Niah Caves - Batu Niah

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Published: September 30, 2006

The Niah Caves are 2 hours drive from Miri in Eastern Malaysia.

The Niah Caves are well worth a visit and offer a different experience from the caves found at Mulu. I actually enjoyed the Niah Caves more than the Mulu caves, but that is probably because I had seen caves with similar formations to Mulu's limestone formations before.

The Niah Caves to me were interesting because there were some nice greens and other colours that gave them an alien feel. A travelling companion called them naked compared to Mulu. There are not as many stalagmites and stalagtites offered here as in Mulu.

One of the attractions found in the Niah Caves is the painted caves. There are some reddish markings on the walls found behind a security fence. As a full scene, there is not a lot to see, but some parts of the picture are clear. My fellow cave adventurer and I walked past them the first time and only found them on the way back.

The dead ships were also found in the painted cave. There are some remains of the dead ships still to be found here, but most have been moved to the museum in Kuching.

You might also be lucky to see the collection of birds nests. This lucrative job is high risk and many people have died trying to get their hands on a birds nests. You will see long pieces of wood attached and hanging from the very high ceilings of the caves. If there is no birds nest collection taking place, you can stand there in amazement and wonder at how they do it.

Bat guano is also collected in these caves. The collection of bat guano is not quite so spectacular, although watching the people carry the large sacks back might make you feel tired. Watching them balance with a big bag of guano on their backs and walk the unfinished bridge would be interesting to see.

Getting there provides limited options. The bus service from Miri to Niah Caves has been stopped with no current plans for recommencement. Shared taxis are available at the bus station area outside the Miri Visitor Information Centre. Standard fare seems to be 20 RM per person if you are in a full taxi of 4.

The other option to get to Niah Caves is to catch the local bus to the long distance bus station. The cost from the Visitor Information Centre is 2 RM. This is a fair distance away from the Visitor Information Centre. You can then barter to catch a ride to the express bus station found at the intersection near Batu Niah. Expect to pay around 10 RM and look for buses heading towards Bintalu. The same can be done if you are coming from Bintalu.

From the intersection express bus station, a cab might cost 20 RM to Batu Niah and 30 RM to the Niah Caves park.

There is accommodation to be found at the Niah Park Headquarters, but it has been privatised. The hostel no longer operates as a hostel and the cheapest you will get is a 4 bed room in the "hostel" at 42 RM. See if some fellow travellers are interested in sharing the room and the costs.

Accommodation is also available at Batu Niah, but you will need to pay the park entrance fee each time you enter the park if you stay here. There is a path along the river between the Niah Cave Headquarters and Batu Niah

From the Niah Caves Park Headquarters you will have to get a very short ride over on a long boat. This costs 1 RM per person. Swimming is not allowed and there are apparently crocodiles to discourage those who would like to try avoid the boat ride.

To reach the Niah Caves entrance takes about 45 minutes. When I was there, there was flooding on the path and you had to wade through water up to mid-thigh level. After that, you had to balance on the concrete beams of the partially completed new bridge. The completion of this new path to the Niah Caves does not look like being finished until sometime in 2007. For me this made the trip to the Niah Caves more fun and memorable, but visitors with children or not wanting to get wet might take exception to this. When I was there I heard of many people turning back and not continuing to the Niah Caves.

To visit the longhouse village you also have to wade through the water. The intersection to the longhouse village is at the start of the balance beam bridge, so you can avoid this and still see the village. There is not a lot at the longhouse village. Nobody seemed to be selling anything. I just had a chat with the kids playing in the river. Some of the adults in the village were hard to get a smile out of, but the occasional one gave a nod or smile and a few responded with hellos.

There is another 2 hour hike near the start of the trail to a high viewpoint. I didn't see this and it is hard to fit the Niah Caves, the village and the hike to the summit in one day. If you are fast and start early, you could do it, but most people would do it over 2 days.

For me, the Niah Caves were well worth a visit.

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