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Published: August 19th 2007
Gomatong cavesGomantong Caves
Looks like a nice cave! it stared in the blue planet for the nest collecting
We were picked up by our guide Armran and endured a very bumpy ride to the Gomantong caves. These caves are famous for the swiftlet nests that are collected to make Birds Nest Soup. Crazy guys climb flimsy ladders suspended from the ceiling to harvest the birds nests, which are made from the swift's saliva, then even crazier Chinese soup lovers pay thousands of ringgit per kilo to make the delicacy. We feel sorry for the homeless birds!
For those of you who watched the Planet Earth series, you may recognise the caves from a very squirmy episode. As we approached the entrance to the Black Cave, the acrid stench of guano filled our nostrils. We teetered around a boardwalk, suspended above a mountain of bird and bat poo, that was teeming with huge cockroaches, like a huge writhing red and black sea below us. The roaches run around the boardwalk too so we had to watch where we were walking and couldn't hold the handrails. The walk followed the walls of the cave, which were crawling with roaches and really sinister venomous long-legged centipedes, that aggressively chased after our guide Armran when he identified one with his
Thousands of swifts and bats nest here, you can really smell the ammonia! and there was a mountain of guano!
torchlight. We were glad we had left our Maglites on the bus, it was too terrifying to examine the critters covering the walls. Halfway round the caves, there was an ominous rumble and a cascade of rocks bounced down to the walkway, one smacking Rach on the leg! Armran urged us to hurry round to the exit, passing some crazy workers collecting nests. Just before the exit we saw a little baby swiftlet sitting on the boardwalk. Armran went to check it was ok and it flew off, landing on Jase's tummy, and promptly fell asleep. Ah bless! We were glad to escape to the fresh air and spotted long-tailed macaques swinging through the trees on our walk back to the coach. As we drove along the road to Sukau, we spotted a wild orangutan in the trees and stopped for a closer look. It was nice to see an orangutan outside the Rehabilitation Centre - it felt more real somehow. Kinabatangan River
We drove to Sukau and jumped on an open boat for the short trip to our river lodge. Predictably the accommodation was rather basic and had the usual resident lizards, but it had an ensuite with
Hello mr cockroach where's your millions of cousins!!?
a flushing loo, a fan and air con so was a relative palace to the jungle camps where we had originally considered staying. After lunch and the sun had calmed down slightly, we climbed aboard the boat to venture down the river for our jungle cruise. After only a couple of minutes the puny 15 horsepower outboard motor died and we were stranded in the jungle river. Non-plussed our guide whistled to another tourist board further upstream who came to rescue us. They simply tied us together and the other boat towed us around the river for the entire cruise. The boat driver and our guide seemed so familiar with the incident, we suspect this had occured several times before.
We pootled down the river and stopped under a tree, directly below a mangrove snake, that was sleepily curled up on a branch. We reckon he would have caused some chaos should he have accidently dropped into the boat. We soon spotted some proboscis monkeys sitting in the canopy, endearingly comical with their pendulous noses. We were both really pleased to have seen these particular primates because they are unique to this part of the World. Soon after we
gomatong cave critters
Hello mr cockroach where\'s your millions of cousins!!? ahh there you are!
found several wild orangutans, including a mom and baby, who sat munching fruit in the treetops, hurling the seeds in our general direction! There were plenty of pig-tailed and long-tailed macaques nearby and bush pigs sniffing around the jungle floor. We saw some beautiful birds, including a stunning blue kingfisher, diving down for his dinner. Night Jungle Walk
That evening we went on a night jungle walk and bought hilarious leech socks on the advice of our guide. They were simple big socks made from cream cotton that tied just under your knee. We were grateful for them though, because the walk proved more hard-core than Taman Negara! There wasn't an obvious trail to follow, Armran seemed to be randomly weaving his way through the mud, ducking under the low-lying branches as he disappeared further into the jungle. We followed in trepidation, not daring to cling to any branches, as there were plenty of huge spiders and stick insects sitting on the trees, and leeches hanging down, ready to pounce at any opportunity. It was worth all the tramping through all the squelchy mud in the end because we saw an amazing Praying Mantis on a leaf. He almost
Long legged centipede
THE! most horrendous thing we've ever seen, and they chase after boots or things on the walls, they can shift too, oh and there venomous!
seemed to be dancing in our torchlight as we gazed at him. On the way back, we began to wonder whether Armran had lost his way, but no we were fine, it was the other group who got temporarily lost. With relief we could see the camp lights winking through the trees but Armran had one last treat when we caught us a passing firefly.
Next day we were up early to be collected by our private transfer to Semporna. This was a bit of a luxury but the public transport options sounded a bit of chore, and it was much nicer to snooze in the back of a 4x4 for four hours than endure a smelly, sweaty bus all morning
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