Borneo Studies students go on study visit to Niah Caves

Miri – 29 May 2012 – 13 students who are taking the Borneo Studies course as part of the Bachelor of Arts programme at Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) went on a study visit to the world-renowned Niah Caves in the Niah National Park some 80 kilometres from Miri recently.

Students and lecturers pose for a photo at the entrance to the Niah Great Cave

They were accompanied by Borneo Studies lecturer Terry Justin Dit, and two other lecturers from the Department of Media, Culture & Communication, Tharshni Kumarasamy and Peter Jamba.

At the national park headquarters, the students visited the mini museum there to gain a better insight into the significance of the caves, which was a major centre of human settlement as early as 40,000 years ago. Other stops included the Trader’s Cave and Hell’s Trench.

The students also managed to glimpse the stalactites and stalagmites in the caves, as well as belian and rattan ladders suspended from the ceilings of the caves and up which bird’s nest collectors climb precariously to collect edible bird’s nests. The caves house large populations of edible nest swiftlets and a rich fauna of bats.

Niah National Park is one of Sarawak’s best known natural attractions and undoubtedly provides some of the most interesting and impressive sights in all of Southeast Asia. The park protects 31 square kilometres of lowland forest and limestone hills, the largest being Gunung Subis, which dominates the landscape with a height of 394 metres above sea level.

The Niah Caves are a giant cave complex which honeycombs Gunung Subis and the surrounding limestone hills. The largest of these caves is Niah Geat Cave, one of the largest limestone caves in Sarawak. The Niah Caves were declared a National Historic Monument in 1958 and the Niah National Park gazetted in 1974.

According to Terry, who has visited the Niah National Park and caves a total of five times, the area never fails to fascinate him, particularly the double and triple canopy forest trails and the fact that the oldest skeletal remains in Southeast Asia were discovered there. The caves have also preserved an amazing record of Borneo’s prehistoric animals, which include the tapir, which is now extinct in Borneo, and giant forms of wild pig and anteater.

He believes that, at the end of the day, all the students had a great sense of satisfaction at having gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Niah Caves and the importance of preserving them and their surrounding forests.

One of the students, Sarah Adiba Sabri, admitted that the trip was physically challenging, but the wonder and beauty of the caves and surrounding forests spurred her on.

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