Meet Acho. Acho is an 8 year old Bornean Orang Utan living in the Danum Valley on the Malaysian side of Borneo. Danum Valley is a primary rainforest, or virgin rainforest, in Malaysia which means it has been untouched by significant human activity, particularly logging. Secondary rainforests are ones that have been logged before or have been significantly disturbed by humans.
Bornean Orang Utans are an endangered species and only live on the island of Borneo. Palm oil plantations are the main reason these Orang Utans are endangered. As their homes are cut down by palm oil producers they have fewer and fewer places to live and eat. And while illegal, Orang Utans are often killed when trespassing on oil plantation fields to protect the crop.
After Kuala Lumpur, I spent several days in the Danum Valley rainforest so that I could see these amazing creatures in the wild! There is no guarantee that you get to see them during your stay, so I consider myself pretty lucky because we had two sightings! In addition to Orang Utans, I saw lots of other amazing creatures during my incredible stay. Pictures of a few of them (couldn't get great pictures of most of them) are below.
The Borneo Rainforest Lodge is a tiny little lodge and is the only place for visitors in the area, though there is a research centre where those working and studying can stay during their time in Danum Valley. Borneo Rainforest Lodge is an ecolodge so they go to great lengths to use as little resources as possible -- this meant no air conditioning, no water bottles or plastic and eco-friendly designed buildings.
I got my own little hut to stay in during my time in Danum Valley!
The Danum Valley was not an easy place to get to which is probably why it is not a big tourist destination for those visiting Malaysia. First you have to take a small prop plane to Lahad Datu, the nearest village, and then drive 2.5 hours on a bumpy, dirt road. At one part, the river had flooded over the normal dirt path, so we had to go through the river in our truck, which are a bit more like jeeps and made for this type of off roading. But before crossing the river, the driver had to get out and check to see if crocodiles were around! On the way back, the river was too high so we had to cross via the old bridge just above the path. Before crossing though, my driver asked me to get out of the truck and walk across in case the bridge collapsed while he drove across.
This is Ali, my guide, on the look out for animals up in the canopy.
Special leech socks need to be worn to avoid getting one of these blood-sucking insects on your ankles or in your shoes. These leeches live on the ground and move around like inch worms to find food.
Leaf nosed lizard
A tarantula! In. the. lodge. We also saw another in a tree hunting for food while on our night walk.
Everything in the rainforest is so much bigger than what we are used to seeing. This daddy-long-leg looking spider was bigger than the palm of my hand.
Ants were in abundance and were the biggest and scariest I have ever seen! This Giant Forest Ant was gigantic and walked so quickly I couldn't get a clear shot. It had two big pinchers on the front of its head but it doesn't bite humans. This type of ant gets to be over an inch in length!
a wild banana tree
On the first day, we hiked to the top of the nearest mountain which took about 2 hours and was almost entirely uphill. The heat and rain made it incredibly hot and humid but we were rewarded when we arrived with another Orang Utan sighting.
This is Shena and baby Sue. Sue is less than a year old and hung onto her Mom the entire time they were around but never took her eyes off of us. Even when Mom was on the move, she would adjust herself so that she could see us. They stuck around for about 30 minutes before moving along to another place to eat.
Mom got pretty close to us and started making calling noises to Acho (her son) so that he would be warned that they had company.
Acho was such a show-off! He loved posing for us and wasn't afraid to get very close. Ali, my guide, told me that Acho came up to him once and hugged him from behind. Most Orang Utans are pretty friendly except for the Moms with babies and the big male Orang Utans.
There were many red leaf monkeys all over the place! These monkeys are much smaller in size and tend to hang out in large groups.
On the last day, we did a canopy walk which was a great way to see the wildlife high up in the trees.
Since we did our canopy walk in the morning, there was still a lot of fog which made you feel like you were walking in the clouds.
Ali, our guide, and the German couple that were in my group.