Warning: This post shows creepy crawlies

After spending a couple of days on the Kinabatangan River we had one more activity planned before we left this area for Danum Valley. During dinner the night before this activity I mentioned it and one of the couples said, “Oh, we’ve been there … it’s interesting.” This wasn’t the most enthusiastic endorsement.

The Gomantong Cave is found in the district of Kinabatangan, within the Gomantong Forest Reserve Class IV. It’s the biggest cave and the chief producer of edible bird’s nest in Sabah. The novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng, mentioned these nests and before venturing to the cave I was curious about them.

From the outside everything looks fine.

After visiting I can honestly say I will never ever eat one. Our guide said when he was younger he ate the nests. Then when he started taking people on this tour he couldn’t stomach them anymore. So what’s the big turn off?

Even this snake is fleeing the cave.

Even this snake is fleeing the cave.

The smell inside the cave is one thing. It reeks. But I have to say, besides the swiftlets that create these nests, there are two populations inside the caves that ruined the whole experience for me: cockroaches and bats! And I’m not talking about one or two. I’m talking about tons of them. Of course there are other creepy crawlies as well.

There is a wooden walkway that all visitors have to walk on. It feels like you are walking on carpet since it is covered in poop.



And don’t touch the handrails. Not only is it smothered in crap, but all types of bugs are crawling on them, mostly cockroaches. I’m getting grossed out just writing this post and may have to hop in the shower again. Everyone says when you visit don’t wear nice clothes. Now I know why.

However, the gross factor aside, the caves are quite interesting and I’m glad I saw them.

The edible nests are collected and harvested twice a year and the practice dates back approximately to the year 500. Licensed locals climb to the roof of the caves, using

One of the nests

One of the nests

ropes, bamboo poles, and rattan ladders to gather the nests. The collectors ensure that they only take the nests that the young swiftlets have deserted. The Birds’ Nest Ordinance and the Forest Enactment of 1968 protect this area and unlicensed collectors are fined. And a person is always inside the cave guarding it. The guards have to spend ten days at a time inside the caves. They are braver than me. I for one couldn’t wait to get back outside.

Fresh air again!

Fresh air again!

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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56 Responses to Warning: This post shows creepy crawlies

  1. Yea, there’s no way. I would be hard pressed to want to go into the bug-filled cave, but you wouldn’t catch me eating a nest a bird was in. I’d probably eat the bugs first.

    • TBM says:

      I did feel a little like Indiana Jones. of course the snake outside would have caused him to run.

      Indiana: There’s a big snake in the plane, Jock!
      Jock: Oh, that’s just my pet snake Reggie.
      Indiana: I hate snakes, Jock! I hate ’em!
      Jock: Come on! Show a little backbone, will ya!

  2. Ewwww to eating nests and ewwwww to the creepy crawlies, but love the caves!!! I would love to explore there :). Great shots TBM!!

  3. fgassette says:

    There is no way I would have gone in that cave! I feel creepy just looking at the photos.


  4. Oh I adore caves…this was too cool…well everything except the creepy crawlers☺

  5. aFrankAngle says:

    Well … at least the pics weren’t too bad.

  6. wolke205 says:

    I can’t imagine eating nests…brrrrr…but the crawlies are not this creepy as a huge spider would be 😉 Great potos 🙂

  7. StillWalks says:

    Well, you did warn me, but eeewe! 😉

  8. bulldog says:

    The creepies are all ok as long as they don’t crawl up your leg or go down the back of your shirt.. great post..

  9. I… would not have gone in there, I think. I’m fine with bats, but not so much with the other stuff. But you braved it for us, that’s worth the Victoria Cross (at the very least!) for you 🙂
    The thought of eating swift phlegm has never appealed to me either. And I will eat most things.

  10. Caroline says:

    Yikes…. I’m not doing good with bugs and thingies crawling around… Or flying.

  11. Geoff W says:

    Eww. But also, why and how are they edible? They neither look nor sound appealing so there has to be something.

  12. Vishy says:

    Looks like a tough trip, TBM! I think I will be too scared to make it. I don’t have a problem, in principle, with insects and creepy crawlies – I think they have as much right to life as humans and I think they are big fighters for living in hostile environments and making a fist of it – but I would find it extremely difficult to spend time in a place filled with creepy crawlies. Admire you for making the trip.

    • TBM says:

      I’m like you Vishy, I like and respect insects, but being in close proximity is not my usual cup of tea. When on vacation I tend to push myself outside of my box.

  13. i love caves, and your your pictures are wonderful! i’d be willing to put up with the ick factor for the sake of the cave.

  14. And I for one couldn’t go inside! Waaaay too creepy. Your bravery continues to impress me.

  15. Fergiemoto says:

    Yikes!…to the creepy crawlies!
    I don’t think I could ever eat a bird nest. It doesn’t sound good at all.

  16. samokan says:

    Cockroaches? NOPE there is no way you go get me into that cave. I will probably be screaming all the time. I can handle the rest of the crawlers but not cockroaches . You’re so brave 🙂

  17. nrlymrtl says:

    Very cool photos! I love the millipede. As long as I get to go home to a nice hot shower, I don’t mind hiking around in caves. But I do wonder why one would eat a bird’s nest? We have all sorts of birds on the farm and not one nest is free of bird droppings.

    • TBM says:

      I don’t have an answer for you. bird droppings and the condition of the cave instilled a strong desire never to eat one in my lifetime.

  18. pattisj says:

    I think I need a shower after that, too! Ewwwww.

  19. Pingback: Why is there so much traffic? | 50 Year Project

  20. tara30aren07 says:

    Reminds me of the time we visited the Batu Caves in Malaysia and experienced over a million bats hovering over our head…and pooping! -T

    • TBM says:

      We went to the Batu Caves as well, but during our visit there weren’t so many bats. I’m not a huge fan of poop or being pooped on so you have my sympathy.

  21. Novroz says:

    Ah…a Wallet bird’s nest. That’s one expensive item. It’s good for our health.

    The cave looks amazing

  22. Pingback: Edible Birds’ Nest | 50 Year Project

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