Bat Crap and Cockroaches, where am I, and why do I like it!?
Sandakan Travel Blog› entry 17 of 53 › view all entries
Sandakan rocks! There is quite a bit going on here. Its organized with a simple and small tourist map provided at local hotels and shops. KK you could learn something from this city! We find a great little and cheap hotel right in the heart of the city. We end up having lunch on the water front, saweet! I head out and make plans for my river tour. Marcel and Hans go have gin and tonics at the local cricket club which has a tea house at the top of a hill in town. Well, la de da! I book my tour, leaving tomorrow, I’ll stay overnight on the river K (Kinabatangan) taking two tours of the river, one each day. Marcel and Hans have decided not to take any river tours, they’re going to chill in Sandakan and then leave to go home.
By the way, the River K is the largest river in the state of Sabah. It has a unique and rich ecosystem supporting the famous Borneo Orangutan and Gibbon, wild boars and even pigmy elephants! The lush rainforest surrounding the river is under threat in the north from the oil plantations. What most tourists don’t realize is that the reason they see so many animal species along the river side is because their habitat has been squeezed to a narrow strip on either side of the river. If you tour the river, deep into the interior of Sabah things change, there are fewer plantations there leaving the animals to roam more freely. Tours into the interior are extremely expensive and have only been offered in recent years.
First stop on my tour, Gomantong Caves. What a trip! These caves are amazing!! The main cave system has two parts: Black Cave and White Cave. They create the largest cave in Borneo where you can find the black and white bird nets, made by swiflets, and used in bird nest soup. 1 kg of nests is worth over $1200 Canadian. Yow! Every four months people come to harvest the nests. They use primitive looking rattan ladders, ropes and poles to climb the over 90 m to the top of the cave to gather the nests. It’s a lucrative but dangerous job.
The cave itself is a site for the senses! A massive pile of cockroach covered bat shit lies in the middle of the cave. The boardwalk they’ve set up around the cave is extremely slippery from all of the bat crap. They clean it regularly but it obviously keeps getting covered in it. One guy on the tour is freaking out! He was so afraid of slipping and falling. There are cockroaches everywhere. You can’t even grab the railing along the boardwalk because they are walking all over it. YUCK!!
The smell is nasty! But what can you expect really. Over 1 million bats live in the cave and they’re all doing their business every day. Despite the mess (!) the inside of the cave is beautiful. The rock changes from grey to tan, light bounces off the walls from holes in the ceiling of the cave. At the end water drips down from the tress which are growing at the top of the cave, sunlight beams in allowing vegetation to grow down into the cave. Stunning. I’m so glad I came!Oh I should mention that on the walk to the cave I spotted maroon langur long tail monkeys hanging out in the trees. Saweet. Wild monkeys!