Gomantong is the largest limestone hill and the most important source of edible birds nets in Sabah. Tourists visiting the cave during harvesting season can see local collectors dangle from the roof of the cave on ladders made of rattan and bamboo collecting the nests produced by the agile swiftlets. [source]
Unfortunately, we were 2 weeks early as the workers told us that the next harvesting date is on the 20th August this year. Despite that, we enjoyed exploring the more accessible Simud Hitam (Black Cave) which takes 5 minute to walk around the well-maintained boardwalk.
In the Simud Hitam, the roof is 90 metres above the floor of the cave, which is covered in guano that must be metres deep. Imagine if there’s no boardwalk for us to step on, I think we could be drown, sinking into the guano pile. Eww! FYI, this pile is the home of thousand, or even millions of creepy crawlies esp cockroaches! So, if any of you are afraid of cockroaches, this experience may not be for you! *I witnessed two hysterical male ran out of the cave when they saw baby roaches welcomed them*
I tried to distract Koko C’s attention from the unpleasant smell and made it into an interesting expedition for us. By discussing what we saw and encouraging him to watch his step, he came out from the cave with high confidence and full of excitement (that he didnt slip, wasnt scared of cockroaches/dark and saw/hear lots of interesting things).
Since the 13th century, Chinese traders have come to Sandakan in search of birds’ nests, a prized delicacy among the Chinese and found nearly 100 metres up on the ceilings of the Gomantong Caves. Harvesters put their lives on the line literally, climbing networks of rattan ladders and ropes to get to the nests. The risky nature of nest collecting has only helped made the commodity a pricey one.[source]
The main cave system is divided into two parts: the more accessible Simud Hitam (Black Cave), and the larger Simud Putih (White Cave) which lies above. The names refer to the main type of nests produced by swiftletsin each cave. Simud Putih (White Cave) is the larger of the two caves, and also the more dangerous; special permission is required to enter and one must participate in at least five hours of intense spelunking. It is where the more valuable “white saliva” nests of the swiftlets are found, and is a steep 30 minute climb further up the mountains. [source]
As I entered her house, I actually had an eerie feeling about the whole place. Not only me, but most of us who were there; at the same time, I was admiring and imagining how it was living in the 1930’s. Everything described in her book came alive! The ambience, the furniture and fittings.. and as if I could hear radio was playing the 1930s songs and saw Agnes herself was outside playing with George and the Upsie-daisy : their Orang Utan pet… Went upstairs, only Rikki could described my feelings… geesh! May not write too much here… having goosebumps right now.
Soon after the visit, we drove back to KK slowly, arrived home past midnight… I think after this trip, everyone seemed so tired and werent looking forward for what is in our next itinerary… So, instead of driving 3 hours up North, we decided to scrap the Kudat trip and instead we went to somewhere closer : the Mari-Mari Cultural Centre in Inanam & Manukan Island for a splash!