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Introducing Lahad Datu

Lahad Datu is where a lot of Eastern Sabah is heading: a company town where the company is palm oil plantations.

The locals are lovely and as proud of their home as folks are anywhere else in the world, but there's no real reason to stop here except to arrange a visit to the Danum Valley or Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Borneo Nature Tours, which runs the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL), and the Danum Valley Field Centre have offices next to each other in the upper part of town – known as Taman Fajr, or Fajar Centre. There is a difference between the two Danum options (and yes, these are your only two options). Most people are here to book a stay in the Danum Valley Field Centre, as those who can afford to stay with Borneo Nature Tours aren't likely to book at the last minute and will probably arrange lodging earlier (either in KK or overseas). Because the Field Centre is exactly that – a research centre that doesn't cater to tourists – its office can be slow about responding to emails or phone calls asking for lodging. Sometimes it is best to show up, in person, and politely request to speak with someone about sleeping arrangements. Otherwise, contact Rose John Kidi at rmilzah@gmail.com, or 088-326300, or else contact Patricia Mobilik or Mahdah Aripin (089 881688/088-1092; danum@care2.com).

Around the block, you'll find the booking office of Tabin Wildlife Holidays, a secondary forest sanctuary on the other side of Lahad Datu. As this office is a tourism outfit, it is much better about responding to emails; nonetheless, you'll likely pass through Lahad Datu on your way to Tabin.