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.
Sarawak 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.
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, 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.
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.
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!
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.