Caving or spelunking enjoys a good following in Malaysia. The country is endowed with vast numbers of limestone caves, including a World Heritage Site. They are home to amazing wildlife such as fruit bats, birds with edible nests or attractive stalagmites and stalactites.
Many are surrounded in mystery and legends. Archaeological research has found evidence of early man in many of these cave sites.
Although major expeditions have been carried, many caves are still not fully explored and remain an alluring adventure for the nature explorer. Repeat visitors marvel at how a cave can change within months as the naturally wet Malaysian weather promotes faster stalagmite and stalactite formation.
Caves come in various levels of accessibility. Some caves even have walkways to ease your touring, while others require visitors to rough it out and crawl on all fours.
In the Malay language, cave is ‘gua’, with the majority being limestone and are above ground level. In the peninsula, the list features Gua Kelam in Perlis, Gua Tempurung and Kundu in Perak, scattered historic caves around Lake Kenyir in Terengganu and Gua Ikan in Kuala Krai, Kelantan. Famous caves in Sarawak include Niah and Mulu as well as Fairy Cave at Bau. Gua Gomantong, where bird’s nests are collected, is the most well known cave in Sabah
Underwater or river caves can be found in the Kinta Valley, making up less than ten per cent of local caves – and are to be avoided during rainy periods. There are also dolomite and sandstone caves scattered around the country.
Caves can be divided into two categories: adventure and show caves. Adventure caves such as Drunken Forest Cave and Legan’s Cave in Gunung Api, Sarawak remain close to their natural state. Show caves such as Deer, Lang and Clear Water Caves in Mulu National Park are those that are equiped for public visit, with lights as well as clearly marked paths and
Malaysian caves are home to many exotic creatures. Notable are the blind catfish of Loagan’s Cave and the Trapdoor Spider of Batu Caves.
Gua Gomantong near Sandakan, Sabah, houses thousands of swifts in the two large caverns, which produce birds’ nests, an exotic Chinese delicacy.
The skeleton of a big cat fossilised in the roof of Gua Harimau in Kinta Valley makes an intriguing sight. Perak is also famous for its cave temples, the most well known are Perak Tong and Sam Poh Tong, which contain many Buddha statues and religious cave murals. The Hindu cave temple in Batu Caves have shrines to the Hindu deities and is the site for the colourful religious festival of Thaipusam.
The Painted Cave in Gua Niah in Sarawak has walls displaying unique prehistoric paintings including boats that point to early man’s local civilisation. Its chambers have hundreds of fascinating formations.
The Mulu Caves in Sarawak has some of the biggest and longest networks of caves in the world. Although 195 kilometres of cave passages have already been surveyed, these represent just 30% of the estimated total. Here the Sarawak Chamber, 600m by 415m and 80m high, is the largest known cave chamber in the world. The Deer Cave measuring 120 to 150m in diameter is the world’s largest cave passage and at 108km, Clearwater Cave is the longest cave in Asia. An estimated four million bats live in this cave system.
There are seasoned cavers who will be willing to act as guides. They may be contacted through the Malaysian Nature Society and adventure clubs or operators.
Most caving expeditions are day trips although a visitor can choose to stay overnight. No overnight camping is allowed within most caves but room accommodation is usually available around most cave districts.
Caving is normally done in the relatively dry season from March to October, but be prepared for rain anytime. Permits may be required when exploring some caves. These are available from the respective state forestry departments and cost from RM10 to RM40.
Tropical caves are not as damp as those in Europe and the Americas but they are chilly at times especially during storms and heavy rain. A light jacket is recommended.
As with all nature adventures, conservation of stalagmites, stalactites and all cave wildlife are of utmost importance. In caves with known inhabitants, avoid flash photography as the light frightens the cave-dwelling life forms.
Note the possibility of encountering potentially dangerous creatures around caves such as snakes or scorpions.
There is so much to do and so many places to see in Malaysia. To make sure that you don’t miss anything, use this handy map to navigate your way across the country and find great places to visit.
Perlis is the northern gateway to Malaysia. Despite its small size, Perlis has an abundance of attractions that make it a great destination.
Kedah is Malaysia’s largest paddy producing state. Delve into history in Lembah Bujang, the site of an ancient civilisation or relax in Langkawi, a world-famous resort island.
The site of a UNESCO World Heritage City, Penang is a holiday paradise with fabulous beach resorts and eclectic cultures. It is also the undisputable haven for foodies.
A tin-rich state in its heyday, Perak beckons with a range of sights and experiences. The state’s top attractions include Pangkor, an island getaway and Pangkor Laut, an internationally-acclaimed private island.
Hailed as the Cradle of Malay culture, Kelantan is a destination teeming with age-old arts, crafts and pastimes.
Beautiful islands, culture and nature give Terengganu its magical appeal. Dive, snorkel, sunbathe at the islands or journey to its hinterland to experience the best of nature.
The largest state in the peninsula beckons nature-enthusiasts with exciting eco-adventures. From Taman Negara, the oldest national park in the country, to the idyllic Tioman Island, Pahang is simply mesmerising.
Malaysia’s dynamic capital city is bustling with attractions and activities. Explore the city by day and night.
Selangor is home to the country’s main airport KLIA, and the main gateway by sea, Port Klang. It is also the country’s most developed state with a long list of shopping malls and themed attractions.
Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia, is a well-planned township with impressive buildings, verdant parks, scenic lakes and beautiful bridges.
Find the best attractions in this vast eco-paradise.
Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, has a vast wilderness that contains numerous national parks including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mulu National Park.
Located off the northwestern coast of Borneo, this island thrills visitors with its wreck diving sites, historical relics and duty-free shopping.
The birth place of the nation, Melaka is a treasure trove of history and heritage. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage City for vestiges of the past.
Known for its fascinating Minangkabau culture and a unique social system, Negeri Sembilan is the place to learn age-old customs and traditions.
Visit Malaysia’s southern gateway, for a family vacation at the theme parks or escape to its islands for an unforgettable holiday.
Enjoy birdwatching at 55 Important Bird Areas (IBA) throughout the country, tucked away at various habitats such as islands, coasts or lush lowland and montane rainforests.
Love the cool highlands? Find refreshing destinations to unwind in Malaysia. From French-themed settings, energetic amusement parks to forest-clad hills, there is something for everyone.
Find the coolest, trendy spaces to hang out while you tickle your tastebuds with the best delights.
Find the fun and thrill that you are looking for in Malaysia. Meet your favourite characters, plunge down the world’s longest water slide or enjoy the rides and games!
Get your rod ready to reel in the best catch in Malaysian waters.
For those who appreciate the finer things in life, Malaysia is the place to indulge in sheer comfort and sophistication. Luxe Malaysia takes you beyond your expectations.
Enjoy exploring the South China Sea, Andaman Sea, Celebes and Sulu seas for incredible sights from pelagic species, sea turtles to reefs, wrecks and more.
The best way to engage with the locals, a homestay programme gives a peek into the lifestyles, customs, cultures and pastimes of a local family.
What better way to explore Malaysia than through its food! Follow the aroma to track down lip-smacking delights found around the country, together with interesting snippets on its culture and origins.
Get your complete info on cruising, yachting, anchorage facilities and land excursions around the country.
Blessed with year-round sunshine and rain, Malaysia has a wealth of tropical flora and fauna. Visit its national and marine parks to enjoy the captivating sights both on land and underwater!
Get a glimpse into Malaysia’s rich mosaic of ethnic communities and indigenous people.