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A great rainforest tour

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LAHAD DATU: With Malaysia renowned as a country whose jungles remain largely untouched, it was perhaps fitting that the darlings of Britain's royal family chose to end their visit here in Danum Valley.

Prince William and wife Catherine Middleton spent three hours walking through the rainforests of Danum Valley, located some 70km from Lahad Datu.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge talked to 25 researchers and Oxford University undergraduates who were there.

Will and Kate -- as they are affectionately known -- sat on tree branches some 50m above the ground, to be briefed on ants and the other living creatures on trees within the 43,800ha conservation area.

They had flown in on Sabah Air's eight-seater helicopter at 10.15am, and were ushered into a briefing on the conservation works jointly carried out by Yayasan Sabah and the Royal Society's South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP).

The briefing was done by Yayasan Sabah Conservation and Environmental Management Division group manager Dr Waidi Sinun, SEARRP director Dr Glen Reynolds, Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Tengku D.Z. Adlin and Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan.

Prince William became a Royal Fellow of the Royal Society during the Royal Society's 350th anniversary celebrations in 2010.

During the visit, the couple showed strong interest in the progress of conservation works in the area and also its wildlife, such as the orang utan and the proboscis monkeys.

After the half-hour briefing, the royal couple trekked into the rainforest to experience the area's remarkable biodiversity for themselves.

Waidi described the royal couple's visit as "successful and beneficial".

"The Duke of Cambridge did say that his father (Prince Charles) has a soft spot for the rainforest. To me, the visit was both successful and beneficial as it will now bring the Danum Valley Conservation Area to a higher level. It is truly a recognition of the joint effort by Yayasan Sabah and the Royal Society, especially to our conservation works.

"We believe what has been and is being done here is important and is globally significant... and I believe that was what attracted the royal couple to come to this part of the world."

After spending about three hours at the Danum Valley Conservation Area, the duke and duchess took off for the Borneo Rainforest Lodge's 300m-long canopy walk, before adjourning to a private lunch at the lodge.

The duke and duchess then took a commercial aircraft to Kota Kinabalu.

Malaysia is the couple's second destination after Singapore on their nine-day tour of the Far East as representatives of Queen Elizabeth II in conjunction with her diamond jubilee.

The royal couple walking on the suspension bridge after trekking through the Danum Valley rainforest. Pic by Edward Samunting

William and Catherine were today rigged in harnesses and hoisted up a 130ft tree in the Danum Valley.


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