Before you start the hike, make sure you have what you need. Below are some of the things you will most likely need:
- Non slip shoes
- Insect Repellent
- Raincoat / Umbrella
- Headlamp/ torch light
- Emergency whistle (optional)
- Small towel or handkerchief
- Extra clothes
- Zip-lock bags (for waterproofing gadgets)
- Bottled water
- Trail food (energy bars, crackers etc)
- Money (there is a small store that sells refreshments and souvenir items halfway to the Great Cave)
Once you pay the entrance fee of 20 RM (foreigner’s rate) , you will sign the registration book and the ticket will be given to you. They will also hand you a trail map. Look for the Niah National Park HQ signage and walk past the building. It’s easy to find the boat that will take you to the other side of the lake. At the back of the HQ is a booth, just show the guard your ticket and proceed to the waiting area. At that time of our visit, there weren’t a lot of tourists so the boatman was already waiting for us.
Get on the small motorized boat and pay 1 RM. It is 1 RM from 7 am to 5.30 pm. The rate from 5.30-7.30 pm is 1.5 RM. The ride will only take 1-2 minutes to cross the river. Keep in mind that it is prohibited to swim in the river because of fatal instances of crocodile attack.
As soon as you get off the boat, just follow the cemented path until you see wood planks. This will be your guide to getting into the caves. Before starting the trek, you can drop by the Museum where you can see the display model of Niah Cave. There are also a lot of interesting items and information in the museum. Take note that taking pictures is not allowed inside and you will be asked to take off your shoes. There are also several souvenir items that you can buy inside the museum. As for me and my friend, we decided to drop by the museum on our way back.
Getting inside the Great Cave is just like a walk in the park. And I mean literally! There is a vast canopy that will shield you from the sun and as you walk deeper into the forest, you will only hear the sound of birds or insects while enjoying the fresh breeze. (Although during noon and early afternoon, the air can get really humid). I will recommend that you put on your insect repellent first before you take your walk.
Albeit the replacement of non-slip metal planks with the usual wooden planks on the way to the Great Cave, you still need a pair of slip resistant shoes if you want to explore the insides of the cave.You will be walking on the wooden planks the entire time you are inside. The moisture combined with the waters dripping from the stalactites and the bat droppings fall into the planks making it slippery. It is also really dark in some parts of the cave so slipping is not an option! Additionally, the plank walk going to the Painted Cave is mostly wood. If you want to visit the Painted Cave and the planks happened to be wet from the rain, be extra careful. Although some visitors were able to reach the Painted Cave wearing usual sandals and slippers, I think wearing shoes would be best.
Here is what the plank walk to Great Cave looks like:
The walk to the Great Cave is about 3 kilometers long. Once you pass by a store that sell souvenir items and cold drinks, then that means you’re halfway done.
Click here for Part III: What to Expect Inside the Cave