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A walk in the woods – Niah National Park, Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia – the park and the caves

By on June 26, 2013 in Malaysia

On a recent visit to Miri, Sarawak, I decided to explore Niah National Park, Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia and the caves.

The park is about 90 km south of Miri and it takes around 90 minutes to drive there. The roads are OK, but a bit rough (which could explain why the suspension and steering on a rented car with only 40,000 km on the clock was a bit ‘loose and spongey’, and why the car had a few odd rattles.

The park is open from 10 am until 4 pm, the entrance fee is RM 10 for Malaysians and RM 20 for non-Malaysians.

Four points to note: There is a river to cross after you have paid your entrance fee (RM 1 each way – no idea why this isn’t included in the park fee); if you want to explore the caves you will need a torch (you can bring your own, rent one for RM 5, or install a torch app on your phone); wear good shoes/hiking boots as the caves, and some of the walkways, are very slippery; and bring a lot of water (I walked in with 1 litre, and bought 1.5 litres on the trail).

The first thing you see as you head out, and before you cross the river, is…

Really? Apparently YES! I was told I would be very lucky to see one… I pointed out that in my opinion I would be very unlucky if I saw one!

Really? Apparently YES! I was told I would be very lucky to see one… I pointed out that in my opinion I would be very unlucky if I saw one!

The RM 1 (each way) river crossing to get to the park

The RM 1 (each way) river crossing to get to the park

The walk starts off along concrete walkways

The walk starts off along concrete walkways

Small lizard on the trai

Small lizard on the trail

In to the forest

Into the forest

The concrete walkway is soon replaced with elevated wooden walkways. I would strongly recommend you watch where you put your feet (a number of planks were broken and a number of other were rotting away) and try to stick to the 'nail line' where the blanks were directly supported by the beam underneath

The concrete walkway is soon replaced with elevated wooden walkways. I would strongly recommend you watch where you put your feet (a number of planks were broken and a number of other were rotting away) and try to stick to the ‘nail line’ where the blanks were directly supported by the beam underneath

In to the forest - the sounds were amazing

Into the forest – the sounds were amazing

Odd tree formation around a rock - this was in a section of the walk where you pass through what is called the 'ravine forest' which was basically a series of limestone outcrops which regularly flood

Odd tree formation around a rock – this was in a section of the walk where you pass through what is called the ‘ravine forest’ which was basically a series of limestone outcrops which regularly flood

The limestone ravines

The limestone ravines

Steps leading up to the first cave - Traders Cave

Steps leading up to the first cave – Traders Cave

Traders Cave

Traders Cave

Traders Cave was used by bird nest collectors up until the late 70s. The wooden structures were shelters used by the bird nest collectors during the collecting season. The cave was called ‘Traders Cave’ as the the nest collectors would trade their nests with local suppliers. Excavations in the caves in the 1950s did not produce much evidence of occupation. The cave also contains two wells – one for drinking, and one for washing.

Traders Cave - view across the cave. The floor of the cave was slippery and felt spongey underfoot.

Traders Cave – view across the cave. The floor of the cave was slippery and felt spongey underfoot.

Traders Cave - exit from the cave towards the west mouth of the Great Cave. The walkways were slippery from bird droppings (the nest in this cave were not the suitable for selling as they are 'mossy')

Traders Cave – exit from the cave towards the west mouth of the Great Cave. The walkways were slippery from bird droppings (the nest in this cave were not the suitable for selling as they are ‘mossy’)

The Great Cave was truly amazing and had a strange atmosphere and feel to it.

The west entrance to the cave was first excavated in 1954, with follow-up studies until 1967, and the last major dig in 1977.

The evidence collected shows that the cave was in use 40,000 years ago, with burials being carried out in the cave 20,000 years ago. The deposits on the cave are over 3 m deep. That is a lot of rubbish to have accumulated.

Great Cave - remains of the excavation site from 1977 (almost an archaeological site now!)

Great Cave – remains of the excavation site from 1977 (almost an archaeological site now!)

Great Cave - main entrance to the cave. Note the person walking across the cave. The structures hanging down are used by the nest collectors, the building is now used for their accomodation

Great Cave – main entrance to the cave. Note the person walking across the cave. The structures hanging down are used by the nest collectors, the building is now used for their accommodation

Great Cave - looking back out of the cave. Be careful the floor is slippery!

Great Cave – looking back out of the cave. Be careful the floor is slippery!

Great Cave - looking back as going deeper in to the cave

Great Cave – looking back as going deeper into the cave

Great Cave - this is why you need a torch! Pitch black as you descend further into the cave.

Great Cave – this is why you need a torch! Pitch black as you descend further into the cave.

I strongly recommend that you rent (or take) a torch as the caves are incredibly dark.

Great Cave - a ray of light from above.

Great Cave – a ray of light from above.

Great Cave - looking towards one of the other entrances

Great Cave – looking towards one of the other entrances

Great Cave - the exit leading to the Painted Cave

Great Cave – the exit leading to the Painted Cave

Unfortunately, when I visited I was unable to go to the Painted Cave as the walkway had been allowed to rot and collapse. The gate you can see towards the bottom left of the above photo is the exit to the painted cave.

Great Cave - looking back to the excavation (on the right)

Great Cave – looking back to the excavation (on the right)

Great Cave - looking back in to the cave. The steps and walkway in the centre of the photo really give a sense of scale for the cave.

Great Cave – looking back into the cave. The steps and walkway in the centre of the photo really give a sense of scale for the cave.

Great Cave - climbing gear for the collection of bird nests

Great Cave – climbing gear for the collection of bird nests

Spot the insect… (hint, dark red in the centre of the image)

Spot the insect… (hint, dark red in the centre of the image)

Walkway out to a nearby village

Walkway out to a nearby village

Village

Village

Small shack on the trail selling drinks and souvenirs

Small shack on the trail selling drinks and souvenirs

Butterfly

Butterfly

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