Located on the Sungai (river)
Niah, the Niah National Park is about 3 km from the small town of Batu
Niah, a 110 km to the south-west of Miri in northern Sarawak. Within the
Naih National Park, is the remnants of mans early dwellings and Cave
paintings in Niah Caves, an archaeological site recognised one of the
birthplaces of civilisation in the region.
Spread over 3,102 hectares, Niah National Park, consists of peat swamp,
dipterocarp forests, and gigantic limestone outcrops. Bird life in the
park is represented by bulbuls, tailor birds, trogons, crested wood
partridges, hornbills, and eagle owls, Other inhabitants of the park
include Raja Brooke butterflies, flying lizards, and long tailed macaques.
Gunung Subis, 394 metres above sea level, dominates the landscape.
The oldest human remains discovered in Southeast Asia were found at Niah,
making the park as one of the most important archaeological sites in the
world. Forty thousand years ago, the Niah Great Cave sheltered human life.
Excavations revealed plenty of human settlements in the area; tools,
cooking utensils and and ornaments, made of bone, stone or clay as well as
the discovery of a 40,000 years old human skull. The types of items found
suggested a long period of settlement reaching back into the palaeolithic
era (the earlist part of the stone age).
What is most interesting about
Niah, is the continued human presence over tens of thousands of years and
sophistication of societies that gradually developed here.
A large burial site further into the mouth of the cave had clearly been
used from palaeolithic times right up to the modern era, as late as 1400
Ad. The earliest graves found in the deepest levels, were simple shallow
graves without adornment. Yet moving up through the layer, coffins and
urns appeared along with pottery, textiles and ornaments and even glass
and metal items, which came comparatively late to Borneo.
The famous Painted Cave is another highlight of the visit to Niah Cave.
Here, little human-like figures drawn in red haematite watch over a
gravesite where the bodies of the dead were each laid in its own
These wall-paintings depicts the boat journey of the dead into the
afterlife. The meaning of the paintings was explained by the discovery of
a number of "deadth-ships" on the cave floor; Boat shaped coffins
containing the remains of the deceased along with items considered to be
used in the afterlife, such as pottery, ornaments and beads. The
death-ships have been dated as ranging between 1 AD and 780 AD, although
local Penan folklore tells of the use of dead-ship burials as late as the
The famous Niah Caves are located just a 30minute walk away from Park
Headquarters. A plank walk snakes through the caves, around fascinating
contorted rock formations. They consist of the Traders' Cave, Great Cave,
Burned Cave, Moon Cave, Painted Cave and several smaller caverns.
Today, local Penan tribesmen venture into the cave to collect edible birds
nests and the guano dropped by the myriad swiftlets and bats that live
there. After the squishy feel of guano beneath one's shoes and for some
fresh air, visitors may like a feel of the tropical jungle by following
two trials; namely, Jalan Bukit Kasut and Jalan Madu. The former leads up
to the summit of Bukit Kasut (Kasut Hill), offering a view of the forest
canopy below. Other forest trails take you up a 400 metre limestone ridge
or to an Iban longhouse.
The Park is located 110 km to the south-west of Miri or some 120 km to the North of
Bintulu or about a two-hour drive from Miri or Bintulu. The accommodation facilities at the
park consist of chalets units, a rest house and hostel-style rooms, all
with electricity and piped water, but unlike some of the other parks
there are no cooking facilities.