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Gomantong Caves are home to 27 species of bats and four species of cave swiftlet, namely white-nest, black-nest, mossy-nest and white-bellied, plus cockroaches that scavenge on the cave floor.

Each evening, as the swiftlets return from a day on the wing, more than two million bats, mostly wrinkled-lipped bats, can be seen leaving the caves to start their nocturnal foraging. Bat hawks linger nearby to prey opportunistically on the bats as they leave their roost, and in the surrounding forest macaques, langurs and orangutans are regularly seen.

Easily reached by road, and usually visited en route to or from Sukau, the caves have been long renowned for their swiftlet nests, which are harvested sustainably each year to make the Chinese delicacy of bird’s nest soup. Collecting the nests is an ancient tradition that takes place twice a year, from February to April and from July to September, licensed collectors, who live here permanently to protect their valuable commodity, climb to the roof of the cave using precarious rattan ladders, ropes and bamboo poles. The first collection takes place before the swiftlets have laid their eggs, thereby forcing them to make a second nest in which they eventually lay. Great care is taken to ensure that the subsequent second collection takes place only after the young swiftlets have fledged and abandoned the nest. Heavy fines and penalties are imposed on unlicensed collectors.

The more accessible of the two caves is Simud Hitam (Black Cave), just a few minutes’ walk from the park entrance and open to the general public. Its 90-metre high interior is home to black-nest swiftlets.

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Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: Asian fairy bluebird, cave swiftlet, crested serpent eagle, forest macaque, orangutan
  • Where: Sabah State, Borneo

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itineraries:

Borneo’s Rare Mammals

A dedicated small group mammal watching holiday to Borneo’s rainforests in pursuit of the region's rarest mammal species, including the iconic Bornean orangutan, Asian elephant, the secretive Malay sun bear and the majestic Sunda clouded leopard, alongside a fabulous variety of reptiles, amphibians and birds.

  • When to go: Apr-Oct
  • Duration inc. flights: 14 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,195 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Borneo Rainforest Photography Workshop

Join acclaimed photographers Nick Garbutt and Alex Hyde to explore Borneo's fascinating habitats and photograph the incredible diversity that lives within them. The forests, rivers and caves of Sabah are home to a huge variety of wildlife that provides no end of photographic opportunities.

  • When to go: Oct
  • Duration inc. flights: 18 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £9,595 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour