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Published: August 11th 2007
Gomantong Caves - the views and the ladder (just ignore the smell!)
The caves can be quite pretty if you can ignore the smell and creepy crawlies. If you look closely you can see the rope ladders used to get to collect the nests
Well after nine hard days working it was time for some chill out days off though we don’t tend to have total chill out days because usually there is some excursion arranged and this time was no exception.
The day started with a drive to the burial grounds about 1 ½ hours drive from Sepilok. As the ancient site no photography was allowed. The burials took place are in caves in a small hill with the higher status members of the local tribe were buried (or probably more correctly entombed) in a cave at the top of the hill which involved a steep climb to view and several steep steps to negotiate (I have an aversion to steps after Mount Kinabalu!). The people themselves are entombed in decorated log halves which from the size of them the people must have been pretty small. Seemingly mother of our tour guide (John) comes from this tribe and stood only 3ft 8ins high, so at 5ft then John is classed as a giant amongst his people!
We then drove to Gomantong Caves
- Sabah’s most famour source of swiftlet nests used for making yummy (euh!) Birds Nest Soup. John warned us that
Would You? (White Birds Nest)
Seeming this is the best Birds Nest you can find - white and less feathers so more valuable but would you still eat it?
the caves are a one time visit only which I can now understand why - the assault on the nose and the cockroaches that scurry over the piles of swiftlet poo does take some getting used to. But the caves are pretty interesting if you can get past these facts and cope with sights like crabs swimming around in a slurry of poo, slipping your way down walkways and the crunch of a cockroach under foot which all sounds pretty disgusting but there again to my personal taste the thought of eating a soup made from bird spittle is pretty gross even if it is refined and cleaned. It is one delicacy I can safely say I will not be trying especially after seeing the caves!
The one thing I think I should learn though is not to mention that I don’t want to be shown any critters with eight legs or more because the guides then seem to go out of the way to do exactly the opposite!!!
Having said all that the caves themselves are pretty impressive with light streaming through the openings and the sight of the spindly little rope ladders that are used by
If has more than 8 legs...
Some of the creepy crawlies that can be found amongst the poo. Guides seem to make a point of showing me them after I mention that I don't want to see anything with 8 legs or more!!!!
the collectors to get to the nests 250ft or more up on the cave ceiling is even more impressive. I am left wondering about that first individual who climbed 250ft up to a cave ceiling to collect a nest and then make it in a soup?!
All the time we were under cover of caves the weather stayed fine but as we traveled to Sakau for our river boat ride down Sabah’s longest river, Sungai Kinbatangan
then heavens opened and rains came down - heavy and continuous. I am starting to think our excursions carry a rain curse what with Mount Kinabalu and now Sakau.
The boat trip on the river was pretty wet all the way and as such sadly devoid of many of the wildlife sights that should be expected from this expanse of river that is the last refuge for many species whilst hemmed in my plantations. But luckily the famous and most popular reason for a visit to this region the Proboscis Monkey Troops
were not put off by the rain and we had several sights if some what distant. And one large male with very large tell tale nose of a Proboscis Money
oh and the small red chilli!!!!!!
Sadly the Elephants remained elusive and the only other wildlife sighting was the butt of a Wild Boar crashing back into the undergrowth - I swear it laughed at the bedraggled tourists floating down the river. The weather curse is starting to become less than funny. We had all looked forward to the Sungai Kinabatangan River trip and the potential wildlife sights instead the photos gained were mainly of each other looking increasing wet and with a equally decreasing sense of humour after the sitting through the second hour of heavy rain. So there were 2 rivers that day the one we floated on and the one running like rivers down our necks!
Other than our excursion we did have a day off to just chill which was bliss, so nice to be able to have a lie in and not be at work for 7:30am and I was pretty glad of that because on the night we arrived back at Sepilok we all decided to head off to Sandakan to catch the new Harry Potter movie
and didn’t get back until 3am. Unfortunately taxis take a long time to arrive around
Proboscis Monkey (Big Nose!)
You may understand my comment about the Red Chilli from this one!
here and we missed the 9:30pm showing so it looked like a late night with 11:55pm showing. Tickets bought we headed for ice cream (no real hardship if you have a sweet tooth!). Only later to be told there had been a mix up and no Harry Potter showing at 11:55pm. Noooooo! With a serious bit of pleading (and not to mention of coming all the way from Sepilok just to see Harry Potter) we got our own private showing of Harry Potter - a whole cinema screen to ourselves and a special one off late night showing just for us!!! We love Sandakan Cinema - thanks guys.
So now the days off are over and it is back to work, working in clinic area with the youngest orangutans currently at Sepilok. Really looking forward to the next 9 days as it will be the very hands on part of the placement.
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