Found near to the Kinabatangan area of Sabah are the Gomantong caves, heavily populated by swiftlets, bats, snakes and cockroaches among many other animals. The caves sits within Gomantong Hill, part of the Gomantong Forest Reserve, which was established to protect endangered wildlife, notably the orangutans. There are a total of 19 caves in the Gomantong caves system.
Black and White Caves
The iconic main cave is divided into two parts: Simud Hitam and Simud Putih, which means ‘black cave’ and ‘white cave’ respectively. Simud Hitam is open to the general public, reaching ceilings from 40-60 metres high and also houses the black saliva nests. Simud Putih on the other hand is the larger of the two and requires professional caving experience, thus it’s not open to the general public. The swiftlets’ white saliva nests are found at a 30 minute hike up the mountains.
Native bats take shelter in the cave during the day, whereas the swiftlets rest in the night. This creates a 24-hour feeding ground for dung beetles and cockroaches, which the snakes subsequently feed on. Despite being accessible, the black cave doesn’t guarantee you a way out without dirtying your shoes! It is highly recommended that you put on shoes that you plan to throw away or plastic bags over them if you don’t want to get them dirty.
The caves are about a 90-minute drive from the city of Sandakan. There’s also a bus station at Sandakan that drops you a little further from the main entrance of the caves and you can walk from there. Also, there are numerous flights into Sandakan and it is fairly possible to book travel packages at the airport itself when you arrive. Tours usually include the Kinabatangan River into the package.
The entrance fee is RM30 for adults and RM15 for children under 18, and an additional RM10 to bring in a camera. Opening hours are from 8am-6pm. You can find a list of tour agents on the Sabah Tourism website that can help you arrange a tour to the caves.
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