(Above image is 500x375. Original size is 640x480)
The above image is a screen shot. There are several hotspots on the screen which will be highlighted by moving the mouse over them. A camera icon leads to a photograph taken at that location. The "Geological Development" icon triggers a narrated slideshow (20+ slides) that describes our interpretation of the origin and geological development of the Subis Limestone complex. The "Cave Scenes" icon leads to a more detailed map of the Niah Cave with thumbnails of pictures of various sections of the cave (see below). The Subis section is from an oilwell drilled many years ago. The "Plankwalk" icon on the right of "Cave Scenes" is a series of pictures with actual sounds as the visitor goes from the Park HQ along the plankwalk towards the Caves.
Situated some 100 km south of Miri and easily accessible by road (see above map), the Niah National Park appears as a mountainous massif rising above a gentle, low-rolling hill country. The park consists of a primary tropical rainforest developed on a series of limestone mountains, which are delineated by abrupt, vertical cliffs, some well over hundred meters in height.
Geologically, the limestones are referred to as the Subis Formation, and are dated as Early Miocene, being some 20 to 16 million years old. Huge and spectacular caves are carved within these carbonates, which are inhabited by bats and are also the nesting site of swiftlets. The caves are accessible by a raised plankwalk that winds through the lowland forest and edges along overhanging cliffs.
Before arriving at the Great Cave, the visitor first passes through a series of wedge-shaped shelters, lined by giant stalagmites and stalactites, the so-called Traders Cave. This was the site of trade in the cave's main commodities, the guano as a fertiliser and the bird's nests as a delicacy.
Continuing along the path, the visitor reaches the monumental entrance of the Great Cave and the archaeological site, where the oldest human settlement in South East Asia dating back some 40,000 years, has been discovered. A series of interconnected chambers of huge proportions cross the whole limestone massif; some of the chambers have large openings in their roof, through which rays of light and rainwater penetrate the caves as a natural "light and sound" spectacle. Crossing through the cave system, the visitor reaches the Painted Cave, where human-like figures painted in red hematite colours watch over a gravesite, where the bodies of the dead were each laid in its own boat-shaped coffin.