The Gomantong Caves are an
intricate limestone cave system of Gomantong Hill. Situated in the eastern
lowlands of Sabah, in the district of Sandakan. The Gomantong Caves are well
known for their birds' nest industry. The local people are collecting these
nests using bamboo ladders and poles.
The caves are open all
If you're coming from Lahad Datu or Sandakan, take turnoff
towards at Sukau for about 20 kilometres to the main entrance of the
caves. From here it is another 6 km to the base of the caves and
reception area. There are board walked trails to the lower
caves. The trails to the upper caves are well-used, but should only be
visited with a guide.
The Gomantong Cave (southwest of
Sandakan) is divided into two caves: the Simud Hitam and the Simud Putih.
Swiftlets, who make the valuable nests, and bats share the caves with thousands
of insects which live in the rich guano on the floor.
Photo Nick and Jessica
The Simud Hitam (Black Nest Cave) is the more accessible.
It has a huge
grotto-like opening with a circular boardwalk to keep you off the guano-covered
ground crawling with bugs and cockroaches. This cave is just a 5 minutes walk
from the Registration Centre. It has a large chamber 30 m wide and 100 m high.
The swiftlets produce the 'black' nests. The nests are made of the swiftlets'
hardened saliva mixed with feathers.
The Simud Putih is larger (White Nest Cave) and less accessible. It's
located on a limestone cliff above the Simud Hitam. This is the cave, where the
valuable white birds’ nest is harvested, made of pure saliva.
For centuries the birds nest harvested here and
formed an important source of supplies to China where it had been and still is,
a prized delicacy.
Harvesting is now regulated by the
Wildlife Department to avoid over-exploitation, which only allows the collection
Twice a year, licensed collectors gather the nests in a dangerous
The collectors are climbing to the roof of these cave complexes in a
dangerous operation using only rattan ladders, ropes and poles precariously
The nests are first harvested just after the birds have made
them (between February and April).
The birds then build new nests, which are
left undisturbed until after the eggs have been laid and hatched; these nests
are then gathered, some time between July and September. The nests can be
worth a US$500 per kilo.
Stay the evening (around 5.15 pm)
and witness a spectacular aerial show as millions of bats pour out of this
opening for their nightly forage of insects. At the same time, the swiftlets
will be returning to roost in the darkness of the cave. This soup of
“meals in flight” is the perfect opportunity for predator birds such as serpent
eagles and kites to drop by for dinner.
The WWF described the Gomantong
Cave as "the best managed edible birds' nest cave in the world"
The locals recover the bird nests and made it a local delicacy: the bird nest
soup. I tried a bird nest drink a few days later and it was quite nice actually.
It tasted like vanilla banana with stringy noodles (which are the pieces of
Photo Nick and Jessica
The hotel sits on top of the hill overlooking the
town of Sandakan. Yet it is accessible by a 15 minute walk to the
town below. The hotel has 120 spacious guest rooms and suites, with
a homely atmosphere. Each is equipped with all the latest comforts
including a colour tv with in room movie channel, built in mini bar
refrigerator, IDD phones. The hotel has a sports and fitness club, a
fully equipped gym, outdoor tennis and squash courts, a jogging
track, free form swimming pool fed by a beautiful waterfall, spa
steam baths and a sauna. Golfing arrangements can be made at the
nearby Sandakan Golf Club. This is the only international class
hotel in Sandakan.