Travels in Malaysia and Indonesia

Matt Welsh

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Gomontong Caves

After returning from the Jungle Camp, we visited the Gomontong Caves, a few hours' drive from Sandakan. These caves are a major source of the swiftlet bird nests which are a Chinese delicacy; every day workers climb large ropes 30 or 40 feet up to the roof of the caves to collect the nests. It's dangerous work, and several workers die each year (they use little in the way of safety equipment in case of a fall).

While the allure of exploring a dark cave in remote Borneo was initially appealing, almost immediately after entering the cave we understood why this was not a major tourist attraction. Millions of bats were flying into and out of the cave, and the constant shower of guano -- along with the stench and the unbelieveable number of cockroaches -- acts as a major deterrent.

Photograph Copyright (c)2000 by Matt Welsh. All rights reserved.