Both the Borneo Rainforest Lodge and the Danum Valley Field Centre offer a variety of jungle-related activities. Only the lodge has official nature guides. There are no professionally trained guides at the field centre – only rangers who can show you the trails if you just turn up (RM30 per hour) – but book with a tour company and it will provide you with one. We recommend Sticky Rice Travel.
The main activities at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL) and the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) are walks on more than 50km of marked, meandering trails. BRL has 12 trails, while the DVFC only has three or four open to the general public – the rest are strictly for researchers. You can't hike the trails without a guide, lest you get lost in the rainforest and your mortal remains are never seen again. The average group is about six to eight people, and fitness will vary considerably – if you're in a troupe of superheroes and get left behind, don't be afraid to ask the guide to slow down. Depending on the zeal of your group, you might walk as much as 16km or more in one day over a series of short walks or one long and short walk (excluding night walks). Remember you're in the jungle and clambering over roots and fallen trees is hard work, so don't push yourself unnecessarily.
At the BRL take advantage of the well-trained guides who can point out things you would never see on your own. The Coffincliff Trail is a good way to start your exploration and get your bearings. It climbs for 3km to a cliff where the remains of some Kadazan–Dusun coffins can be seen (although the provenance of the coffins is unclear). After reaching a fairly eye-popping panoramic viewpoint 100m further up the way, you can either return the way you came or detour around the back of the cliffs to descend via scenic Fairy Falls and Serpent Falls, a pair of 15m-high waterfalls that are good for a quick dip.
The Danum, Elephant and Segama Trails all follow various sections of the Danum Valley and are mostly flat trails offering good chances for wildlife spotting. All can be done in an hour or two. The Hornbill and East Trails have a few hills, but are still relatively easy, with similarly good chances for wildlife sightings. Finally, if you just need a quick breath of fresh air after a meal, the Nature Trail is a short plankwalk near the lodge that allows you to walk into the forest unmolested by leeches.
Around the field centre, it's about a two-hour hike to the Tembaling Falls, a cool slice of tropical Edenic beauty. A more strenuous, four-hour trek gets you to the immensely rewarding Sungai Purut falls, a series of seven-tiered pools that are fed by waters that drop 20m from the nearby mountains. The Coffin Trail, across the suspension bridge, is a 30-minute walk to a large rocky overhang, beneath which are a few 500-year-old ironwood coffins, some still containing the mortal remains of Dusun people. There's a short nature-trail loop next to the field centre, with well-labelled plants, that you can tackle by yourself.
At the centre you'll also take night walks. These tend to be hour-long or so, and give you the chance to see mostly creepy crawlies – a remarkable assortment of spiders, grasshoppers and stick insects. If you're very lucky, you might spot chameleons, bug-eyed tarsiers, various serpents – vine snakes, pit vipers – and curious sambar deer.
Bird-watchers from around the world come to see a whole variety of rainforest species, including the great argus pheasant, crested fireback pheasant, blue-headed pitta, Bornean bristlehead and several species of hornbill, among many others. If you're serious about birding, it may be best to stay at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. The canopy walkway here is ideal for bird-watching, and some of the guides are particularly knowledgeable about birds. The access road to the lodge is also a good spot for birding, as is, frankly, your porch.
Most of the action in a tropical rainforest happens up in the canopy, which can be frustrating for earthbound humans. The Borneo Rainforest Lodge's 107m-long, 27m-high canopy walkway gives mere mortals a means of glimpsing life high up in the canopy. The swinging bridges traverse a nice section of forest, with several fine mengaris and majau trees on either side. Bird-watchers often come here at dawn in hope of checking a few species off their master lists. Even if you're not a keen birder, it's worth rolling out of bed early to see the sun come up over the forest from the canopy walkway – when there's a bit of mist around, the effect is quite magical. The walkway is located on the access road, a 10-minute walk from the lodge. You need to be a guest at the BRL to access the walkway.
Night drives are one of the surest ways to see some of the valley's 'night shift'. Expect to see one or two species of giant flying squirrels, sambar deer, civets, porcupines and possibly even leopard cats. Lucky sightings could include elephants and slow loris.
Night drives (RM160, up to eight people) leave the Borneo Rainforest Lodge and Danum Valley Field Centre most evenings. The best trips are the extended night drives from BRL, which depart at about 8.30pm and return at 1am or 2am. Things you'll be glad you brought: light waterproof jacket, binoculars and a powerful torch. It can be cold, too, so bring another layer.