Niah Caves, Miri National Park, Sarawak
Niah Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Niah National Park gazetted on 23 November 1974 contains several beautiful caves. The Painted Cave holds paintings / drawings made by early inhabitants of the land , The Great Cave has remains under archeological study, it also has some long poles attached to the roof of the cave chamber for gathering bird's nest. The parks claims to have the oldest modern human remains discovered in Southeast Asia.
Current inhabitants are bats, swiftlets and other floor/wall crawlers. Guano (bird and bat droppings for fertilizer) and bird's nest are still collected. Maybe some lost tourists will also be discovered in the darkness one day too.
Starting point - Park your car / drop off at ticket office. There are chalets for rent there too. (For those intending to do a comprehensive tour of the surrounding forest, trails, interact with the aborigines or do a detailed cave exploration - or maybe just escape from the city for a while)
We arrived by rented vehicle (self drive), trooped into the ticket place, bought a set of 5 tickets - discount for group purchase. It's already so cheap, I felt bad - go spend some money on the T-shirts or something.
Cross the river from the ticket office by boat. MYR 1 only per pax, the river is too deep & fast for swimming so don't try. Besides you might end up feeding the crocodiles that may be hiding in there. A short 1 minute later, you are across. We went in the information centre to look at the relics they have dug up from the place and they have the trails shown too. You can plan your trip here if you want to go for the grand tour. See what the original birds nest looks like (unprocessed ) - yuck !
Path starts from information centre across the river. Much improved with raised platforms so you don't end up doing a army training program sloshing through waist deep water & streams for about 3 km or so.
The forest scenery is nice and very little mosquitoes. Main Paths are paved / concreted and easy on the legs. I was apprehensive cause I only wore a pair of slippers. Listen out for the birds chattering and the monkeys. Maybe the occasional shotgun too, the aborigines were hunting that day. No more blowpipes for them, lucky thing I never heard any automatic gunfire or i would have left, national park or otherwise.
Entrance to the Great Cave is via Traders Cave. This is smaller cave where the people erected platforms to trade. The log poles are still there.
Those who are lazy or too tired to go further in can rest at the wooden house built near the cave entrance. It's a new structure but nice enough. There are long bamboo poles which reach up into the darkness of the chamber roof. These are poles for climbing to collect bird's nest. The swiftlet will make these nests from regurgitated saliva. The finished product costs US$ 3,000 above per kg in bulk. Retail is nearly the same price as gold for the premium grades. Unprocessed, it looks like a dust/hair ball that came out under your couch.
Watch your steps once you enter further into the main cave chamber, the stairs leading up into the further reaches are slippery with guano (crap) and falling down 30 m plus of stairs is no fun. Bring a cheap cotton glove along if you are squeamish about holding the handrails. Flashlights are required once you move into the gloom reaching further inwards from the main chamber. (rent them at the visitor centre) A few ringgit only.
I didn't have enough time to explore the Painted Cave but enjoyed my stroll through the Great Cave. For those with a good camera, you can convey the sense of beauty & expanse of the caves. For me, it lives on in my memories. The puny camera I had simply was a reminder of why I have to go back there some day again.