There’s a hidden gem in Sarawak you need to explore, called the Niah National Park. I was there a couple of years ago and I loved it! There are so many things to see and do there if you love nature.
Home to one of the world’s biggest cave entrances and burial sites of the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras, the Niah National park is a historical site where a 40,000-year old human’s remains were first discovered. Apart from Niah’s interesting findings, people visit the park to experience its lush jungles, peaceful environment, and everything within it. I went there mainly to explore its wonderful caves.
There are many ways to get to the Niah National Park. Most travellers who want to visit the Niah National Park would fly to the Miri International Airport first and stay at the city centre before they begin their trip.
You can drive your own car, take a bus or taxi, or hire a private driver to get there. Otherwise, you can also take a package tour.
But if you’re considering of taking a taxi or a bus, read the guide below:
Travelling by taxi:
From the city centre, you can take a taxi to the national park for RM150/way. The trip will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Travelling by bus:
From the city centre, you can take bus number 33A to Pujut Corner Bus Terminal. Take any bus that goes to Bintulu, Sibu, or Kuching. Just inform the bus driver/conductor that you wish to get off by the Niah Rest Stop. The bus fare should cost about RM15/person.
From the Niah Rest Stop, take a taxi. The taxi fare is about RM30/way.
The Niah National Park features two amazing caves: the Great Cave and the Painted Cave. Prior to reaching these caves, you’ll need to walk through the jungle for about 45 minutes. There will be plank walks for you to walk on. So you can enjoy a light and easy walk as you enjoy your surroundings.
Tips: Wear a proper footwear as the trails can be quite slippery, especially after a rainfall.
There’s a small river not very far from the park’s main entrance that you’ll need to cross. To cross it, you’ll need to take the small boat for a small charge of RM1/person. Kindly check the park’s website if you wish to get further details.
- From 5.30 p.m. onwards, the boat fare is RM1.50/person.
- There are crocodiles in the river. For your own safety, please don’t swim or put your hands in the river.
Once you’ve crossed the river, walk into the forest and enjoy everything that surrounds you! Along the way, you’ll notice several chalets on your right hand side. When I was there, they seemed to be unoccupied.
Take your time when exploring the park. Enjoy the sounds of nature. And if you’re lucky, you might be able to spot flying lizards and the magnificent hornbill around you.
Discovering Niah Caves
Before you reach the Great Cave, you’ll stop by Trader’s Cave (Gua Dagang) first. The cave is famous for bird nests. Bird nest traders go there mainly to collect bird nests which are then sold at the local market. Bird nest collection has been practised for generations and it is still considered a business today.
At Trader’s Cave, you’ll find roofless huts made of ironwood. These huts were once used by bird nest collectors as shelters during the harvesting seasons. In case you’re wondering how Trader’s Cave got its name, it was basically named after the traders.
Walk until you find a big cave entrance that is over 60m high and 25m wide. As you explore further, you’ll reach a much bigger chamber where you’ll see the cave’s mesmerising stalactites. Get your camera ready!
After that you’ll reach Gan Kira (Moon Cave). You’ll need to use your torch light in order to admire the cave’s stunning rock formations and their weathering effects.
The pathway from the Great Cave will lead you to the Painted Cave, a cave named after its famous, old paintings. There you’ll also see the ‘death-ships’. But sadly, you won’t be able to see their contents as they have been transferred to the Sarawak Museum. You’ll only be able to see some of the empty death-ships and cave paintings that are still on the wall. Unfortunately, the paintings are not clear. Even so, don’t let this demotivate you to visit the cave!
The Niah National Park is not a very touristy place. I don’t remember seeing a lot of people when I visited the park. Apart from its lesser-known reputation, I went there in the afternoon which was probably why I didn’t see many people as most visitors usually start their journey early in the morning.
You’ll come across an Iban longhouse there called Rumah (House) Patrick Libau. It’s a homestay for those who prefer to spend a night in the park. You will likely see local sellers selling beads and local souvenirs at the park too. In case you get thirsty and hungry, you can also buy some drinks and snacks from them.
Overall, I thought it was a wonderful one day trip for me. Some people may tell you that you better not waste your time at the Niah National Park, and that you better head straight to the Mulu National Park instead. Well, it depends on what you’re after.
I must admit that the Niah National Park is not as well-maintained and some may consider it inferior to the Mulu National Park. Again, it depends on what you’re looking for from your trip. If you’re hoping to see the historical relics of the Great Cave and Painted Cave, there’s nothing much left to see now. However, if you just want to enjoy the park’s beautiful caves and jungles, I would definitely recommend this attraction.
Also, let’s not forget that Niah is one of the birthplaces of civilisation. 🙂