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Malaysia Travel Guide

Delving into Sarawak’s Magnificent Caves

It takes a lot of geological ducks to line up neatly in a row and stay there for a few million years to create a cave. All over Sarawak, home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world, those ducks have lined up numerous times as many of the most spectacular caves in the world were discovered and continue to be discovered right here.

Many of those already discovered are now ready for you to explore. But a word of warning, not all of these breathtaking, stunning subterranean caverns are easily accessible, but that just makes the most beautiful caves in the world all the more alluring.

Source: STB Photo Gallery

Sarawak is a big state and the tropical weather can make travel to certain parts of the state challenging and exciting. And with so many outstanding caves, it can be difficult to decide which ones to visit first and in which order.

So, while each cave has its own unique beauty and each is incomparable to another, this post will help you appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature’s masterpieces in Sarawak while visiting at least some of them while you are in Kuching or Miri.

1. Sireh Cave, Serian

Located about 70km South of Kuching, Sireh Cave or Gua Sireh is a true hidden gem with its stunning rock paintings believed to be about 20,000 years old, large chambers and caved parts with clean underground water.

Gua Sireh. Source: Sarawak Tourism

A trip to Gua Sireh can be made within a day. However, it isn’t an easy hike as there are some wooden steps and narrow passageways that one needs to get through. It is recommended to take a tour from Kuching where you can arrange to be picked up at your hotel. You can book tours to Gua Sireh here.

Upon arriving at Bantang Village, your journey continues on foot up a flight of wooden stairs that lead you up to the cave entrance. This is where you will be greeted with cave paintings estimated to be 20 millennia old and peculiar cave residents such as Cave Racer Snake, bats, insects and catfish.

Gua Sireh’s ancient charcoal paintings. Source: Sarawak Tourism

The interior of the cave has some unique yet stunning shapes that are warm-toned swirls and curves decorated for effect. Believed to be one of the earliest human settlements, archaeological materials such as pottery shreds, animal bones and food debris from the Stone Age, New Stone Age, and the Iron Age, have also been recovered inside Gua Sireh.

Caves - Gua Sireh

Inside Gua Sireh. Source: Klook.com

It takes approximately 4 hours to tour the cave and remember to bring a change of gear when visiting Gua Sireh as the tour takes you through to the neighbouring Broken Jar Cave that requires you to walk through a pool of water.

2. Deer Cave, Gunung Mulu National Park

The magnificent Deer Cave. Source: National Geographic

This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to millions of bats. It is said that between 2 to 3 million of them reside in here! The Deer Cave, which is probably Sarawak’s most famous cave, is located at Gunung Mulu National Park, about 90 minutes flying time from Kuching, or a 30-minute flight from Miri.

Deer Cave was only discovered in 1979 by British caver Andy Eavis whilst helping Malaysia better understand and appreciate the potential of the newly established Gunung Mulu National Park.

Deer Cave is the largest cave passage in the world. The entrance is so enormous-nearly 500 feet high- that the sun reaches deep inside and fresh air flows through the caves, allowing a peculiar, awe-inspiring habitat to exist.

As you walk through the cave, you’ll see millions of dark patches on the walls. Those are bats resting so try not to disturb them!

Source: STB Photo Gallery

As the day ends and after you’ve explored Deer Cave, stick around for one of the most spectacular phenomena you’ll ever see.

The Deer Cave bat exodus happens every day at dusk. Millions of bats leave the cave to search for food. It’s an awe-inspiring event.

Nestled in the lush wilderness of Borneo, Gunung Mulu National Park is accessible by river and road but we recommend light plane. MasWings, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, provides direct flights to Gunung Mulu National Park from Miri, Kuching, and Kota Kinabalu.

Upon arrival at Mulu Airport, book guided tours here or here. Most of the tours are all-inclusive and provide airport transfers. Accommodation is varied so do your research!

One other point, local communities who have lived off the land for thousands of years and respect and appreciate what it has provided them, have been trained as tour guides and will escort you throughout your visit to the caves. Make sure you pick their brains about the caves and ask about their beliefs!

The Bat Exodus. Bats fly in a spiral manner to avoid predators like hawks. Source: STB Photo Gallery

3. Clearwater Cave, Gunung Mulu National Park

When you visit Gunung Mulu National Park, you will find a unique environment that stimulates all the senses. One of the many gems of this Park is the Clearwater Cave that is the 8th longest cave in the world at 227 km and the largest interconnected cave system in the world. No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Source: Pinterest

The Clearwater Cave system contains an underground river and a plethora of unique rock formations. The amazing thing about these caves is that their true size is still unknown and even now, is still being explored.

Caves - Clearwater Cave

Source: STB Photo Gallery

Visiting Clearwater Cave in Sarawak is a real adventure that begins with the journey. There are two ways of getting to Clearwater cave.

From the park HQ, you can either trek the gentle 4km nature trail that takes approximately one and a half hours, or you can experience a long boat along the Melinau River with a stop at Wind Cave.

The Melinau River at Mulu National Park. Source: STB Photo Gallery

The Wind Cave features ancient, undisturbed stalactites and stalagmites that have, over hundreds of thousands of years, reached each other to create long structures known as pillars or columns. Once you’ve explored the Wind Cave, you can walk to Clearwater Cave in about 5 minutes.

When booking your tour for Gunung Mulu National Park, a visit to the Clearwater Cave and Wind Cave should be included as it is one of the must-visit sites at the park. If it isn’t, ask your agent to include it.

4. Sarawak Chamber, Gunung Mulu National Park

If you are into adventure caving, you must check out the Sarawak Chamber, one of the planet’s largest enclosed areas, natural or manmade. It is so huge, that it has enough space to house 8 jumbo jets in a row!

caves - Sarawak Chamber

Spot the person in the picture! Source: MuluPark.com

Getting to the Sarawak Chamber from the park HQ requires a full day of challenging adventure caving but some say that it is truly a once in a lifetime experience. The whole circuit takes about 10-15 hours which entails a 3-hour hike to Good Luck cave and then an 800m hike through a river channel to the Sarawak Chamber.

Source: MuluCaves.org

There are guided tours available to this magnificent chamber and you can find more information on the tours both here and here.

Before we move on from the Mulu Caves complex, if you seek even more adventure, you can attempt to hike the pinnacles of Mount Mulu. The hike is reportedly the most challenging hike in Malaysia (yes, even tougher than Mt. Kinabalu!) and requires a high level of fitness so make sure you train before you get here!

5. Niah Caves, Niah National Park

Located a mere 90kms south of Miri, the Niah caves are home to 65,000-year-old artefacts and cave paintings. It’s no wonder they are on track to be the next UNESCO World Heritage site. If that happens as expected, there will be a massive increase in visitors so you might want to get there soon, before the crowds!

Caves - Painted Cave

The ancient cave paintings at Niah. Source: TravelBlog.org

The site is also home to the oldest human remains found in Southeast Asia which indicate the caves were inhabited at least 65 millennia ago. You can check out fascinating artefacts including prehistoric utensils and turtle shells that will be on display at the Niah Archaeological Museum from January 2020.

Most importantly, the park is a major source of income to the local tribes people who also earn a living collecting edible birds nests built by Swiftlets high in the cave walls. The sustainably collected birds’ nests are prized by Chinese gourmets around the world and are exported under a supervised environment.

caves - Entrance of Niah Cave

Source: STB Photo Gallery

Getting to Niah Caves is easier than Mulu National Park as it is accessible by road. The journey by bus from either Miri or Bintulu takes approximately 2 hours so you can easily make a day trip out of it.

If you’d rather join a tour, there are guided tours from both Miri and Bintulu and you can get more information on these tours from here and here.

Source: STB Photo Gallery

No visit to Sarawak is complete without visiting her outstanding natural caverns. Whether you are a hardcore spelunker, an open-minded adventurer or an inquisitive visitor, Sarawak’s caves will provide memories and stories forever.

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Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Miri, A National Park Gateway in Sarawak

Miri, A National Park Gateway in Sarawak

Miri, A National Park Gateway in Sarawak

Miri is a resort city located in the northwest of Sarawak which borders the Kingdom of Brunei Darussalam and also the gateway to Sabah. While many may have not head of this resort city in Borneo, Miri is home to some amazing national parks of Sarawak.

The charm of Miri lies in the location where it is also one of the gateways to the Mulu National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors need to fly to Mulu from Miri or Kuching. Other parks in the vicinity of Miri include four national parks which are:

  • Niah National Park (1 hour drive)
  • Lambir Hills National Park (45 minutes drive)
  • Loagan Bunut National Park (2 hours drive)
  • Bukit Tiban National Park (2.5 hours drive)

Miri, A National Park Gateway in Sarawak

Inside the Niah Caves

Most visitors have heard of the Mulu Caves or the national park here due to worldwide publicity over the years.

However, the other national parks mentioned above provide amazing adventure tourism, flora and fauna, and a true Bornean rainforest experience.

Miri, A National Park Gateway in Sarawak

A beautiful sunset view from one of the many beaches at Miri

In total, Sarawak offers 30 national parks, a wonderland for nature lovers. Out of that 30, four of them are wildlife sanctuaries and 10 nature reserves. Just in the Miri area, there are a total of six national parks. More more information, visit the Sarawak Forestry website (https://www.sarawakforestry.com/htm/snp.html)

Miri, A National Park Gateway in Sarawak

Miri’s ethnic market known as ‘Tamu Khas’ or Special Market

Miri’s resort city also offers visitors a wide range of activities including scuba diving, authentic Sarawakian food, entertainment, beaches and local markets. Miri is also home to the world class Borneo International Jazz Festival which is held in the month of May and the Miri Country Music Festival held in February.

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Photos by David Hogan Jr

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Categories
Tourism Malaysia

50 Shades of green

BACK TO BASICS

We’ve had a pretty busy schedule exploring Sarawak, attending the highly anticipated annual #RWMF and hunting on a kitty trail in Kuching. Next, we wanted to do what we initially came to Borneo for, immerse ourselves in the beauty of the Bornean Jungle. What better way to do that than to actually get in bed with the wild?

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When was the last time you camped? Lambir Hills, Sarawak

We decided to pitch our tent in another enchanting forest of Sarawak, Lambir Hills National Park. Like the other national parks here, Lambir has one of the most complex ecosystems in the world, providing a cozy home for more than 237 species of tropical birds, flying squirrels, gibbons, monkey and other exotic Bornean creatures.

Spending a night or two there means we got to trek some 12 trekking trails in the park; which lead us to some amazing sights, magnificent waterfalls and bathing pools scattered throughout the Bornean rainforest. But we’ve got to say, the sound of the jungle comes to life at night as we slept under the stars!

If it sounds tiring to you, it really isn’t. It was a very relaxing trip and really sets different chilled pace from the rat-race city life. Remember when we told you about our Wanderlust Fever? This experience probably helped cure 30% of it on its own.

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Just what the doctor ordered! Lambir Hills, Sarawak

But really, you have to watch our video series to try to catch a feel of our nights at Lambir.

BASIC CAMPING GEAR FOR DUMMIES

Let’s be real, assuming most of you reading this was born in the 90s, camping is probably a rare activity we do every now and then. Truth be told, we were a bit out of touch with the gear we were supposed to bring. Us urbanites could’ve been more prepared for our camping trip.

We’ve compiled a list, of 10 things you need to have in your camping bag when you go camping in the Rainforest, just so you don’t repeat the same mistakes we did.

A torch light/ A head torch

These are useful especially if you wish to go caving in the area. But in general, you’re in the jungle, it’s mostly going to be almost pitch-black at night under the stars, so these are also handy when you want to do late night toilet runs. don’t forget to bring extra bulbs and batteries.

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Blacker than black! Niah Caves

A small backpack

For your hiking trips, you’re not going to be needing to carry all your camping gear on the trail, so a small backpack that would fit all your important personal items, trekking essentials and snacks of course, is recommended.

A water bottle

You’d be surprise how many people (including us) forgets to bring a water bottle when going camping. Especially useful when you go on long hiking trails. We’d recommend a size for a bottle, but that really depends on how much weight you’re willing to carry.

Zip Lock bags

You’re in the tropical rainforest, so expect it to rain unexpectedly at times. Ziplock bags are your technology’s best friend in the jungle, especially on boat trips.

Solar charger/Powerbank
It’s important to have at least one fully charged spare phone on standby for your camping trip. In the jungle, accidents happen and you wouldn’t want your phone to run out of battery. Also, we know most us rely on our smartphone to catch pictures, enough said.

*Sidenote: When in the jungle, we recommend to forget all your social media and live off the grid for a few days.

Drybag

To keep your clothes dry (most importantly, your socks and underwear)

Salves, creams and powder

We have to admit, we were foolish not to bring adequate insect repellent on our trip and had to franticly search for one there. Trust us, you’re going to need them a lot, there’s a gajillion mosquitoes there. We also recommend taking along some prickly heat powder. This cooling powder can help with the sweat and heat rashes.

Sunscreen

The tropical sun isn’t too forgiving on the skin. Returning home with a bad sunburn is the last thing we’d want to happen, so we’d recommend applying sunscreen at all times.

Essentials kit

Pack a basic first aid kit, some matches or a lighter, and perhaps heat packs if it’s going to get cold at night.

Small knife/Army knife

This last essential always comes in handy wherever you are, let alone in the middle of the Bornean Jungle.

If you have more questions regarding our Taming Borneo adventure, please do leave a comment in the comment section below, or start a discussion; tell us your personal Taming Borneo experience!

Follow our adventure on our social media platforms: 

Instagram: @MyTourismChannel or #tamingborneo

Catch up with the latest episodes over on My Tourism Channel or by clicking on the thumbnails below:

Sarawak: EP10

Sarawak: EP10

Sarawak: EP11

Sarawak: EP11

Sarawak: EP12

Sarawak: EP12

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