Gomantong Caves (哥曼东洞穴)
Gomantong Caves (哥曼东洞穴)
Explore the Wonders of Sabah Malaysia
The Gomantong Caves are an intricate cave system inside Gomantong Hill. The hill is the largest limestone outcrop in the Lower Kinabatangan area. The main cave system is divided into two parts: the more accessible Simud Hitam (Black Cave), and the larger Simud Putih (White Cave) which lies above. The names refer to the main type of nests produced by swiftlets in each cave. The cave system is home to many other animals, including massive populations of cockroaches and bats. Outside one can see crested serpent eagles, kingfishers, and Asian fairy bluebirds. Access is in the form of a wooden walkway circuiting the interior. For centuries, the caves have been renowned for their valuable edible swiftlet nests, which are harvested for bird’s nest soup. The most valuable of the nests, the white ones, can sell for very high prices. The Black-Nest Swiftlets build nests with bits of feather, crumbs of moss / lichen and droppings mixed in with the saliva These dark coloured nests are considered of poor quality. The Edible-nest Swiftlet, on the other hand, build nests that are purely from their saliva. The white nests are smaller than of the Black-Nest Swiftlets but by far more valuable. Per kg of this quality will cost approximately USD1,000 – USD2,000 in the open market. The swiftlets build their nest at night, after a day out searching for food. The new nest will take about 30 to 35days to complete and once that’s done, and the mother lays a maximum of 2 eggs which she broods for 1 month. When the fledglings are old enough to leave the nest, the harvesting season begins again. The birds’ nest collection is an ancient tradition, and the trading of these nests has been done since at least 500 AD. Twice a year, from February to April and July to September, locals with licenses climb to the roof of the caves, using only rattan ladders, ropes, and bamboo poles, and collect the nests. The first collection takes place early in the breeding season before the swiftlets lay their eggs. The birds then make another nest in which they finally lay their eggs. After the young have fledged, the second collection is made. Care must be taken to assure that the nests are collected only after the young swiftlets have abandoned these nests. The WWF described the Gomantong Cave as “the best managed edible birds’ nest cave in the world”.