Niah National Park (Sarawak, Borneo) - Day 156
Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
254Trip End Ongoing
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120km bus journey to Batu Niah from Bintulu this morning. A nice local guy gave me a lift to the Niah national park headquarters which is 17km from the bus stop. I'll be staying in the park tonight, before heading to Brunei tomorrow. Seems like a complicated route to Brunei, several buses and boats are involved. Probably an all day mission.
40,000 year old pre-historic cave paintings, some of the biggest limestone caves in the world and a 10km walk though an amazing primary rainforest
I left my bags at park headquarters when my new found friend dropped me off and walked through the rainforest to the caves. The cave system is truly epic in size, one cave is 250 metres wide, 80 metres high and hundreds of metres deep. When you enter the "Great Cave", it doesn't look real, it's hard to comprehend it's gigantic size. This is an amazing place and I can totality understand why early humans decided to make this place home.
Swiftlets nest In the roof of the caves and the local people harvest their nests for the famous and expensive bird's nest soup. The men climb a matrix of ropes and bamboo to harvest the nests without safety equipment. Unfortunately I didn't see them in action but I have seen pictures in the local museum. There're unbelievable climbers!
A head torch was required to explore the damp cave system. Once I delved deep into the bowels of the cave it was completely pitch black. Could hear bats flying around me and saw the odd rodent in the light of my head torch too. Occasionally I came to a hole in the cave roof where a beam of light penetrated into the cave which lit up a small section
Many human remains have been found in this epic cave system. Organic material around one skull was carbon dated to 40,000 years old, the earliest evidence of human habitation in south-east Asia. The caves seemed to be used as burial grounds and shelter for pre-historic man. The cave paintings have been dated to 1500 years old, so the place is pretty special. You can just make out the paintings fashioned in red hematite, very faint now which is not surprising after so many centuries. The paintings are caged off so you can't get too close, but I managed to zoom in with my camera through the fence and got some relatively good shots.
Rained very heavily while I was in the caves but eased off as I headed back to park headquarters through the rainforest. I forgot my rain jacket so I was lucky to make it back relatively dry, except for being soaked with sweat. Stayed at the hostel next to the park headquarters in the forest. The hostel is really comfortable and quiet, all I could hear were the sounds of the forest as I sat outside on the veranda having a smoke.