Since I was a little girl I have been fascinated by the jungle. To me it is a magical place where everything is connected and you kind find little wonders everywhere. So for me the for over 100 million years untouched rain forest in Danum Valley is a must-visit place in Borneo. After reading about the price for trips to Danum Valley I was so sad, because it is ridiculous expensive. But we found a way to do Danum Valley on a Budget.
Danum Valley on a Budget
The two common ways of visiting the pristine rainforests of Danum Valley involve booking packaged tours through either
- The Borneo Rainforest Lodge which is very very expensive but you will live very comfortably in their Lodges
- A tour agency like Sticky Rice which is also overpriced but much cheaper than the Rainforest Lodge. You will live very spartan in facilities belonging to the park rangers
The third (less known) option is to arrange the Danum Valley stay yourself at the Danum Valley office in Lahad Datu. This not expensive at all and you will live in the same spartan park facilities which the tour operators would have arranged for you.
How to get to the Danum Valley Office
You can reach the city of Lahad Datu, which lies on the road between Kota Kinabalu/Sandakan and Semporna by flying or bus. We prefer the more eco-friendly bus. Lahad Datu is approximately 3 hours from Semporna and 2 hours from Kinabatangan river by bus. From the Lahad Datu bus station you can walk to the Danum Valley office, just use Google Maps to find the right location.
There are two offices next to each other, one belonging to the park rangers and one belonging to a government contractor (Borneo Rainforest Tours). Both of them can arrange transportation, accommodation etc. at the Field Center. The park ranger office does it slightly cheaper.
Bus Times to the Field Center at Danum Valley
The bus from these offices leaves for Danum Valley and returns on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday ONLY. The bus costs 65myr per person one way and leaves Lahad Datu in the afternoon (around 3pm) and returns from the valley early in the morning.
Should you miss the bus or should the bus be full. It is possible to hire private transport which costs 350myr one way, it’s a minibus and you can fit at 5 passengers inside so if you are a big group, this also works out to be cheaper and more practical.
It is actually quite likely that the bus will be full and it might be worth calling in advance by a couple of days to book everything. The contact information to Borneo Rainforest Tours is:
Lot 20, Block 3, MDLD 3285, Ground Floor,
Fajar Lorong 9, Fajar Centre
91120 Lahad Datu
Tel : +60 89 880 207
Fax : +60 89 885 051
Our advice is to reserve accommodation and bus seat with these guys a couple of days in advance and when you arrive and it is time to pay. Do it with the Park Ranger’s Office (next door) because they are slightly cheaper.
You can choose to stay in a chalet or the dormitory. All chalets were booked out during the time we visited so we stayed in the dorms. The dorms are separated into male and female dorms so as a couple you cannot stay together but for 2 nights that is totally fine. The standard of the dorms are totally okay I loved to hear the sounds of the rainforest during the night. The restaurant is about 10 minutes walk from the dormitory, so you should bring a head light for the walks after and before dinner to find your way.
Bring Your Own Food
The restaurant serves delicious vegan food, however it is quite expensive. The dormitory has a kitchen attached so it is no problem to cook something there during your stay. They also provide a fridge to keep food save and fresh. Don’t forget to bring your own water bottle you can refill your water for free at the dormitory and the restaurant.
We did a mixed solution to save some cost. For breakfast we brought some soy milk, cereals and fruits we bought in Semporna. For the first dinner we filled up our bowls with super delicious vegan food in a restaurant nearby the Field Office in Lahad Datu, it is call Unicorn Restaurant. It was so good and cheap, unbelievable. If we would have known that there was a fridge we would have brought more. For lunch and second dinner we booked the food in the restaurant. You need to book the food ahead in the office they have a list where you can see how much is what and you can choose how much you really need, that saved so much money. Just tell them you want to book everything separately.
We stayed at Danum Valley for 2 nights. This is enough for all the activities you can do there. We hope we could help to arrange your trip to Danum Valley on a budget. The animal life is remarkable and all around and the scenery absolutely stunning.