Orangutans swing from tree branches and pygmy elephants lurk in the foliage. An almost mystical mist bathes the early morning valleys as visitors wake up to the constant buzz of jungle life. Throw in countless trails, night safaris and a research centre attracting the world’s best conservation scientists. Welcome to Danum Valley, Malaysia’s must-see spot.
Danum Valley’s ancient rainforests are a primate playground. There is unmatched biodiversity combined with world-class research facilities and mysterious pagan burial sites. Culture Trip uncovers how to get to Danum Valley, the wildest part of Borneo.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Why you should visit Danum Valley
Danum Valley is Malaysia’s wildest, most untouched jungle paradise. The 130-million-year-old dipterocarp forest sits far from civilisation with exceptional biodiversity. Hairy orangutans watch curiously from the branches as the gibbons’ echoing chants reverberate around the forest. Visitors will also find a world-class ecological research facility and guides with decades of experience. Danum Valley not only offers the best of Borneo’s rainforest, but it also gives a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stay deep within the jungle.
What you need to know
Danum Valley’s location is both a blessing and hindrance. From Lahad Datu, the nearest town, it’s another two to three hours driving along logging roads. There are three ways to get from Lahad Datu to the field centre: self-driving, private transfers and the shuttle bus. Anyone with a car needs a permit from the Lahad Datu Office.
Arranging a trip to Danum Valley can be challenging. Travellers should arrange accommodation (and book transfers) through their official website. Or visit Danum Valley’s Head Office in Kota Kinabalu.
Pro tip: Visitors usually report difficulties when using their website. Culture Trip advises consulting TripAdvisor to read about travellers’ recent experiences. Book the trip at least a month in advance.
Forms of transportation
Before even considering how to get to Danum Valley, you’ll first need to reach Lahad Datu in Eastern Sabah. Daily flights connect from the capital Kota Kinabalu, or visitors can take the express bus. It’s also possible to drive the 400 kilometres (249 miles) from Kota Kinabalu, an option that allows travellers to pass through Ranau, Sandakan and the Kinabatangan River.
Renting a car and driving is the fastest way to get to Danum Valley, but this option can be difficult. From Lahad Datu, it’s approximately 81 kilometres (50.3 miles) to Danum Valley Field Centre and the first 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) follow the main highway towards Tawau. Turn onto the Yayasan Sabah Group logging road and continue to the checkpoint located at 6 kilometres (3.7 miles), then present the pre-bought permit from the Lahad Datu Office. Drive an additional 57 kilometres (35.4 miles), then turn left and drive 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) to Danum Valley Field Centre. Visitors can register at the Reception, Information & Shop Building near the main entrance.
Pro tip: Logging roads are uneven, muddy and shared with heavy goods vehicles that are often overloaded with timber. You’ll need a 4×4, experience driving off-road and confidence.
Danum Valley’s shuttle bus operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This takes passengers between Lahad Datu and Danum Valley Field Centre. Journeys take two hours along bumpy dirt roads. Tickets cost RM65 (about $15.71 USD) per passenger. Finding out the exact schedules can be challenging, and unpredictable weather (heavy rains and landslides) might disrupt travel. Culture Trip suggests contacting Danum Valley directly for an up-to-date timetable.
Not everyone arrives in Lahad Datu in time for the shuttle bus. Organising a private transfer from the airport is expensive, but sometimes it’s the only option. Organise private transfers when you book the trip. If you’ve arranged a tour through one of the many agencies, they’ll meet you at Lahad Datu Airport. Transfers to and from Danum Valley Field Centre will be included in the price.
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.