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State Sarawak

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Niah National Park provides some interesting and impressive sights. The area was a major centre of human settlement as early as 40,000 years ago, and features one of the world’s largest cave entrances, Palaeolithic and Neolithic burial sites and iron-age cave paintings. The nearby Painted Cave houses wall-paintings depicting the boat journey of the dead into the afterlife, along with remnants of “death-ships” on the cave floor - boat-shaped coffins (its contents have been transferred to the Sarawak Museum). The surrounding area is covered in dense primary rain forest and is home to many species of plants and wildlife.

Even today, the caves remain important for local communities, with birds nest and guano collection providing valuable employment and income. Niah Caves is a very pleasant place to spend a few days, although most of the major attractions are accessible to the day visitor.

Niah National Park is located on the Sungai Niah, about 3 km from the small town of Batu Niah, 110 km south-west of Miri. The park has a visitor centre and good accommodation, and is very easy to get around, thanks to an extensive network of plankwalks. A flashlight and good walking shoes are absolutely essential - the caves are unlit, and the plankwalk can become slippery from the constant dripping of water and bat guano from the ceiling of the cave. A wide-brimmed hat is desirable, for obvious reasons.

Visitors leaving its Great Cave around sunset will see two great black clouds intermingling - the nightly ‘changing of the guard’ as hundreds of thousands of swiftlets return to their nests, whilst an approximately equal number of bats fly out to forage in the forest. A variety of luminous fungi can be clearly seen from the plankwalk at night.

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