You can find cockroaches, bat guano, and other grossness. This is what you will find at Gomantong Cave, Borneo.
Gomantong Cave, a standard stop on the adventure tourism circuit of Sabah, in the eastern part of Malaysian Borneo, is close enough to the riverboat rides on Kinabatangan River that it’s worth a short detour.
That’s what we did. Now I warn you against doing the same.
View into Gomantong Cave taken from just a few meters inside the entrance. The boardwalk walkway can be seen to the left.
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It’s not a bad idea to go. It is a huge and impressive cave. It is beautiful to see the light filter through the cave’s back through the holes.
If you’re not opposed to creepy crawlies of any kind, you might think twice about visiting.
Inside the Cave
As I approached the cave, the first thing that struck me was its “wow” factor. It’s enormous and lovely.
The smell was there in a matter of seconds. This cave smells. This cave smells because the floor is covered with large amounts of bat sh*t.
It’s a pile made up of guano from the two million bats who sleep there each day and the thousands upon thousands of swiftlets that rest there at night.
The cave’s entrance is reached via a raised boardwalk that leads to the cave floor. It then loops around the large pile of guano. To circle the cave clockwise, we took the left entrance.
The Gomantong Caves are a geographical marvel in Malaysia. Their limestone walls reach up to 300 feet at some points.
However, many visitors leave the site saying that it was one of the most disgusting wildlife experiences. First, Gomantong is home to more than 2 million bats. This leads to thick layers of guano (also known as bat poop) covering the ground. Don’t worry about slipping, as the handrails can be just as filthy and slippery as the floor.
You’ll find many million Malaysian cockroaches crawling about if you make it through the river. The cockroaches will find you wherever the guano is (read: everywhere). Finally, if you get past the bat smells and cockroaches crawling up your legs, there are several other beautiful creatures you might stumble upon.
Those would be snakes, scorpions, freshwater crabs, and the infamous giant Scutigera centipedes–poisonous critters that are at least three inches long.
Leaving the cave
We returned to the start of the loop, where we had started. Our guide explained that there is a massive pile of Guano in the middle and that it can get even bigger. However, when it rains, some of the Guano flows into a small stream which he pointed to below us, right between the walkways.
It hadn’t rained in a few days, so the stream wasn’t much. But it was a thick, dark, and disgusting trickle. It was full of live crabs. One thing survives off of a stream full of bat sh*t.
These cockroaches were molting at the time of our guide.
Should you visit Gomantong Cave?
If you’re squeamish? Not! It’s horrifying to go there. You will be eating cockroaches every step.
You don’t have to be squeamish. You can go ahead, but you should be aware that this is thousands, although you might not mind a few cockroaches. It stinks.
From various openings, light enters Gomantong Cave. These openings allow swiftlets and bats to enter and exit the cave. Just go to the scariest haunted house in Ohio, at least it’s not that gross.
There are actually two caves. One is the “black” cave, which holds the more valuable black nests. It is the only one accessible to the public. The “white cave”, which is more extensive, has white nests and is often called the “white cave”. This cave is only accessible with prior arrangements. Another dozen caves are located within the cave complex.
Each evening, between 17:15 – 18:15, you can see the changing guard. This is when the bats rise and fly out of the cave. The swiftlets then come in and settle down for their night.
Black nests can be harvested between April and Aug, while white nests can only be harvested between February to August. If you’re lucky enough to be there, you might even be able to see the tricky ways in which the harvesters reach nests high up on cave walls.
Gomantong Cave, Borneo, is approximately 35 kilometers away from Kota Kinabatangan. Sandakan is 110 kilometers away. Public transportation is not available so that you will need to either rent or hire a vehicle. This was an addition to the three-day Kinabatangan package, which included a homestay and riverboat wildlife watching and jungle trekking.
You can still visit Gomantong Cave by clicking on any of the tours. Both combine Gomantong Cave with a river cruise on the Kinabatangan River.
Gomantong Cave admission costs a lot, considering how much time you will spend in the cave. We paid 30 ringgits, roughly 6 Euros or 7 dollars, for the privilege of getting completely gross-out.
Wear closed shoes with good tread to prevent slippage if you’re going. Gloves are a good idea. You might need to use gloves if the walkway is slippery from the rain.