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Roundtrip Borneo, June 2004

Going to Sukau

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Walkway to the Gomantong Caves
Walkway to the Gomantong Caves

At the parking lot we changed into more appropriate clothes for the caves: long pants, long sleeved shirts and a hat to protect my head. The bottom of my pants were nicely secured by being tugged into my socks..... I had heard about the many creepy crawlers in this cave, and I didn't want to give any of those an opportunity to crawl up my leg! Eeeeeks!

All of these precautions are really necessary to 'survive' this cave without screaming out loud all the time, LOL. The reason for all this is the risk of droppings from the many bats and swiftlets in the cave and of course the threat from ALL sides of the creepy crawlers.

But first of all we need to walk to the cave. The hike is easy as the whole trail is over this boardwalk. It was boiling hot though in the rainforest and the tropical moist heat was hard to bear. When you walk here do keep your eyes open! If you are looking you might spot monkeys in the trees!

The closer you get to the cave, the clearer the smell gets. The odour of bird and bat shit is very distinct. No doubt about it where you are going.... the smell says it all!

Gomantong Cave

Walkway to the Gomantong Caves
Walkway to the Gomantong Caves

The cave is a totally 'different' experience, absolutely not something for the faint-hearted. It is dark inside the cave and it is hard to orientate where you are and what's actually in the cave, when you go in....

High above you circle thousands, maybe millions of bats and swiftlets. Most of the swiftlets are out for the day and the bats are sleeping. But at dusk and dawn it must be a spectacular sight to see them enter and leave the cave, as there are millions of them living here.

When you get used to the dark you will be able to spot the swiftlets and the bats. The smell is almost unbearable. But all that for me was not the worst...... The boardwalk was slippery from all the bat- and bird sh!t.... and with every step I took I could see hundreds of cockroaches flee away from my feet. And I am not kidding if I say they are HUGE! And sooo many.... arghhhh.... I was trembling on my feet! The boardwalk was covered with them, I could hardly see the floor because of these cockroaches. But as soon as I moved my feet they all fled to the sides..... and to my relief they did that with every step I took ;-))

There was a railing on the side of the board walk, so you had something to hold on to. Quite a nice idea, as it was so slippery in here and I was rather afraid of falling down. But eehhhh..... again, hundreds of those huge cockroaches called these railings there 'home'. Not something I would like to put my bear hands onto... eeeeeks!

No I did not scream, even if my heart was pounding hard, and all I could think was: 'Why am I doing this!!!!!???'.

What can I say, besides that this is a totally 'different' experience :-)) Would I do it again.... hahaha, probably not. But I am glad I did it once in my life, just to prove that I could, but I think I don't need another one of these 'creepy crawler' experiences.

Bring a torch!

 Bring a torch
Bring a torch!

You absolutely need a good torch when you go inside the cave. It is pitch dark in there and as you probably understood of my previous tip, it is quite nice to see where you are walking. The walls, the board walk, the railing are covered with huge cockroaches. Oh yes, and if you are interested, you can spot some other creepy insects on the walls of the cave as well! The trail follows those walls, so you have lots of opportunities to have a look! ;-)) I can't remember the exact name, but I can recall being highly impressed by seeing a huge poisonous bird-eating centipedes and spiders...... eekss..... can we continue our walk now.... I want to get out of this cave!!!! :-))

Nope, not yet! Hahaha, we have to see 'why' we are in this cave first! It is time to look up! Looking up is interesting as you can see those thousands of bats and swiftlets. Besides that you can see the constructions the local people use to harvest the birds nests. The cave is so high, it is hard to believe they can climb up there just using ladders, ropes and poles. The birds nest are used for the famous Chinese 'bird's nest soup'. And these birds nests is what makes this cave so unique.

How interesting it may be to look up, I have to warn you for doing that at the same time! The swiftlets and bats don't care where they drop there sh!t, and if you don't watch it, it might be on your head. As you can see I am torn between disgust and amazement by this cave. Hahaha, but I 'survived' and I am happy to have dared to have unique and most likely 'one time' experience :-))

As I don't have any pictures of inside the cave myself, I'll give you two links to pics on the web instead. On the first one you can see the cave, on the second one you can see a picture of a swiftlet inside the cave.

picture of the Gomantong Cave
Picture of a swiftlet inside the cave

Artificial cave

Still full with impressions of the Gomantong Caves we are on our way again, our destination is not for away anymore, we are getting close to Sukau.

During our ride we saw this artificial cave. I know, I know, it is a very bad picture. But it isn't easy to take photos out of a minivan, while being tossed around like a milkshake because of the bumpy road :-)) But it was interesting to see this artificial cave, so that's why I decided to post the picture anyway.

The Gomantong Caves are protected and it is only allowed to harvest the nests of the swiftlets twice a year. The birds nests are worth a lot of money though, and that's why they started this artificial cave.

There are four species of swiftlets that build their nests on the wall of the cave. But there are only two of types that are edible. The "black " nests are less valuable and they consist of hardened saliva mixed with feathers. The other type of nests are the "white " nests, which are made of pure saliva These 'white' nests can fetch more than US$ 500 per kilogram.


Artificial cave
Artificial cave

Trucks in the middle of the road

Trucks in the middle of the road
Trucks in the middle of the road

The journey continues. Palm trees on the left side of the road, palm trees on the right side of the road and a steady traffic of heavy trucks coming our way. There are quite a few of those trucks on this road because they transport the fruits of the palm trees to the factory.

The road is not comfortable, bumpy, shaky. And our driver is trying to make the best of it trying to find the best track on this dusty bumpy road. So that means that we drive sometimes on the left side, sometimes on the right side and sometimes we simply claim the middle of the road :-)) Nothing to worry about.... until you meet those big heavy trucks! And.... eeeeeks! They do exactly the same!!!

Neither is willing to move their vehicle to their 'own' side of the road.. until the very last moment of course! Those trucks really do look BIG when they get closer and closer in front of your nose! But luckily on the very last minute the drivers give in and get back to their own half of the road and we pass each other in a huge cloud of dust..... phew, one more truck less to worry about ;-)

Water Buffalo

Water Buffalo
Water Buffalo

Quite a contrast to those modern trucks was seeing this water buffalo. They use them to get the harvest from the fields to the side of the road.

The last bit of the journey was quite nice, looking out of the window, seeing a bit of the local life. Sometimes we passed some people and some houses, and of course those endless plantations on both sides of the road

White Egret


White Egret
White Egret

We spotted this White Egret while driving on the bumpy road. The driver was so nice and made a quick stop we could make a picture of it. I remember being so enthusiastic and feeling happy of seeing a beautiful bird like this on the side of the road. Fantastic! But how little I knew what would be waiting for us the next day. Hahaha, I have to admit that I stopped counting that day after having seen over a dozen of White Egret. But I think I will remember this one best, because it was the first :-)

Arriving at Sukau

Arriving at Sukau
Arriving at Sukau

We are here! Our end destination of the day, the Sukau River Lodge. The last little bit of the journey was a little boat trip to get to the lodge, which is located on the river. A beautiful spot to be!

It is time to unpack my suitcase and relax a bit. Tomorrow it is going to be early day again and without a doubt I will have lots to tell you again. But for now it is goodbye, find a lazy chair, and do nothing but enjoy the views. I hope to see you again on the next page of my journey! :-))

The trip continues...


Nose monkey at Sukau
Nose monkey at Sukau

My long day of travelling has come to an end. But it was great to see a bit of the country, learn about the palm oil plantation and visit the Gomantong caves.

The previous leg of my journey was a visit to Poring Hot Spring, famous for its hot springs. But I enjoyed the Canopy Walkway by for the most. It was a great experience to walk high up in the treetops of the rainforest.

My next page will be about Sukau, my favourite part of the journey. I stayed here for two days and I wouldn't have minded staying here longer. I hiked, did tours on the river, saw lots of birds and had an amazing encounter with a nose-monkey.

I hope you will join me on this virtual trip and enjoy reading my travel stories and see the pictures. For me it has been fantastic to write about my journey because it has made me relive the trip once again :-)

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