Category Archives: Forest

Bat Cave of Serinsim: Home of Thousands Worm

Climbing to the cave

Whenever you see people go caving in a movie, you know something terribly wrong is gonna to happen next. Soon they would find some skeletons laying around, then they become the dinner of some unknown monster, or accidentally awaken a thousand-year-old demon. To most, cave is a dark and hideous world full of creepy and creeping dwellers.

going to Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar)

Hendrick is my guide who took me to Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar)

On the other hand, exploring cave is thrilling to the adventurous hearts, as one may expect to find treasure inside. Well, you can make a fortune from saliva and dung. I meant the edible bird nest (US$2,000 per Kg) and guano fertilizer (good quality as it’s rich in nitrogen, phosphate and potassium), which are the real treasure from a cave. To me, whether it’s a monster or Batman inside, cave is always a mysterious place that draws me.

Dense rainforest of Serinsim Park

Dense rainforest of Serinsim Park

In Sabah, only a handful of caves are really huge, for example, Gomantong, Madai, and Japanese War Tunnel. Most other so-called caves listed in tourism brochure are more like crevices between boulders less than 20 Meters deep, with some smelly guano, noisy bats and stinky cockroaches that wait to be screamed at.

Therefore, at first I didn’t expect much from the Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar) in Serinsim Park (in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia). When I checked it out, I was really excited to see something new and special. And for the first time, the video of this cave is available online.

Going to Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar)

Gua Kelawar (translated as Bat Cave) is located in Serinsim Park (or Sorinsim), a substation at the north of Kinabalu Park about 130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City (KK). In the park, you need to walk 5.5 Kilometers (one way) on a jungle trail to reach the cave, and you must be escorted by a guide. You can request Sabah Parks (management of Serinsim) to get you a guide. The guide fee is MYR60 (about USD$15), you can hire one guide for your group and share the cost among yourselves.

Guide clearing the trail

Guide clearing the trail

A round trip is 11 KM in distance. FYI, I departed around 7:30am and arrived the cave about 11:30am. You better go in the morning, so you can come back before nightfall. Do bring water, packed lunch and raincoat with you. Dry bag is optional but good to have because you will cross two rivers. Hendrick is my guide. Though he looks very serious in my photos, he is really friendly and helpful.

Genat, a friendly village dog wanted to follow us but stopped by a river

Genat, a friendly village dog wanted to follow us but stopped by a river

A village dog named Genat (means flash or lightning in Dusun language) was following us. Genat was always running 10 Meters in front of us. He would stop and wait if we were too slow. Sometimes he would go missing in action, then suddenly pop out of the wood next to us. According to Hendrick, Genat had followed the tourists to the peak of Mt. Nombuyukon (Height: 5,550 feet!) a few times. Sadly, after 3 KM, he was stopped by a river. After barking at the river for a few minutes, he headed back to village in disappointment, poor dog…

Interesting plant in jungle

Interesting plant in jungle

The jungle trekking is not so tough. The first 3 KM is mostly flat area, with some short walk on gentle slopes, followed by a walk on undulating terrain for the last 2.5 KM. Blood sucking leeches are present in this warm and humid rainforest, so you better wear a leech socks. I saw some interesting mushroom and plant along the way, and happy to see two hornbills flied over the canopy.

Different type of fungi in Serinsim Park

Different type of fungi I saw. Note the mushroom at upper left is like having a drop of blood on it.

Hendrick is a very responsible guide who has been guiding tourists since 2006. I’m sure whatever shit happens to me, he will make sure I go back in one piece. He is 44 years old and a Dusun lives in Serinsim Village.

Crossing the Serinsim River

Crossing the Serinsim River

We had to cross a few streams and two rivers. One of the streams is called Thomas River, because a white man missionary died there during World War II. The rivers are about 2 to 3 feet deep (Be careful of the uneven depth). To avoid getting wet, I crossed with my underwear only lol.

Bull eye fungus (edible)

Bull eye fungus (edible). Some local girls use its “jello” as hair conditioner or facial mask

After we crossed the second river named Sungai Serinsim Gibang, Bat cave is only 200 Meters away.

Outside the Cave

As we were approaching the Bat Cave, I could smell the ammonia of the guano. This is a bat zone, evidenced by their dropping on the vegetation.

Mushroom near the Bat Cave

Mushroom near the Bat Cave

Interesting rock formation near the cave

Interesting rock formation near the cave

Then we saw a beautiful rocky knoll, which is about 20 Meters high and mainly constituted by dark colored conglomerate.

Rock wall that looks like man-made structure

Rock wall that looks like man-made structure

Dark rock wall before the Bat Cave

Bat Cave is behind this dark rock wall

My first impression of that knoll is – it looks like a rock castle of a vampire, and something belong to another world.

Begonia at cave area

Begonia at cave area

Though I was near to Bat Cave, I was so enticed by the peculiar surrounding, so I spent more time around to explore more. The cave area is a flourishing zone for begonia. More than 190 species of begonia are found in Borneo and more than half are endemic species.

A small cave outside Bat cave

A small cave outside Bat cave

Colorized rocks in a small cave

Colorized rocks in a small cave

Probably due to some chemical reaction, the bat dropping “dyed” some rocks into green, orange and purple colors.

Rock wall outside Bat cave

Rock wall outside Bat cave

Mold-like substance on the rocks

Mold-like substance on the rocks

Some rocks seem to have mold growing on them and turn whitish.

The spot where the rebel Sigunting slept

The spot where the rebels slept

More than a hundred years ago, this place was one of the hiding places of Sigunting and his followers, a guerilla group who rebelled against the British colonial government.

Exploring the Bat Cave

The entrance to Bat Cave is about 12 Meters above the ground and doesn’t look inviting. Frankly I was a bit scared because I had 0 info about this cave, and didn’t know what was waiting for me inside.

Climbing to the cave

Climbing to the cave

Hendrick and I climbed over some boulders with bare hands and came to a 15-feet aluminium ladder that led to the opening of the cave. The aluminium ladder was covered with mud and probably bat shit, quite disgusting, but I didn’t plan to flinch once I started.

Hendrick standing at the entrance of Bat Cave

Hendrick standing at the entrance of Bat Cave

The smell of guano got stronger, and from the loud volume, I could tell there were a lot of bats in the cave.

Narrow passage to Bat Cave

Narrow passage to Bat Cave

After I climbed up the ladder, in front of me is a narrow passage that is only 4 to 7 feet wide, enough to cause some panic attack to those with claustrophobia (Fear of Confined Spaces).

Near the entrance of Bat Cave

Near the entrance of Bat Cave

I entered the tunnel. It’s quite steep, with 30 to 50 degree of slope. I moved up slowly on pile after pile of rocks with uneven surface, and had to use the rock wall as support. Hendrick was about 10 feet behind me. I worried some loose rocks would be freed by my footsteps and hit his face, so I asked him to stay closer.

Earthworms crawling everywhere

Earthworms crawling everywhere

Even though it wasn’t raining outside, the cave was really wet with water dripping from the top. Thanks God we reached a relatively flat and wider area after 25 Meters. It gets really dark and dingy, so I turned on my torchlight, then I noticed something like snake crawling next to my foot.

Earthworms all over the cave

Earthworms all over the cave

It’s a… no, thousands of big and long earthworms everywhere! Most of them are over one foot long, with disgusting red segment rings. Aren’t earthworms living underground? I can’t explain why they lay around on exposed rocks from the ground to the wall as high as 10 feet.

Big earthworms in Bat Cave

Big earthworms in Bat Cave

There were some cockroaches ran away from my light. Compare to earthworms, they are like a minority in this cave.

Cockroaches lurking in the dark

Cockroaches lurking in the dark

My spidey sense kept pressing me to leave the cave, but I ignored my tingling goosebumps and moved further in and faced another steep climb.

Deep layer of guano

Deep layer of guano

When I looked up and pointed the light to the top, Oh-My-Gosh, I saw a dense dark cloud of restless hanging bats. Their echolocate may have detected intruders, so they jittered. The deeper I went in, the more intense and louder the bat screeching, it’s getting almost unbearable. I knew for sure that I was not welcomed.

Bat dropping on the ground

Bat dropping on the ground

Thousands of bats in the cave

Bat tornado on top of my head

Suddenly they all took off and flied in panic. It’s like turning on a giant fan and create a strong turbulence of air in the cave (I’m not exaggerating here). My heart was thumping like crazy.

Rock wall of Bat Cave

Rock wall of Bat Cave

I didn’t see any stalagmites and stalactites, so this is not a limestone cave I guess. After walking for another 20 Meters, we came to an edge of a 10-feet drop to a trench filled with guano. I could see light at other end of the cave. I estimate this cave is about 200 Meters long.

Guano pool near the end of cave

Guano pool near the end of cave

I had no idea how deep is the guano pool, so I better didn’t try to walk over it for the sake of safety.

Deep inside the Bat Cave

Deep inside the Bat Cave

Hendrick says I’m the first tourist who goes inside Bat Cave. I would not recommend you to try this, as it carries some risk. It is not a touristy cave which have boardwalk for you to explore the cave illuminated by colorful light. If you really want to explore, bring a very powerful torchlight or LED headlamp.

Yellow bat dropping, brown dirt stain and red blood stain (leech bite) on my pants

Yellow bat dropping, brown mud stain and red blood stain (leech bite) on my pants

My body is full of stains of bat dropping, mud and leech bites. This is the filthiest trip that I have experienced so far, but fun.

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

You might also like:

Tomb of the Tallest Man: Gambaliu

Listening to the legend of Gambaliu

The tallest man in Guinness World Records is Robert Pershing Wadlow, who is 2.72 Metres (8 feet 11.1 inches) tall. However, he would look like a Barbie doll to Gambaliu, a giant man who is 24 feet in height. Gambaliu is even taller than a giraffe (20 feet). Who is Gambaliu? Is he a monster that eats children, or a gentle giant that rescues kitten stuck on a tree (and eat it)?

Comparing the height of Gambaliu with others

Comparing the height of Gambaliu with others

Ok, no need to get too concern. Gambaliu is only a fictional character in Sabah legend. If he really exists, NBA would had made him a superstar basketball player.

Signage to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Signage to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting in Serinsim Park. Makam means grave

Today only his tomb is left, in an unexpected place, not in Frankenstein lab but inside Serinsim Park in Kota Marudu, about 130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City.

Ready to visit the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Ready to visit the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Walking to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Walking to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

To visit his grave, you need to walk 1.5 KM in the rainforest of Serinsim Park. The trail is not very challenging. It’s only a bit warm and humid, and a few leeches would present during wet season.

A junction on the way to the tomb of Gambaliu

A junction on the way to the tomb of Gambaliu. Just follow the direction to Makam Sigunting

Crossing the flooded ground

Crossing the flooded ground

According to Mr. Tambakau Bin Tunggal, presumably an elder from Kampung Serinsim Village, Gambaliu lived there about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.

Listening to the legend of Gambaliu

Listening to the legend of Gambaliu

His body was so long that after he died, the people cut his body into half at knees, to make it easier to dig the grave. What this story tells me is that his people are lazy.

signage: Gambaliu is the tallest man

Gambaliu is the tallest man in Sabah legend

What left now is a grave encircled by rings of stones, there is no tombstone and marker.

The grave of Gambaliu

The grave of Gambaliu is about 2,000 to 3,000 years old

If I have a chance to talk to Gambaliu, I would like to ask him what to eat to grow tall, as every woman wants to date a tall guy. Even a 150cm girl prefers a 200cm boyfriend, so short guy like me has no market.

Tomb of Gambaliu the tallest man

Tomb of Gambaliu the tallest man

I wish to tell you more about Gambaliu, but that’s all I heard. The tomb has nothing exciting, unless they allow me to dig out the bones of Gambaliu.

Other Giants in Sabah Legend

Anyway, giant is quite common in Sabah legend. I list a few examples below, and each of them has different personality. From the description in stories, some could be taller than Gambaliu.

1. Gayo Nakan

In Kadazandusun folklore, there is a giant king named Gayo Nakan (Big Eater). His people were sick of satisfying his huge appetite. Hearing the complaint, Gayo Nakan decided to sacrifice himself by asking his people to bury him on top of Mt. Kinabalu. However, he cursed the people that they would face drought and famine for lack of caring.

2. Upai Semaring

Based on Lundayeh legend, Upai Semaring was a respectable giant who is a skillful hunter and fisherman. He also possess magical power to vanish himself. Today you still can see his huge footprint near Maga Falls in Long Pasia. He even used his forefinger to carve a rock (named Batu Narit) next to Matang River.

3. The Giant of Kinoringan

When villagers broke their promise, the outraged Kinoringan (God in Dusun’s belief) turned a baby into an one-eyed man-eater giant with teeth as big as elephant tusks. This giant can only be killed by seven arrows shot into its eye.

4. Bajau (or Lumanjau)

In Tambunan once lived a helpful and friendly giant called Bajau. He is so strong that he can carry a 10-feet-high stone under his arm, and he is so big that when he crossed the river, the villagers would follow behind to pick up the dead fishes trodden by him. He is also a hero who defends his village from invaders.

Graveyard of Sigunting

About 300 Metres away from the tomb of Gambaliu is the grave of Sigunting, a great man who challenged the imperialism. His story is real and recorded in history book.

tomb of Sigunting

Sigunting was born in 1859 and passed away in 1905

Tomb of Sigunting in Serinsim Park

Tomb of Sigunting is located inside Serinsim Park

Sigunting is a Dusun warrior born in Mumus (Serinsim) in 1859. When he was 35 years old, he led a 7-year guerrilla warfare against the British colonial government between 1894 and 1901 named Perang Sigunting.

tomb of Sigunting

Sigunting is a Dusun hero born in Serinsim

Biodata of Sigunting (in Malay language)

Biodata of Sigunting (in Malay language)

He destroyed the police station in Kg. Serinsim village. However, British force failed to annihilate Sigunting and his followers. Probably Serinsim Park is too beautiful, so the soldiers forgot their duty and went picnic and swimming.

Grave of Sigunting

Grave of Sigunting

Finally, both parties signed a peace treaty to end the fight, so everyone could go picnic and swimming. Sigunting might be the only Sabah hero who survives the baptism of fire by British force.

dragon on ceramic jar

The dragon on ceramic jar indicates that the jar is from China

In case you wonder why there is jar in his grave. It’s because in old day, Kadazan and Dusun people buried the deceased in a jar (usually ceramic jars from China). The corpse was first placed in big jar, after the body decomposed, the bones would be moved to smaller jar, and big jar will be recycled as it’s precious commodity in those days. I’m not sure if they had transferred the bones of Sigunting under the cement grave.

Fragments of ceramic jar in Sigunting grave

Fragments of ceramic jar in Sigunting grave

I admire Sigunting because he stood up against paying tax. Seeing that our lives are getting poorer and harder because of GST and various other taxes, I only can sigh (and wait for the next election).

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

You might also like: