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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

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Batu Luang, the Rock that ate the Bride

Batu Luang at Tempurong Beach

I was astonished when a famous photographer from West Malaysia showed me some stunning photos of Batu Luang, a bell-shaped rock located in a beach of Kuala Penyu. Batu means “Rock” in Malay language, and Batu Luang means “Luang Rock” literally.

Batu Luang is surrounded by mossy green rocks, sea, pebbles, rusty-red rockface, and caves, when one or more of these being framed into a photo during orange-hued dusk, you will get one of the most amazing sunset shots of Sabah.

Nice sunset at Batu Luang

Nice sunset at Batu Luang (high tide)

It is funny that it’s non-Sabahan who introduced Batu Luang to me. Anyway, I’m excited to check out Batu Luang near Tempurong Beach (or Pantai Tempurung). The rock is very accessible and near to the main road in Tempurung Village.

Walking to Batu Luang

Walking to Batu Luang. The hills at both sides look like a giant gate, or the parents of little Batu Luang

beach and hill covered by stones and pebbles

The beach and hills are covered by cobbles and pebbles

Batu Luang Beach

The view is better than what I saw in the photos online, which show only a small part of the beach. The beach and rockfaces are covered by pebbles in different size and shapes. There are 5 or 6 caves at the base of the hills there. The biggest cave can fit in 10 or more people, other caves are more like a hole.

The pebble beach of Batu Luang

The pebble beach and cave around Batu Luang

Batu Luang may look small in photos. Actually it’s over 12 Meters high and the only big rock standing in the sea (as far as we can see).

Small caves at the base of hill

Small caves at the base of hill, created by coastal erosion

Though Batu Luang is a new hot spot for local photographers, there is no hotel, restaurant, parking lots and toilet nearby. Occasionally you would see some local youngsters frolicking there in hot days, or a few photographers taking photos during dusk, Most of the time you would be the only one at the beach.

twilight hour at Batu Luang

Splendid twilight hour at Batu Luang

Therefore, Batu Luang Beach retains its beauty of untouched nature. It has some special geological features which are uncommon in Sabah. For example, the rustic-red color of the rockfaces are so magnificent when they are painted over by golden sun ray in late afternoon.

Legend of Batu Luang

The beautiful Batu Luang has a tragic story about a newly-wed couple. Many years ago in Kuala Penyu, after the wedding celebration at the bride’s home, the couple walked to the house of bridegroom with their families in a fine morning. When they were approaching Batu Luang, the sky turned dark, and they were hit by heavy rainstorm.

Batu Luang rock in the morning

Batu Luang rock in the morning

Therefore, they ran and took shelter in a cave at Batu Luang. When the storm was over, the group moved out from the cave. The couple was the last to exit. Suddenly, the cave collapsed and closed, the bride was the last person on the way out. The bridegroom grabbed her hands trying to pull her out. Unfortunately, her hands slipped and left the wedding ring in the hand of her husband. She was sealed in the cave forever.

Beautiful ladies at beautiful beach

Ladies at Batu Luang Beach (better stay away from the cave LOL)

The locals say sometimes they can hear woman crying inside the rock at night. So sad… On positive side, the bridegroom doesn’t need to buy a new wedding ring if he remarries.

View of Batu Luang rock from inside a cave

View of Batu Luang rock from inside a cave

According to a local blog by Muzaffar Libon Jueh, there is a part two for this story. The bride was trapped in the cave and alive. The villagers tried everything to open the cave but unsuccessful. Then a bird flied by and chirped, like saying, “Poke with a needle then it’ll open.” However, the people there just scoffed and ignored it. After 7 days of trying, the villagers gave up, so was the bride. She handed over the wedding ring to her husband through a small opening, asking him to forget her. She was then locked inside forever and marry to the guardian spirit of the cave, and became an angel named Kasum. If you bump into a pretty girl playing at Ara tree on top of the hill near Batu Luang, she could be Kasum.

Beach covered by pebbles

The small shrub on Batu Luang reminds me of Batu Burung (Bird Rock)

However, this sounds like a “modern” legend because Sabah had no such thing as wedding ring a few hundred years ago. Very likely parents make up this story to scare children, so they won’t go playing around Batu Luang, which can be dangerous due to a few reasons. The water at Batu Luang Beach can be quite deep during high tide, and the current is strong.

Interesting rock formation and rocks covered by green algae

Interesting rock formation and rocks covered by green algae

Furthermore, they could be hit by falling rocks from the loose rockface above. Our people also believe exploring cave would disturb the “Bogeymen” dwells inside, hence the warning they would be eaten alive by cave and become the next Batu Luang.

A Beach that Rocks

Batu Luang is not the only interesting rock here. Just look around and you will be fascinated by variety of rocks at the shore.

Tempurong Beach during sunset

Shingle beach of Batu Luang

Most of the rocks at Batu Luang Beach are cobble with round edges, after being moved and tumbled by sea waves over time.

Batu Luang and surrounding pebbles covered by green algae

Batu Luang and surrounding pebbles covered by green algae

The most intriguing rocks are those covered with green algae. These rocks are only present from January to June, the months when monsoon washes away the sand that buries them.

Cool rocks near Batu Luang

Cool conglomerate near Batu Luang

The conglomerate deposit on rockface and the beach is another highlight of Batu Luang Beach. Conglomerate is made up of rounded pebbles glued together, formed by the lithification of cobble-size rocks and gravel.

rockface and caves of Batu Luang

The rockface and caves of Batu Luang are unique

To me, the conglomerate cemented with round pebbles looks like dinosaur eggs fossils. This is the first time I see such rock formation in Sabah.

Batu Luang during high tide hour

Batu Luang during high tide (with conglomerate rocks in foreground)

The conglomerate is really nice, like a piece of art, so I joked to my friends that I wanted to bring some home. The moment I finished talking, a few rocks fell right in front of me. We have to watch our mouth in the wild, because “something” might be listening. Ok then, I took nothing but photograph.

Mimic the expression of the stone

Mimic the expression of the rock |-O

Tour around Batu Luang

Batu Luang is a public beach, so anyone can go there. It’s safe for children to explore around under the care of adults.

Batu Luang during sunrise

Batu Luang during sunrise

The only problem is the tiny blood-sucking sandfly. Its bite can stay itchy for days. Try to cover as much exposed skin as you can. There are not many sandfly anyway.

Sunset shot at Tempurong Beach

Sunset shot at Batu Luang Beach

If weather permits, you can have wonderful picture and welfie moment during sunset.

Beach around Batu Luang

Beach around Batu Luang

Part of the beach is rocky, so you better wear shoes.

Villagers fishing at Tempurong Beach

Villagers fishing at Tempurong Beach

There are a few villagers living near to the beach. You might find them catching fishes in the morning.

Children stroll on the beach

Children stroll on the beach

At another side of Batu Luang is a vast area of sandy beach. The waves are quite strong, so don’t go too far away from shore.

Family fun at Tempurong Beach and Batu Luang

Family fun at Tempurong Beach and Batu Luang

Beautiful rockface and cave

Beautiful rockface and cave

The old folks say there was used to be a deep cave at Batu Luang in the past, which they believe hidden with a lot of treasures, but the cave has disappeared. You may try your luck there. Just watch out for falling rocks when you explore the caves.

There are many small caves around Batu Luang

There are many small caves around Batu Luang

Big cave near Tempurong Beach

The biggest cave at Batu Luang Beach

Exploring the big cave

Exploring the big cave

How to get there

Batu Luang is about 120 Km away from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) and 14 Km away from Kuala Penyu town. Its GPS location is 5.524541, 115.523986 (see Location Map or 3D Street View).

Turtle roundabout before Kuala Penyu town

Turtle roundabout before Kuala Penyu town

There is no public transport that reaches Batu Luang, so you have to get a taxi or drive on your own for 2 hours. If you depart from KK, you will reach a roundabout with turtle statues (about 10 Km before Kuala Penyu town). Turn left to the direction of Menumbuk.

Junction to Batu Luang

Junction to Batu Luang

After 1.5 Km, turn right to the junction with the signs (see photo above) that read “JLN Kasugira BT Luang” and “Selemat Datang ke Kg. Gorowot” (opposite to Rumbia Information Center).

Location of Batu Luang

You can see Batu Luang from the road

Then follow the road sign to Tempurung Golden Beach Resort, and you will see Batu Luang at your left after 4 to 5 KM. The place is highly accessible by asphalt road in good condition. You can park your car at the roadside and walk 100 Meters to the beach.

Photos taken in Kuala Penyu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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