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Niah Caves

Listed under Caves & Caving in Malaysia.

  • Photo of Niah Caves
  • Photo of Niah Caves
  • Photo of Niah Caves
Photo of Niah Caves
Photo by mikelyvers
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Sarawak's Niah Caves are among the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. A 3 km plankwalk leads through beautiful rainforest to the caves. The Niah Great Cave is the most spectacular; its vast interior has the character of a huge labyrinth, with tremendous shafts opening from the surface through the ceiling far above. Water pours hundreds of feet down the biggest of these shafts in a dazzling spectacle. Flocks of swifts swirl overhead, their calls echoing throughout the mighty cavern. The floor is very jagged and every surface is covered with a slimy layer of guano. Small huts allow guano miners and bird's nest harvesters refuge from the constant rain of guano. Slender bamboo poles rise vertically to the ceiling, as much as 200 feet overhead; incredibly, these serve as primitive (and very dangerous) ladders for bird’s nest harvesters. The nearby Painted Cave is named for its well-preserved and highly complex prehistoric cave paintings.

Written by  Mike Lyvers.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

The paintings are not in the cave marked as 'Great Cave' but in the 'Painted Cave', an entrance a little further along the hill.

Niah Great Cave

At least fifty spine-tinglingly ancient discoveries have been made in Sarawak’s caves, which are suspected to have been in use by the indigenous human population since the Pleistocene era. The Niah Great Cave is one of the most exciting of all these, since it was the site of the discovery of the oldest human skull ever found in Asia.

Archaeologists have dated it at around forty thousand years old, making it the property of a young gentleman from the Holocene era.

The remains of Neolithic humans, along with fascinating evidence of how their habits and daily lives would have changed over the centuries, are available to view at the Sarawak Museum in Kuching.

The Niah Great Cave is also famous for its incredibly well-preserved cave paintings, some of which depict strange, skeletal longboats bearing their passengers to the land of the dead, and for the ancient Borneo tradition of swallows’ nest-collecting.

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