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Sarawak ~ Niah National Park


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.


Niah Caves
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 boat-shaped coffin.

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 19th century.

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.

Getting There
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.

 

 

[Miri - Diving] [Niah National Park] [Lambir Hills National Park] [Loagan Bunut National Park]

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