there’s the perfect vantage point to spy on unsuspecting wildlife.
Night safaris cruise along Danum Valley’s logging roads, where visitors can look into the almost hypnotic glowing yellow eyes of buffy fish owls. Watch out for the occasional clouded leopard in the scrub and civets dashing in front of your jeep.
Danum Valley has a few mysterious 300-year-old pagan burial sites too. There are plenty of other things to do in Danum Valley as well.
Borneo’s jungle isn’t just for conservationists and eco-tourists. On two occasions, the jungle hosted European royalty: first, King Gustav and Queen Silvia of Sweden in 1996, then Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge in 2012. Both stayed in the ultra-luxurious Borneo Rainforest Lodge. For approximately $1,000 per night, you too can wake up in the jungle like royalty. Danum Valley’s hostel caters to budget-conscious travellers—a bed costs as little as $20 per night.
How to get to Danum Valley
Danum Valley is far from civilisation. From Kuala Lumpur, travellers first need to reach Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, then find a connection to Lahad Datu on the east coast before a two-hour drive along logging roads to the Danum Valley Field Centre where visitors stay.
Independent travellers need to take the shuttle bus that operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or arrange a private transfer. Representatives will meet travellers on a tour at Lahad Datu Airport and take them to the Danum Valley Field Centre. Here’s more information on how to get to Danum Valley. But act fast—visitor numbers are limited to preserve its protected status.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.