Page 102 - Sarawak-Visitors-Guide-2014v1
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to produce birds nest soup, highly regarded in Chinese
cuisine. Note: visitors cannot be sure of seeing birds
nest collectors in acion, as harvesing is a seasonal
acivity, and is subject to temporary bans to protect
switlet populaions.
At the back of the Great Cave is a large chamber - the
Padang - where shats of sunlight stream down from
large holes in the cave roof to illuminate the bizarre
rock formaions in the Burnt Cave (Lubang Hangus)
Visiing the Park - another excellent spot for taking photos. Ater the
Padang comes a totally dark passage - Gan Kira (Moon
Cave) - where a lashlight is essenial to ind your
Niah Naional Park is located on the Sungai Niah, way and to admire the remarkable rock shapes and
about 3 km from the small town of Batu Niah, 110 weathering efects.
km south-west of Miri. The park has a visitor centre,
archaeology museum and good accommodaion, and From Gan Kira (Moon Cave), the plankwalk emerges
is very easy to get around, thanks to an extensive into daylight and a short trail leads through the forest to
network of plankwalks. A lashlight and good walking the Painted Cave, site of the famous Niah cave painings
shoes are absolutely essenial - the caves are unlit, and and ‘death-ships’. The contents of the death-ships have
the plankwalk can become slippery from the constant been transferred to the Sarawak Museum, but the cave
dripping of water and bat guano from the ceiling of painings and some of the empty death-ships can sill
the cave. A wide-brimmed hat is desirable, for obvious be viewed on the wall behind the fenced-of burial site.
The painings are diicult to see unil your eyes become
The Great Cave is situated at the end of a 3.5 km accustomed to the light. Executed in red hemaite, they
plankwalk which cuts through dense primary rainforest, cover a long narrow strip (approx. 30m) at the back
passing close to giant tapang trees, padanus plants, of the cave wall. The spread-eagled human igures
exquisite orchids and tree fungi. Colourful birds, probably represent warriors and hunters, the animals
squirrels, lizards, buterlies and unusual insects and of the surrounding forest, and - most importantly -
invertebrates are commonly seen, as well as occasional longboats carrying the souls of the deceased on the
monkeys, lying lizards and hornbills. dangerous journey to the land of the dead. Thus the
cave ofers a clear insight into the development of the
The cave complex starts at the Trader’s Cave, an tradiional religions of Borneo.
extended rock overhang where birds nest and guano
traders used to conduct their business. A litle further Visitors leaving the Great Cave around sunset will
along is the West Mouth of the Great Cave; over 60m see two great black clouds intermingling - the nightly
high and 250m wide, it is one of the world’s most ‘changing of the guard’ as hundreds of thousands of
spectacular cave entrances. To the let of the cave switlets return to their nests, whilst an approximately
mouth, archaeological excavaions are clearly visible. equal number of bats ly out to forage in the forest. A
The view from the cave mouth out over the surrounding variety of luminous fungi can be clearly seen from the
jungle is quite unique; the jagged stalacites, overhangs plankwalk at night.
and dangling creepers of the cave mouth provide a
dramaic photo opportunity. Treks and Trails: The Bukit Kasut Trail (green and white
markings, 45 min.) leads to the summit of Bukit Kasut
Inside the cave chamber, guano (bat and bird manure) and passes through beauiful primary rainforest before
collectors work by the dim light of parain lamps, moving into Kerangas forest at the foot of the hill. The
collecing the guano from the cave loor for sale as trail is steep but the view at the top is worth it, ofering
feriliser. Bamboo poles, and ladders made from a sweeping panorama of the rainforest canopy. The
ironwood (belian), are evidence of the birds nest Madu Trail (red and white markings, 1 hr.) follows the
collectors, local people
who have pracised this
dangerous occupaion
for generaions. The half
million switlets living
in the cave make their
nests purely from their
own salivary secreions,
and these valuable nests
(over US$1,000 per kg for
the best quality) are used
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