BLOG    Lorna McGregor  14th Sep 2008  Sabah, Borneo>

In the steps of David Attenborough

Another sunny start by the river. Breakfast of toast and coffee as the muddy Kinabatangan River flowed by. As our bags travelled by road, we took to 3 boats and for 2.5 hours sat back and gazed over the banks of the river, with the sun on our backs. At times, Pied Hornbills drifted overhead and swifts darted across the skies catching insects. The rainforest is a spectrum of greens comprising so many varieties of foliage and trees- with very few flowers currently visible, to add to the colour.

Once back on land we set off to the Gomantong Caves - home to approximately 27 species of bat, totalling around 2 million indivduals. Well set up as a tourist location, however not many people there today. We walked the wooden walkway through the forest for about 10 minutes to the vast cave opening in the limestone rockface. The smell of ammonia from the bat droppings, hit us as we approached. The cave is vast. A boardwalk around the perimeter, which if not there would mean walking in the black sponge of the cave floor, made from years of bat and swift guano. As we entered, a shaft of sunlight slanted across the back of the cave, illuminating hundred of insects flying about.

As we walked, we could see large patches of cockroaches, bunched together on the side walls, and bat and swift colonies groupings could be seen tucked high up in the crevices and hollows of the cave walls. Dangling from sections of the roof were the rope and bamboo ladders, used by the courageous men, who during the months of February, April and August gather the birds’ nests to satisfy the Oriental market for birds-nest soup. How did they place the first piece of rope ladder so high up in the cave roof in the first place? We all trod carefully around as we walked, the boardwalk and handrails covered in droppings - once false slip- yuck!

Back in the minibuses, we travelled over 100 km by road to Lahad Datu. Here the Sunday market was in full swing. Susie, Gary and Sue having lost their sunglasses, managed to purchase ‘Ray Bans’ for £2 and Ollie likewise ditched his recently purchased aviator sunglasses for something equally cheap. Following a Chinese lunch we continued our travels onto Danum Valley Field Centre. Tarmac road soon changed to a bumpy stone surface. It was the start of a bottom- massaging, spine crunching journey, only interrupted when we drove around the 9 huge lorries carrying on average of up to 10 trees per load. We hoped that this was the accumulated day’s work and not a bi-hourly average. Whatever the reality, it showed that logging was in operation in the area.

Another view of the bat and cockroach cave!

Happily primary and secondary forest was thick on both sides of the road, in parts as far as the eye could see, a sharp contrast from the view on the road from Lahad Datu, where Palm Oil tree plantations often filled the vista.

Just as our bottoms were getting sore, we reached DVFC. After waiting around, Fiona once again sorted out the accommodation, and we ended up in very comfortable rooms. Stories of rhino, deer, orang-utan have reached us already. Elephant? Well they may have moved on, but only time will tell……….

Blog by Lorna McGregor 

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