Niah Caves National Park
"Explore Limestone Caves and Ancient Mammals"
The ancient life of Borneo exposes itself at Niah Caves National Park, where excavations from large limestone outcrops revealed fossils of tigers, giant pangolins and human settlements from 40,000 years ago.
As one of Sarawak's smaller parks, Niah offers a unique experience to observe the flora and fauna of limited light habitats and traditional use of cave resources.
Walk through the wide chasms of cave chambers through a system with five entrances and assisted by steps and boardwalks for easier access. Surround your senses in a dark and damp world that supports bats, swiftlets and earwigs.
Outside Niah Caves, trails criss-cross through sun-soaked jungle habitats with wild orchids, colorful lizards, macaques, monitor lizards, and panoramic scenes of the rainforest canopy.
In the evening hours, thousands of swiftlets returning to cave nests exchange with exiting Naked bats leaving on nightly journeys to feed.
Natural Things To Do
Niah Caves National Park: Nature Attractions
A showcase of the power of nature and time, explore eroded limestone blocks to view a bizarre habitat full of interesting creatures, formations and fossils. There are three main caves to observe at Niah Caves. The park protects a large limestone massif extending nearly 5 km, with its hills and valleys covered in a blanket of rich rainforest.
Great Cave - Traders Cave - Stroll on a 3 km long forest path and look for monkeys, flying lizards and hornbills before reaching the Traders Cave, a rock overhang where locals exchanged birds' nests and guano commodities. Long poles hang from the cave ceiling to allow brave harvesters to reach the prized nests stuck to cave walls.
Within a few minutes the hill opens up to expose the mouth of the Great Cave, a spectacular 60 m high and 250 m wide entrance into a vast chamber. Framed by dangling vines and the jagged outline of stalactites, the cave window provides a perfect picture of the dense jungle outside.
Inside, the musty cave atmosphere reveals the flurry of bats and birds and their guano deposits on the cave floor, collected and sold as fertilizer. Prehistoric relics found in the cave make it an important archeological site for extinct human and animal fossils.
Large Chamber (Padang) - At the back end of the Great Cave, a beam of sunlight pours through a hole in the cave wall in a brilliant stream of light energy. Illuminating the large chamber and its odd rock formations, be prepared to capture this scene with your camera. The path goes dark again after the Padang on the way to Moon Cave before it exits into daylight.
Painted Cave - The evidence of early life remains as cave wall paintings, at least 1200 years old, and the boat-shaped coffins left behind. A quiet atmosphere evokes respect for the ancestors as the primitive markings depict warriors and animal spirits. Spend some time gaining insights into the first tribes of Borneo at the burial site of the "death ships". The trail is just over 4 km from the office.
Among Asian cultures, especially the Chinese, birds' nest soup is a special treat. Colonies of Black-nest swiftlets build these nests on cave walls, while nest collecting has been part of the local economy for centuries.
At Niah Caves, over half a million swiftlets bind nests by secreting their own saliva that is believed to have medicinal properties. After cleaning, the nests are cooked into a thick broth. Today, most nests are exported to Hong Kong and America. Problems arise when over-consumption leads to depletion of natural supplies in caves from Thailand to Indonesia.
Plus, the dangerous job of climbing tall cave ladders limits harvesting. Artificial "caves" or houses built out of concrete now dominant the industry to supply the growing demand.
Collection of nests still occurs in Niah Caves, but only during the harvesting season from August to December and from January to March. Visitors may not see collectors in action, but the ladders and poles are in place to give you some insights into this ancient traditional occupation.
Jungle Trekking and Birdwatching
Rainforests may be a secondary option at Niah Caves, but be sure to absorb every step in these magical tropical habitats.
Trails going to the caves offer a good introduction into dense jungle landscapes with a chance to observe an assortment of Long-tailed macaques, monitor lizards, flying foxes, flying lizards and hornbills.
The park has two well-marked treks, one journeys to a steep limestone hill and the other follows a river to a peat swamp forest.
Jalan Bukit Kasut - Take a 45 minute walk in prime jungle and pass by scenic cliffs, supporting hardy vegetation, and heath forest before climbing up the steep slope to Bukit Kasut. At the top you'll be rewarding with a sweeping view of the rainforest canopy.
Jalan Madu - Follow the path for one hour along the Subis River to the low-lying and mucky terrain of the peat swamp forest. These habitats support a variet of wild orchids, odd-shaped mushrooms and large pandanus plants to keep your camera busy the whole time.
The native peoples of Sarawak have rich cultures and traditions that bond with the rainforest and its natural resources. Niah Caves is home to the Iban, who live in communal longhouses along the riverbanks with access to the forest.
Besides being skilled at crafts and forest knowledge, they were once fierce headhunters that keep shrunken skulls as momentos of their historical conquests.
A visit to nearby communities offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of these forest dwellers caught in between past practices and present limitations.
Arrange for a jungle trek with an Iban elder to really appreciate the extraordinary value of everything in the rainforest passed down for generations.
Some of these visits are intrusions into the lives of these proud people, so ensure that your trip is properly organized to respect and remunerate village participants.
Niah Caves National Park: Getting There
Located in between the major towns of Miri (109 km) and Bintulu (131 km), there are several options for reaching the park.
From Miri: Arrange for pickup services from tour agents, hire a rental car or go to the Miri Bus Station to join a share taxi, regular taxi or bus (Syarikat Bus Suria). The drive to Batu Niah takes up to 1 hour 40 minutes. Check with tour operators and hotel services for assistance.
From Bintulu: The same applies for transportation from the Bintulu Bus Station. Syarikat Bas Suria provides regular service to Batu Niah for the 2 hour journey.
From Batu Niah to Park HQ: Chartered taxis and tour buses arrive at Park HQ, but arrival by share taxis and regular buses requires you to either take a short longboat ride or walk through jungle scenery for the 3 km to the park entry. The walk takes about 45 minutes along the river. For rainy days, take a taxi.
Visitors are required to register and pay the entrance fee (usually RM 10 per person) or other park fees at the registration counter. The Park HQ also has a cafeteria for food and beverages and an information centre.
Park accommodation consists of chalet units and hostel-style rooms, all with electricity and hot showers. There are no cooking facilities. Please contact the National Parks Booking Office in Miri for the latest room rates and to make reservations.
For those staying in Batu Niah, a range of lodging houses and small hotels is surrounded by coffee shops and restaurants.
Reservations & EnquiriesNational Parks Booking Office
Visitors Information Centre
Lot 452, Jln Melayu, 98000 Miri
Tel: 085-434184 Fax: 085-434179
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