Pulau Balambangan (Balambangan Island) looks so big on Sabah map. However, very little is known about this island. The British East India Company built their first establishment in Sabah hundred years ago as a trading post. Unfortunately, it was attacked by Sulu pirates and British had to move their base to Kudat.
Someone call Balambangan Island a “Treasure Island,” as they believe there was an old Chinese/British ship, carried plenty of gold and other precious, was sunk by storm around this island but yet to be found. Anyway, I was not there for the treasure. I just want to document the caves, before they are gone. There are over 20 limestone caves on Balambangan Island and none of them is named, and only four are studied. I went to this island by following a boat departed from Banggi Island (Pulau Banggi), which is about 10KM away from this island. I stopped by Kg. Selamat (Selamat Village), which has abalone farming (at the left in photo below). Kg Selamat is not so “selamat” (safe) because sometimes you can find aggressive crocodiles swimming under the houses.
Talking about the salt-water crocodile, a local said the crocodiles were used to live in peace with the people here. One day, a fisherman caught some fishes and left them at the shore. When he came back, he saw a crocodile was eating his caught. In anger, he shot the crocodile. Probably the crocodiles also have “feeling”, so they started to attack the human. Some fishermen were eaten when they setup the fish trap in the water. Nevermind if you don’t believe this story. Below is a photo of limestone hills on the island.
Then we proceeded to other side of the island, with mangrove area infested with crocodiles. Probably they all went to church on Sunday, so I didn’t see any of them around. There was no nice beach for landing, so I crossed the sharp limestones around the shore to get to land.
After a 10 minutes walk through a dense forest, I reached the limestone cave, where prehistoric human stayed here about 200,000 years ago. Archaeological findings from the Pleistocene era (the Ice Age – between 1.75 million to 11,000 years ago) was discovered in the cave of Balambangan Island. I also wonder if the Japanese had stationed here during the World War II, like the local mentioned.
This cave is very big and deep. I saw many unique cave formations consisting of stalactites, stalagmites, flow stone and many other speleotems. I wished I could stay longer to see the art of nature that takes thousands years to form. I started taking photos like crazy, while others kept on yelling, “Hurry Up!! There were more stuffs here!” Busy, busy, busy…
There were many stalactites on top and stalagmites on the ground, making the cave looked like a big mouth of a monster with sharp teeth. You do not need to be a geologist to appreciate the beauty. These caves are not protected though they are considered as a natural and historic heritage. In the future, some developers would build a clinker plant to mine the limestone, the major raw ingredient of cement. So sad huh. It is like burning our house to keep ourselves warm.
Some swiftlets and bats made noise to warn the “intruders”. The cave is dark and the floor is uneven, so I have to walk slowly. Otherwise I would step on a stalagmite that takes hundreds years to form (FYI, it grows only 0.5 inch every 100 years). The cave got a few tunnels that went very deep and narrow. None of us had the time and gut to explore the cave network. I also saw some ball-like “Cave Pearls” inside the stream of the cave. I shared over 50 photos in the album, so you can see more about the cave.
Undoubtedly, this cave is a promising spot as a geo-tourism attraction. Tip of Borneo is nothing if compared with it. To go to this island, you can hire a boat in Banggi Island, which will cost about RM200-300 (for day trip). Who knows you might find treasures in those unexplored caves.
Photos taken in Balambangan Island of Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo