Bird Photography / Borneo / Wildlife

Wildlife Photography in Danum Valley

2 Nov ’15

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Aerial photography danum valley DJI Drone

Danum Valley is part of what is called the green heart of Sabah, the last places with primary forest and an undisturbed ecosystem (along with the Maliau Basin and a few other conservation areas. There is a great photo book about the area: The Green Heart of Sabah). 

While in Sabah as research assistants, we had a few days off and decided to take a trip to the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) with our friends, the documentary crew that was filming at our research camp (Check out their page FRAGMENTED). We packed our gear in the car and made the 6-hour journey from SAFE camp to the DVFC. Due to misinformation and planning issues, we ended up having to spend the first night in Lahad Datu and only reached DVFC the next morning. We only spent a few days there and it was raining heavily most nights which ruled out some of the night wildlife photography opportunities.


We saw a lot of great wildlife especially on the walk to and from the Tembaling waterfall. See below for some of the pictures.

Wildlife in Danum Valley

The red leaf monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) are quite common in Danum Valley but unfortunately for us, this was the first and only time we saw them. This group was jumping around and feeding in the canopy. On the first image, the branch he was swinging on was so small I was expecting it to snap at any moment.

Red leaf monkey jumping in the canopy

red leaf monkey danum valley

One of my favourite bird encounters from our time at Danum Valley was this rufous-collared kingfisher (Actenoides concretus). Rachel spotted it and I went ahead slowly creeping up on him until I got to a good distance for a photo. At 600mm with a shutter speed of 1/160 and at iso 6400 it was a difficult shot! Photography in rainforests is always difficult in terms of light availability. This is not one of the most commonly encountered kingfishers and it made the sighting even more exciting for everyone, the whole group got a good look through the binoculars.

Rufous collared Kingfisher Actenoides concretus

Every evening several oriental pied hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) would fly around the accommodation. Below is a ‘slight’ pan shot of a juvenile just after he took off from his branch.

oriental-pied-hornbill-Anthracoceros-albirostris-Danum-Valley-in-flight oriental-pied-hornbill-Anthracoceros-albirostris-Danum-Valley

Every night we were at Danum Valley the rain was heavy and so we didn’t get the opportunity for much night photography, however, we were lucky and the wildlife came to us. We were sitting on the patio relaxing and having a chat when a praying mantis landed on one of our cameras. This particular individual was rather aggressive and seemed to want to hang around so we started an improvised photoshoot, the girls were also filming the mantis for their documentary. I tried to get a different feel with this photograph, using backlighting and low-key to get the dark mood.


We did see more wildlife than what I have shown in these few shots but the rest of the images will be part of a larger project that I will release here in a few weeks/months! A big thank you to Ellie & Stephanie for letting me use the drone to take some photographs.

Traveling-Danum-Valley-Field-centreEllie enjoying the night setting in over the jungle.

Sunrise-danum-valleyWe woke up very early one morning to see the sunrise and enjoy the views of the rainforest canopy poking through the fog.

Check out our Borneo – Wildlife photography video below.



I am a nature photographer specialising in wildlife photography. I have a special passion for this type of photography which comes from my background as an ecologist & conservation biologist.