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Borneo Rainforest Lodge
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Reviewed 26 April 2014

For the ultimate rain forest experience I cannot recommend Danum Valley too highly. With much of the world’s rain forests disappearing at a fast rate to visit the Borneo rain forest at Danum Valley is a real treat.

Danum Valley is not a zoo, so what you see during your visit is very much a matter of luck and patience. Of the large mammals even if you are unlucky not to see truly wild orang-utans, or leaf monkeys you will be sure to wake to the cries of Gibbons in the trees along the river. Walking along one of the many trails your guide will bring the forest to life pointing out not only the magnificent trees and flora but observing the many birds and insects and all the biodiversity that makes rain forests so important to our planet’s wellbeing.

If you have a particular interest; birds, mammals, insects, flora…, then I advise you to book a private guide but make sure, when you book, that the office in Kota Kinabalu passes your request to the rangers at the resort. For my third visit there this spring we were promised an experienced birder but on arrival were allocated a trainee! This mistake was soon sorted out; I hasten to add that nothing is too much trouble for Boneo Nature Tours who manage the bookings, and we were then allocated an excellent guide in the form of Adzel who became a delightful companion in the four days we spent at Danum.

Two hours or so by dirt road from Lahad Datu the accommodation and facilities are luxurious to say the least. Choose a deluxe chalet with river view, after all you have come so far so it’s worth that little bit extra, and you can luxuriate, at the end of a day’s trekking, not that the treks are very arduous, in an outside hot tub with the sounds of the forest and the gentle babbling of the river below. Meals in the open sided restaurant area are buffet style but I challenge anyone to eat better anywhere else in Sabah.

One word of warning though I would not advise you to spend the money on the animal spotting or extended private night drives. Night drives included in your package take you up the entrance road to just before the junction with the main forest road and the extended drives do not go much further. In 2010 my wife and I went on the inaugural private drive and then we turned left at the entrance and drove for a long way into the heart of the forest reserve seeing porcupines, binturong, leopard cats, civets… We were out till well after midnight and felt it was well worth the money. We wished to repeat the experience this time hoping to see the illusive clouded leopards but it was not to be. We drove to the entrance, went about 100 metres each way and then returned to base. The standard night drive that night saw more creatures than we did.

However that experience apart, Danum Valley is my favourite place on earth made all the more precious by knowing that some of the expense is contributing to vital research at the Danum Valley Research Centre nearby.

Room Tip: Spend the extra on a deluxe riverside chalet, it is worth it.
  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled as a couple
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Thank felixstowejohn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 April 2014

I did the 3D/2N package and stayed in a 'deluxe' cabin (glad I did this as I loved just looking out across the river at the rainforest). My experience was very good. I found the cabin comfortable (no air conditioning but I slept comfortably), the food nice (all buffet) and the environment beautiful. I had some trouble making my booking, but once I arrived the on-the-ground staff were excellent and very professional. The central lodge was really lovely. This place is not on the same level of luxury as African safari lodges I've experienced, but it was very pleasant and I really appreciate their focus on eco-friendly practices. Also, unlike Africa where there seemed to be amazing animals everywhere I looked, these animals were much more elusive, but that made seeing what we saw really special and exciting and I definitely felt satisfied with what we saw (pygmy elephant, three orangs, gibbons, red leaf monkeys, monitor lizard x2, great argus and range of other birds, mouse deer, bearded pig, tarantula, a few tiny snakes, frogs).

Upon arrival you are put into a small group of 3-4 people (unless you are already traveling with a group) and these are your activity partners for the duration of your visit. Don't be dismayed by the short 'nature walk' on the first day - it gets much much better after that. On your itinerary there is a morning of 'guest's own time' included but you should be able to arrange another hike with your guide. It is HOT so I'd recommend bringing proper lightweight hiking pants (not shorts) and good walking/hiking shoes and then have a sweaty hiking outfit and a clean 'being at the lodge' outfit. I was surprised at people I saw hiking in jeans - this must have been so hot and uncomfortable. Bring your bathing suit.

I was surprised that there was no library of books on the region's flora and fauna available for guests to look through (are available for purchase in the gift store). Also, my guide was extremely pleasant and I happily tipped him (still not sure if this was common practice) but some minor language barriers prevented me receiving answers to some questions I asked about the flora and fauna. I think really serious amateur biologists/ecologists might be slightly disappointed but pretty much everyone else would be happy with the amount of information their guide could provide. Bring binoculars! The trees are incredibly tall and any orangutans or monkeys you see will likely be high above you.

I travelled solo and this was no problem. The meals are buffet so fairly quick if you are alone and the dining area is spread out and casual so a solo person doesn't stand out. I was assigned to join a group of three, which worked out well for all of us.

If you get car sick you might want to bring your Dramamine as the drive is beautiful but bumpy.

Room Tip: I think paying more for the deluxe room was worth it, although I didn't see the standards room so can't really compare.
  • Stayed: April 2014, travelled solo
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4  Thank STtravel1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 April 2014

This was our last stop on our travels through Sabah and we left the best until last. After two hours travelling by vehicle from Lahad Datu and finally arriving at the main lodge you know you are in for a special time when you are welcomed with a refreshing cold face towel and a cool drink. Your lovely host explains what will happen during your time at BRL and walks you to your lodge where your luggage is waiting. We had booked a deluxe lodge overlooking the river with a tub on the balcony. The rooms are lovely and clean and it is just wonderful to have such a beautiful place in the middle of the rainforest. The variety of the full buffet meals is amazing, everything is freshly prepared and there is so much to choose from to suit all tastes. They make their own bread. There is a full kitchen on display so you can see how clean it is and the chefs are in full uniform. You are allocated a guide for your time at BRL and you let them know of your main interests and they plan the walks on the various trails for you. There were 6 in our group and our guide was very thoughtful ensuring each persons capabilities for the walk/treks were taken into consideration and allowing time for rest stops. At the small waterfall swimming spot there is a small change room, and it is very refreshing to take a plunge in the water. We did see wildlife and birdlife, but no elephants. Our stay AT BRL was exceptional and we just loved it, the only drawback is we were only here for two nights and wished we had booked an extra night. They are building some new super modern lodges but I do hope it doesn't get much bigger, being small and personal is what helps to make it so special.

  • Stayed: April 2014, travelled with friends
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2  Thank DebbieAdelaide
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 April 2014

This resort shows just how well a Borneo rainforest experience can be delivered, and is in stark contrast to the vastly inferior Sukau River Lodge elsewhere in Borneo. Here, the rooms are large and airy, and it is well worth getting a deluxe chalet with a riverside view and a deep outdoor bath to soak off the sweat of the humid jungle. Service is first class, guides are good, and the activities are varied and enjoyable. The canopy walkway is beautiful, there is a challenging but exhilarating hike up to the old burial cliff, with a refreshing swim in the waterfall plunge pool on the way home. On a night drive we saw a slow loris, as well as mouse deer, bearded pig, flying fox and flying red squirrels. We say orang utans on two of the three days we were there, as well as red langurs and many birds. While the rooms are not air conditioned, the fans just about cope with the heat. The curse of the tedious, bland buffet lunches and dinners which effects so many Borneo resorts is here answered with a really superb selection of tasty food, including fresh juices and, if you pay extra for them, good cappuccinos. Cocktails are weak, but there is beer and wine. Staff are all helpful and friendly. Leeches are fairly abundant on the walks, so wear the leech socks (even though they make you look like a scenes of crime forensic investigator), wear tee-shirts rather than shirts, and don't stray into bushes. If you do get one, they are quite harmless and painless, and a quick application of salt will see them curl up and you can flick them off. Overall, this is a first class resort and a truly magnificent jungle experience, in proper virgin rainforest.

  • Stayed: April 2014, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank weltravelledofSussex
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 April 2014

Stayed here in the Danum Valley for 3 nights and we had room 18 which is a lovely Deluxe river-view room....the furthest away from the dining/reception area, but no problem as its mostly on a flat raised boardwalk. Food was great and good choice on a nice veranda overlooking the gardens and river. Went on many walks, some really quite steep and sweaty high up into the forest and views over the lodge below (see photo). Nice welcoming waterfall lake in the rainforest which is much needed after a long walk in the rainforest heat and humidity. There are fish in this small lake that give you a pedicure all over if you keep still enough but I went in twice as it was so cooling! Whilst there we had an Orangutan in the trees watching us swim. Loved the grounds and the gardens of the lodge where we sheltered on a couple of occasions we had torrential downpours which is great in my view as it reminds you what to expect in the rainforest! - lots of birds around, especially Bee-eaters in the gardens and also we saw a Red-leaf monkey with infant on our walks with a few Orang-utans, Macaques, Gibons very high in the canopy and luckily saw one Pygmy Elephant along with other birds and insects etc. Also saw a Slow Loris on a night walk with other critters and one morning saw what some Rhinoceros Hornbills close to our lodge! The Jungle bridge walk is superb which is around a 20 minute walk away and 8am is a perfect time for witnessing the mist rising in the rainforest coming through the trees. Your guide will I'm sure be taking you there one morning! Don't miss this! For any jungle walk you will need leach-proof socks available there for about £4 a pair....I never bothered wearing them on a walk one day and had 5 leaches in my trouser turn-ups and socks.
So overall loved this place and the location deep in the Danum Valley. I have given this a mark of 5 but could have been 4 due to the fact that room 18 has around three new supa-dupa lodges being build next door right on the river. Occasionally we had building noise and could not hear the birds or the Cicadas and nature sounds. So I complained that we had come to hear the nature, not the sound of sawing, banging and welding etc. The manager understood and it seemed to improve somewhat whilst we were there. Also part of our view to the left of the river was obscured by a large green wall screening off the building work next door. But again overall this was not enough to give it a lower mark than 5. Ideally any of the Deluxe rooms are great with views of the river and a large external tub with good hot water, but in my view they should not be using lodges 18, 17 and 16 whilst this building work is going on. Enjoy your stay - I'm sure you will! I would certainly go back here if returning to Borneo. You can see more of my Borneo photos on www.flickr.com/photos/onemoreshotrog our next destination was at the Myne Resort and 3 nights on the Kinabatangan River.

Room Tip: Make sure there is no building work still going on near room 18 etc. Ideally I would say all lodges are good especially the deluxe which you will pay extra for.
  • Stayed: March 2014, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Onemoreshotrog
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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