Caves In Borneo

In Malaysian Borneo both Sarawak and Sabah are home to some magical cave systems. For purely leisurely strolls right down to adventure caving, this activity is easily organised.

Undoubtedly the most well known caves in this region are the Mulu Caves, a UNESCO world heritage site. The park is known for the largest natural chamber, longest cave and largest cave passage - yes! All in one park! Mulu offers 4 show caves which are open to public and also many other caves for adventure caving.

niah1-1.jpgSarawak is also home to one of the most important archaeological sites in the world with the Niah Great Cave. Once home to the earliest prehistoric man discovered in Southeast Asia, today the cave's only modern inhabitants are millions of bats, swifts and other strange creatures. Other famous caves within the Niah National Park include the Painted Cave and the Moon Cave.

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The Madai Caves of Sabah are considered the state's most important archaeological site, evidence of human existence and inhabitation can be traced back to at least 15,000 years ago. More importantly the caves have been a main source of income for the Idahan people in the surrounding area with the lucrative harvesting of the edible bird's nest. The caves gained recognition during the 2000 World Eco Challenge where participants had to climb the rattan ladders used by the bird nest harvesters to the top of the chamber and use a zip line into the jungle below.

Also on the east coast of Sabah within the Gomantong Hill are the Gomantong caves, comprising of Simud Hitam (the lower cave) and Simud Putih (the upper chamber). For generations these caves have been harvested for the white and black bird's nests by the local Orang Sungai.

CAVES OF SABAH & SARAWAK

Madai Caves

Madai Caves, a few hours drive from Lahad Datu, are famed as a source for swiftlet's nests used in bird's nest soup. The caves are located not far from the town of Tawau in Sabah. Twice a year (between February and April, and between July and September), licensed nest collectors risk their lives climbing to the roof of these caves using only rattan ladders, ropes, and bamboo poles precariously attached together. It is a special festival event for the local Idahan villagers, who have held the rights to Madai Caves for over 20 generations.

Niah Caves

The vast caverns of the Niah Caves National Park are one of Borneo's most important archeological finds. Around 40,000 years ago, the Niah Great Cave sheltered human life. Carbon dating indicated that Niah holds the the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia, along with many other relics of prehistoric man. Today the Cave is home only to bats, swiftlets and other specially adapted forms of life. However, a few locals still venture into the dark interior to collect guano (bird and bat droppings used as fertilizer) and bird's nest.

The famous Painted Cave is another highlight of the visit to Niah Cave. Here, little human-like figures drawn in red haematite watch over a gravesite where the bodies of the dead were each laid in its own boat-shaped coffin. The Great Cave and Painted Cave have been declared as National Historical Monuments.

Located in Sarawak, southwest of the town of Miri, the Caves are accessible via a raised plankwalk that winds its way through lowland forest vibrant with birds and butterflies. Apart from the Caves, visitors can explore several kilometres of forest trails to feel the richness of tropical rainforests, climb a 400m tall limestone ridge or visit an Iban longhouse located near the Park boundary. Visitors can also rent a boat or walk along the river from Park headquarters to Batu Niah town.

Mulu Caves

Gunung Mulu National Park covers 544 km2 in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, and is known for its giant limestone caves and its pristine river and jungle scenery. Located near Miri, Mulu has the world's largest cave chamber and the worlds most extensive network of caves. "Sarawak Chamber" is the worlds largest cave measuring 700 metres long by 400 metres wide and 70 metres high. "Clearwater Cave" is over 100 km long!

A trip to the Mulu Park offers opportunities to explore inside the caves, as well as trekking in the surrounding jungles, cruising along the rivers, and swimming under waterfalls.

At Mulu one can choose to trek extensively or just for just short periods of time. Mount Mulu itself, 2366 metres high, can also be scaled: it is a challenging 4 day/3 night climb to the top of Mount Mulu.

Gomantong Caves

Only 15 km from Sukau are the Gomantong Caves: huge limestone caverns, known for centuries for its treasure trove of swiftlet bird's nests. Situated in a Sabah Parks forest reserve, the caves and the surrounding area are a protected area for wildlife, especially orang utans. Day trips are possible from Sukau, from Sepilok or even Sandakan. A trip to the Kinabatangan from Sandakan usually includes the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre and the Gomantong Caves.

In Gomantong the birds' nest collection is an ancient tradition, and the trading of these nests has been done since at least 500 AD. Twice a year, from February to April and July to September, locals with licenses climb to the roof of the caves, using only rattan ladders, ropes, and bamboo poles, and collect the nests. Every evening, over 2 million resident bats spiral out for their evening feed. As the bats leave, the swiftlets are usually beginning to make their way back to the caves after a day's foraging.

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