Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Niah NP Weekend

It's been a while since we overnighted at Niah NP, the weekend after the trip to the West country seemed ideal to recuperate from jetlag and just hang-out listening to the sounds of the rainforest. We booked a fan-cooled chalet at Niah Park and stayed for the long weekend.

It was a quiet weekend of just lounging about with windows open and ears perked up to listening to the incessant calls of barbet, broadbills, hornbills and numerous sunbirds that flit through the idyllic minimalist garden setting. With comfy chairs set up on the verandah facing flowering hibiscus, we savored the views of a pair of Brown-throated Sunbird that came to visit flowers on an hourly basis. Fleeting about the same path, beautifully painted butterflies came and went.

Male Brown-throated Sunbird.

Female, Brown-throated Sunbird.

Male, Purple Sunbird/Van Hasselt's Sunbird.

A beautifully marked male Golden Birdwing Troides Amphrysus.

Our chalet situated not far from the river afforded us unparalled views of the comings and goings of visitors to the park. The weekend being a three day weekend proved to be busy for the boatman and park staff. Visitors came and went at all hours from 7am till late in the afternoon. Outside of those hours we had the park to ourselves, it's akin to living in a simple manor surrounded by a large well tended garden.

We took our meals at Batu Niah rest-stop, 30minutes away by car. Reason being the canteen was rather sluggish with limited fare on offer. At the rest stop, food on offer ranged from chicken wings, roti canai, mee kolok and all sorts of other delectable local meals simply prepared.

Milky Way in the garden.

The drive out gave us a chance to scan the skies for some magical dark sky wonders. Being away from the brightly lit Miri City ie. less light pollution gave us clearer views of the surrounding nite skies. On one of those nights, perhaps only the 3rd such occasion in our umpteen years in Sarawak, we were blessed with a spectacular view of the Milky Way ... right from the front porch of our humble chalet.

The stay Niah NP gave us the quiet weekend we longed for, delectable little pleasures meant to be taken in small doses.

Information for visitors:-

Niah Caves NP offers a range of accomodation choices :
a) Fan-cooled dormitory rooms-4 rooms per house, 4 single beds per room with attached bathroom and shower and a huge common living area. Best value for money at $40/room.
2) Fan-cooled chalets-2 rooms per house, 4 single beds per room with attached bathroom and shower. Comes with a refrigerator, living and kitchen area. A steal at $159/house.

Also on offer are the air-conditioned VIP chalets and air-conditioned chalets. For enquiries, please call Niah Caves NP at 085-737450/737454 or fax 085-737918.

More information on the park can be found here.

Images and text by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Niah Nature Hike

Although I have been to the caves several, I was plesantly surprised to catch something different this time....harvesting of bird's nest in live action. It should have been over on a Friday, but this time, the harvesters needed another day. Posting some photos here to share the experience.

A harvester descending a bamboo pole (estimated height, 60 ft).

After the pole has been moved and the 4 stay wired tightened, a harvester shoots up the pole faster than I could crawl on flat land.

Upon reached the top, he sits on the platform and plans the next moves.

Using a pole about 20 feet long, with a scraper on its tip, the harvesting begins.

RM80 per piece, fresh and hot from the cave roof.

Perhaps one day, we can see more. ;-)

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Little Cave Excursion

View of the entrance to Niah Caves from the inside.

Other than protecting a diverse rainforest habitat, Niah National Park is perhaps better known for its extensive cave systems (other than the famous discovery of a 40,000 years old human skull). After all limestone hills and caves make up about 67% of the area in the Park.

Despite having made several trips to Niah National Park before, I hardly ventured beyond the entrance of Great Cave simply because I don’t like walking the damp and slippery path inside the caves. However, several weekends ago with friends of MNS Miri, I decided to make an exception, we went deep into the depths of Niah Caves to explore and photograph the interior of Niah caverns!

It was raining heavily in Miri everyday last week, but we needn’t have to worry about the weather last Saturday for it was sunny throughout. Upon arrival at the Park and after making sure our tripods are secured in our backpacks, we began the 3km trek to the Niah caves.

As usual, we were constantly on the lookout for signs of wildlife. This time we were rewarded with view of 2 beautiful Prevost’s squirrels scampering above us in the trees, their 2 bands of reddish brown and white furs were very striking and easily recognizable. As for the monkeys once again they eluded us. Oh well, there is always another time … Niah is but 45minutes away from Miri by car.

Upon approaching Subis Limestone, approximately halfway into our walk, we began to see dark grey weathered blocks of ancient coral reef limestone scattered all over over the forest floor.

These limestone boulders were eroded into jagged edges by the action of rain water and the surface looked harsh, however the force of living plants appeared to be even greater for they have unrelentingly wrapped and entwined themselves onto these rocks, their roots creeping through the crevices and eventually cracking up the limestone blocks as they grow bigger and stronger.

We knew Traders Cave was near when the white limestone cliffs peeped through the breaks in the forest trees. Strictly speaking Traders Cave is not really a cave but a huge half-moon limestone overhang carved out by the flow and dissolving action of subterranean river water many many years ago. Anura, a geologist, pointed out the various grooves on the ceiling of the cave where the different layers showed the weathering of limestone at different periods of time. Just before we exited Traders Cave on top of the staircase, I looked back and as always never failed to be impressed by the enormous dimension of Traders Cave.

After Traders Cave, it was only a short walk away to the main entrance of Great Cave. I was lagging behind the others and just as I passed by the archeological site I suddenly saw a bird of prey flying in and landed on a nest in a tree just outside the cave mouth. When I looked closer I saw another bird, it is a nest for two! It is strange to see raptors building their nest so close to the place where the monkeys hang out, but then again perhaps it means that the monkeys have moved away. After waiting for 10 minutes with no more movement from the nest, I gave up, re-grouped with the others and prepared myself to enter Great Cave. Rosie decided to stay behind.

Great Cave is the largest cave in Niah National Park. The mouth of the Cave stretches wide and we could hear the constant buzz of the swiftlets and an occasional bat or two flying in and out of the cave.

We walked towards a set of staircase that climbed up and over a jumble of fallen big rocks into the dark and cavernous cave. The air inside was a few degrees cooler but mixed with slightly pungent smell of guano deposits.

In the distance, we could see the light of the other entrance of Great Cave, Gan Kira that leads to Painted Cave. The raised plankwalk took us through the winding passages of the cave interior, passing by several large chambers.

At the narrower and darker passages, our torchlight picked up roosting bats perched upside down on the wall as well as swiftlet nests. Somehow the cave was not as dark and the path not as slippery as I remembered, perhaps because of the sunnier and drier weather today.

The plankwalk also passed by 2 big sinkholes. Here the mid-day sun beamed down from the roof openings and illuminated the bizarre rock formations, formed and sculpted by the slow action of dripping rainwater.

We stepped off the path onto the cave floor and went underneath one of these sinkholes. Bathed in soft light and surrounded by large rock sculptures of various sizes and shapes decorated with interesting patterns, it definitely felt like standing in the middle of a living art gallery!

What better way to end our little cave exploration than to catch a view of another cave inhabitant, the rare Niah Cave Gecko which obliged us by staying still for a photo shoot.

After a rather long and strenuous climbing of stairs, we emerged from the cave and into the warm sunshine.

I am already looking forward to my next trip to Niah caves!

Article and images by Sara Wong/MNS Miri/Jul 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A morning trekking at Niah in June

A couple of months ago, some friends went to Bukit Kasut in Niah National Park. According to them, they caught a glimpse of the Borneon Gibbons on the Bukit Kasut Trail. Since then, a plan was hatched to revisit Bukit Kasut, hoping for a chance to see this hard to see primate whose number is presently threatened by severe habitat loss due to deforestation, mainly to make way for agriculture, mostly for oil palms in these parts.

So on 6th June 2010, several MNS Miri Branch trekkers drove to Niah National Park from Miri to rendezvous with the birders who arrived much earlier. The original intention was to pry away one birder, who is also an avid trekker for a quick hike to Bukit Kasut. Our plan was however foiled by an unexpected early morning downpour. Upon arrival at the Park HQ, we were advised by the Park not to attempt the hike up Bukit Kasut, eventhough the rain had stopped as a safety precaution. We went trekking to the limestone caves instead.

Immediately after crossing the Niah River we were greeted by a pair of butterflies that only displayed the brilliant blue colour on their wings when they fly, and the beautiful black and green Rajah Brooke Birdwing butterfly. The forest was blooming at this time of the year, all along the 3km path to the caves abundant butterflies were seen cluttering and fluttering from flower to flower, fractically feeding themselves on nectar.

Bright colorful butterflies, plentiful in Niah along the pathway to the caves.

The heavy rainfall earlier released a distinctively earthy smell to the surroundings, and the clarity of the air was amazing, it felt like walking through the forests in springtime! Up ahead and above we saw a couple of squirrels running on tree branches, foraging for their breakfast. The jungle was also alive with the melodic sounds of birds, it seemed to be coming from everywhere though spotting them in the dark green foliage is no easy matter.

Obviously the jungle provides a good hiding place if ones don’t want to be seen! However, a couple of times, one of two braver birds did venture down to the mid-canopy level and afforded us with good views of them. Faye took her first bird picture with her new compact camera!

On the ground by the side of the concrete path and plankwalk, lizards were seen scrambling in and out of the forest litter while on the railings of the plankwalk we saw many colourful and cool looking snails and hairy caterpillars, obviously also out for a walk after the rain. Where-ever they were going, they were definitely taking the scenic route!

A little snail making its way along the plankwalk , wonder how long it'll take this little guy to traverse the 3000m path to the caves.

Some parts of the path were covered with fallen blossoms. We stopped at a place where it was raining little yellow flowers, soaking in the sweet scent mixed in with the cool breeze. Amongst the flowers and fallen leaves we found an interesting looking bug which we later identified as an assassin bug. Assassin bug (of Reduvidae family) has a curved mouthpiece with which it uses to stab and suck its victim’s juice. Sometimes the prey is much larger than the predator!

The bright red assassin bug, unlike the stealth of a real life assassin who strives to be inconspicous, this one sports ubber bright colors. Self preservation (from being eaten by bigger predators) rules over stealth.

Further on we found a tubular entrance of a stingless bee’s home at the base of a tree next to the path. We spent an enormous amount of time observing and photographing these busy bees doing their daily chores. Stingless bees build their nest deep inside hallow trees. The entrance is formed by a defensive tube which is coated with sticky resin to trap intruders.

Stingless bees as the name suggested don’t have stings, but they can bite, so it is best not to get them angry.

We finally reached the entrance of Great Cave 3 hours later after spending some time at the Traders Cave. Peter and Faye went inside Great Cave to explore the cavern while I opted to stay behind. While waiting for Peter and Faye to return, I scanned the limestone hills opposite the cave for signs of wildlife but it was a very quiet afternoon.

By now, the hot and humid weather had returned. The brisk walk back to Park HQ had us sweating and breathing hard. We ended the day by making a short detour into Batu Niah which afforded us with great views of the limestone hills that made up Niah National Park. Nestled somewhere in the hills is Bukit Kasut.

The sea of tranquility and seemingly bloundless greenery amongst the big trees at Niah Caves National Park.

Even though we did not achieve what we originally set out to do, we did have a wonderful day walking the forest and exploring the limestone caves. We will definitely come back for a hike up Bukit Kasut when the weather is drier.

Sara Wong/MNS Miri/22nd Jul 2010
All images by Sara Wong

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday birdwatching at Niah NP, IBA

For those who are not aware, Niah NP is one of the IBA in Northern Division, MY50. The others are Lambir Hills NP (MY51), Similajau NP (MY49) , Mulu NP (MY53), Loagan Bunut NP (MY52) and the Kelabit Highlands (MY54).

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are sites of international importance for bird conservation at the global, regional or national level, based upon standard, internationally recognised criteria. IBAs are not only important for birds, but typically support awide range of other important flora and fauna species. Furthermore, many IBAs are also significant for human welfare and economic well being through protecting catchments, providing flood control or as a source of natural resources.

Google map of a section of Niah Caves National Park. We birdwatched along the river from Park HQ to Batu Niah town, a distance of 3km on relatively flat concrete pathway.

The following few paragraphs are from the "Directory of Important Bird Areas in Malaysia", MNS Conservation Publication No. 8.

Niah NP itself supports 7 globally threatened species. The Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Grey-headed Ichthyophaga ichthyaetusand Lesser Fish-Eagles I. humilis (all near-threatened) have also been recorded in the area. The following is from "Directory of Important Bird Areas in Malaysia".

Globally Threatened species which has been recorded in the park:

a) Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle (VU) Spizaetus nanus (SFD 2002a).
b) Large Green Pigeon (VU) Treron capellei (Sebastian 1984-1987 ).
c) Short-toed Coucal (VU) Centropus rectunguis (Sebastian 1984-87, 2002)
d) Blue-headed Pitta (VU) Pitta baudii (SFD 2002a).
e) Straw-headed Bulbul (VU) Pycnonotus zeylanicus (SFD 2002a).
f) Hook-billed Bulbul (VU) Setornis criniger (SFD 2002a).
g) Large-billed Blue Flycatcher (VU) Cyornis caerulatus (SFD 2002a).

Two hundred and forty-one (241) species of birds have been recorded in and within the immediate vicinity of the national park (Gregory-Smith 1996; Marduka 2001; Sarawak Forest Department 2002; Smythies 1999). Niah Caves itself harbour great populations of swiftlets in its chambers. The swiftlet population, consists of the White-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus fuciphaga, Black-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus maximus and Mossy-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus salaganus.

Come to think of it, our group has not quite done a proper job of birdwatching at Niah NP. It's always either to go to Niah Caves NP to explore the limestone caves, check out the insects along the plankwalk or climb Bukit Kasut ... and birdwatch along the way, on the side, never the main event. Perhaps we are just spoilt for choice as far as birdwatching locations are concerned.

Past Sunday, we tried to gather as many of our small Miri Branch birdgroup for a spot of birdwatching-only outing at the park. "As many" didn't turn out to be as many as we had expected.

Sian's got work, Sara's away, Musa's off possibly fishing, Steve's away to attend to some major snafu in Labuan. None of the Curtin birders were anywhere to seen or heard from ... possibly stumped with homework. We ended up with a motley crew of Clare, Rosie, Amer and yours truly. And not to forget, two very junior birders in the form of pint size Aisya and not so pintsize Ali.

Since we were birdwatching on this side of the river ie. along it, outside the park per say, we didn't have to pay the required entrance fee to the park! Yes, it was free!!!

Niah River meanders thru the park to form the boundary between park headquarters and the park grounds proper. There's a well-used (used to be) path from the park hq to Batu Niah town right alongside the river banks, it's concrete all the way to Batu Niah. This path was our target this time around. All 3 kms of it.

The trailhead from Batu Niah entrance ... concrete all the way to the park, interspersed with fruit orchards and a few village houses.

... and friendly dogs.

Having birdwatched in Niah before, we noticed how much harder it was to pick out birds from dense foliage within the park itself, you can always hear the birds but hardly ever see them without putting a real effort. The Chestnut-rumped Babbler we ticked off previously on a preivious visit was called out before we had a good positive look at it.

Along this path however, they are numerous breaks in the forest cover along the way, the first kilometer is probably the most fruitful for birds being a distance away from the kampung and still retaining some of the original riverine cover. The rest is an easy trek to Batu Niah.

We took almost two hours to complete the full trail, spending time spying for birds along the way. The walk back to the park from Batu Niah took us a full 20 minutes to the park headquarters, without the birdwatching of course.

The first patch just outside the back fences of the park boundary was actually a cleared forest planted with fruit trees such as nangka, cempedak, tarap and the like. There were still a few stands of large original cover. This was perhaps the most productive spot being rather bright.

We have spotted the following birds in this area: broadbills, spiderhunter, drongos (2 species), treeswift, bulbul, hornbill, barbet, fantail and numerous sunbirds.

On this particular outing we sighted Scarlet minivet (a group of 3 individuals male, female and a likely juvenile); Pacific swallow, Cream-vented bulbul, and Yellow-vented bulbul. We heard Common tailorbird, barbet sp., fantail sp., drongo sp. and broadbill sp. but were unable to locate where they were calling from. The barbet was definitely high up in the tall trees.

As we moved further into the shadier trails, we spotted a bird we have not seen before for a while. After much peering into the dark foliage, we made out at least three birds. Upon further examination we had a good look at two of the birds. One individual decided to fly across the Niah river.

The ones that stayed behind were positively id as a resplendent male Diarde's Trogon and a slightly smaller Scarlet-rumped Trogon. We surmised that the third that flew away was also a Scarlet-rumped Trogon based on it's call. What are the odds of that? Both birds were lifers for Rosie and Amer.

As we walked on further thinking the day could not get any better we stumbled upon a group of babblers stealthily moving inside the fairly dense foliage next to the trail. We almost did not bother until we heard the sounds of juveniles nearby.

Upon closer look indeed it was confirmed that one of the adults birds was feeding young inconspicously hidden behind some leaves inside a nest. The bird kept flying in and out of something which looked more like a clump of brown dead leaves than a babbler's nest. We confirmed id as Chestnut-winged Babbler having been given full view of the adult birds as it flew in and out to feed the youngins. We were completely stoked by then.

In that clump of dry leaves precariously hanging on live twigs is a Chestnut-winged Babbler's nest. Juveniles were heard from inside as adults birds flit in and out bringing morsels of food (looks to be caterpillars).

The rest of the walk to Batu Niah was not as eventful other than several squirels playing catch and several appearances of the ever present Cream-vented Bulbul across our path. As we moved closer towards Batu Niah, the vegetation turned to oil palm, and more fruit trees mostly of rambutan, durians and tarap.

The short but sweet birdwatching outing at Niah NP ended with hearty lunch and ABC for desert at Batu Niah town.

Though we did not tick any of the globally threatened species listed above this time around, we will definitely do this trail again if only for the trogons and babblers we spotted! On second thoughts, the Blue headed Pitta could just be the reason to go back and soon.

MNS Miri, Nov 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

Scrambling up Bukit Kasut, Niah National Park

On 1st June 2009, two MNS Miri members decided to check out Madu and Bukit Kasut trails in Niah Caves National Park as part of a recce in preparation for our upcoming post trip event in conjunction with 62nd MNS National AGM to be held in Miri 3rd week September 2009.

The start of Madu trail is about 900m of comfortable stroll on plank walk and cement path from the archaeology museum opposite Park HQ across the Niah River. Madu trail follows Sg Subis – a small tributary of the mightier Sg Niah, and skirts along the western side of Subis Limestone, all the way up to Bukit Kasut trail. This particular forest trail can be wet and very muddy especially during the rainy season or after especially heavy downpour, many less fortunate souls have returned with one trekking shoe short. We picked a day that was relatively dry thus making our small adventure all the more enjoyable.

The forest habitat here is mainly riverine (or alluvial), peat swamp and limestone vegetation. We had the opportunity to cross Sg Subis at several places along the trail, on all accounts the view is most scenic and calming typical of any other rainforest enclaves we have come to know. Typical great examples of huge buttress roots and strangler figs can also be seen in many places along the trail. The air is filled with a cacophony of unfamiliar sounds. We heard plenty of birdcalls which indicated that this is a super place for birdwatching. Just a day before a separate party of MNS Miri members photographed and recorded the enigmatic calls of the Chestnut-rumped Babbler not far from here (article below). Continuous chirping of crickets and other insects filled the air. Those with an affinity for carbonates will be happy here. This forest trail offers a lot in terms of depositional carbonate structures, well-preserved with all the erosional imprints (rainwater, river and sea waves) from ages gone by. Clear carbonate depositional sequences can be observed along the trail at very close quarters.

The first 20 minutes of Bukit Kasut trail to the foothill of Bukit Kasut is flat similar Madu trail. The limestone hill is not considered high at 205m but it is very steep and presents a good challenge to any beginner to moderate climbers. Towards the last part of the climb, trekkers are aided by sections of ropes and long aluminum ladders fitted to the steepest slope. After an hour of strenuous, adrenaline pumping climb, we found ourselves at the summit with a beautiful view of the surrounding area overlooking the rainforest canopy of the National Park and the quaint Batu Niah township. We spent 40 minutes at the summit exploring the area and taking notes of the surrounding vegetation, resting and listening to traditional gong music wafting up the air from the town below, Batu Niah was apparently celebrating Gawai. The entire experience was as close to surreal as one can get at this elevation surrounded by old growth rainforest.

The climb down the limestone hill was as difficult as the climb up and for us it took approximately the same amount of time. Nevertheless, by 3:30pm, we were back in Park HQ, none the worse for wear except for some slight muscle soreness and scuffed trekking shoes.

Most people come to Niah Caves National Park to see the famous neolithic caves and artifacts of a millennia past. The Madu and Bukit Kasut trails offer a different kind of activities - jungle exploration and for the more active, a bit of adventure and adreline pumping sort of fun climbing and scrambling up the steep limestone hill we all know as Bukit Kasut.

Admiring events that took place over geologic time imprinted on rocks exposed on present day.

Carbonate boulders strewn around the forest floor.

Swiftlets nest harvesting station at on one the caves leading to Bukit Kasut summit.

Strangler figs close to overwhelming its gracious host.

Article by Sara Wong and Michael Lim
Photographs by Sara Wong

Friday, May 1, 2009

A short primer on Niah Caves National Park

The Park is "located on the Sungai (river) Niah, about 3 km from the small town of Batu Niah, a 110 km short car journey to the south-west of Miri in northern Sarawak. The trip is shorter via the new coastal highway passing thru quaint townships of Bekenu and Sepupok.

The park was first gazetted as a National Historic Monument in 1958, gazetted as National Park on 23 November 1974 and was published to the public on 1 January 1975.

The Park is one of Sarawak's smaller national parks, but it is certainly one of the most important and has some of the most unusual visitor attractions. The park's main claim to fame is its role as one of the birthplaces of civilisation in the region. The oldest modern human remains discovered in Southeast Asia were found at Niah, making the park one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.

Forty thousand years ago, the Niah Great Cave sheltered human life. Here lies the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia, along with many other relics of prehistoric man. Today the Cave is home only to bats, swiftlets and other specially adapted forms of life. However, a few locals still venture into the dark interior to collect guano (bird and bat droppings used as fertilizer) and bird's nest.

The famous Painted Cave is another highlight of the visit to Niah Cave. Here, little human-like figures drawn in red haematite watch over a gravesite where the bodies of the dead were each laid in its own boat-shaped coffin. The Great Cave and Painted Cave have been declared as National Historical Monuments.

The Caves are accessible via a raised plankwalk that winds through lowland forest vibrant with birds and butterflies. Apart from the Caves, visitors can explore several kilometres of forest trails to feel the richness of tropical rainforests, climb a 400m tall limestone ridge or visit an Iban longhouse located near the Park boundary. Visitors can also rent a boat or walk along the river from Park headquarters to Batu Niah town."

The above description was lifted from Sarawak Forestry Corporation's website on Niah NP.

The neolithic cave paintings discovered in Painted Cave within the Niah Caves complex has been adopted at the emblem for the national park and proudly displayed at the park headquarters. All visitors to the park are required to register at the park office. Information about the park as well as bookings for accomodation and guides can be made here as well.

The park has choice accomodation available, the VIP chalet comes complete with modern trappings of home at $500/nite. Air-conditioned, equipped with a large verandah constructed entirely of belian wood overlooking the main river. This is made for a memorable family weekend stay at the park. Other well maintained chalets come in both AC and fan cooled clean and well-maintained units also constructed entirely of wood.

A new wharf which has just been completed serves as a convenient point to ferry passengers across the river to the park proper. The boat runs daily between 0900hrs to 1930 hrs and cost $1/person each way. Arrangement for pickups past 1930 hrs can be made with the boatman at a reasonable agreed time and rate. The river crossing takes less than 5 minutes. Swimming is not advisable due to the presence of crocodiles in the river.

The museum complex (blue roofed) as view from across the river. The facility holds an interesting array of artifacts discovered within the Niah Caves complex. The structure is built on a raised concrete stilts and built mostly of wood, a perfect place to saunter in the late afternoon to listen to the sounds of the rainforest. White-bellied Sea Eagles, Pied Hornbills and other smaller birds has been sighted from this vantage point.

Typical birds in the park from the top: male Black Hornbill, Chestnut-rumped Babbler, unid. flycatcher, Cream-vented Bulbul, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Pacific Swallow and White-bellied Sea Eagle. Bat Hawks and pittas has been sighted at the park. Other smaller birds such as sunbirds, spider-hunters and barbets are regularly sighted at the accomodation complex.

The park also harbours an interesting array of insect life, a small selection of which is shown above. Butterflies from the top are a West Viscount Tanaecia munda, what's left of a Malayan Jezebel Delias heningia, a Great Mormon Papilio memnon, and a Great Orange Tip Hebomoia glaucippe. The female stick insect (top photo) must have been at least 1.5 ft long compared to her smaller dimunitive male partner.

Other than insects, encounters with reptilians and amphibians like lizards, frogs and snakes are almost guaranteed for visitors with keen eyes.

The well maintained rainforest plankwalk that traverses the 3km walk from the museum complex to the entrance of the Niah Caves complex afford visitors with ample opportunity for memorable encounters with nature without much great effort. There are numerous stopping points along the way for those wanting to break their walk into smaller segments in order to soak in to the max what the Niah forests has on offer.

Trader's Cave.

Stalactite and stalagmite formations in Trader's Cave.

A visit to Niah National Park is incomplete without exploring the cave complex. This is the entrance to the Niah Caves complex after 3km easy trekking on the plankwalk, at the mouth of the Great Cave. From here further forays into Burnt Cave, Moon Cave and Painted Cave can be made. Visitors are encouraged to bring a small torchlight and be equipped with sturdy shoes with a good grip (addidas kampong is footwear of choice for those in the know ... there millions of bats and swiftlets all over the caves system. Swiftlets nest and bat guano are regularly collected by the local people and form an important part of the local economy since the very early days of trade.

We'll see you at the caves?

MNS Miri, May 2009