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Introduction and History

Although it is one of Sarawak’s smallest national parks, it is certainly one of the most important and unusual attractions to visitors. What is most interesting about Niah is that one of the main claims to fame is the birthplace of civilization in the region.  The oldest modern human remains in Southeast Asia along with many other relics of prehistoric man were discovered about 40,000 years ago, making the park one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.


The park has a size of 3,140 hectares of forest and limestone karst areas.  It was first gazetted as a National Historic Monument in 1958 and on 23 November 1974 was gazetted as National Park and open to public on 1 January 1975.

In 1958, a discovery was made which confirmed Niah as a site of major archaeological significance.  Led by Tom Harrison, he and his team unearthed a skull at the West Mouth of the Great Cave, which was estimated to be 40,000 years old.  It was the skull of a modern human (Homo sapiens).  Apart from that, plenty of human settlements in the area like tools, cooking utensils and ornaments, made of bone, stone or clay were found.  These items found suggested that a long period of settlement reaching back into the palaeolithic era (the earliest part of the Stone Age).


Besides that, the Sungei Subis (Subis river) flows along the park's western border. Not forgetting a large, almost vertical limestone massif, Gunung Subis (Mount Subis), which rises from the plain little above sea level and covers about 60% of the area?  The limestone was originally formed as a coral reef in the Lower Miocene.  Later it was uplifted and modified by faulting and erosion. 

There are several hundred caves within the park boundaries. The two most interesting and famous ones are Gua Niah (Niah Great Cave) and Kain Hitam (Painted Cave). Both are immense archaeological interest and have been declared as National Historical Monuments.  

The accessible way to the Caves is via a raised plank walk that winds through lowland forest vibrant with birds and butterflies.  Today the Cave is home only to bats, swiftlets and other specially adapted forms of life. However, a few locals still venture into the dark interior to collect guano (bird and bat droppings used as fertilizer) and bird's nest.

Apart from the Caves, visitors can explore several kilometers of forest trails to feel the richness of tropical rainforests, climb a 400m tall limestone ridge or visit an Iban longhouse located near the Park boundary. Visitors can also rent a boat or walk along the river from Park headquarters to Batu Niah town.



It is worth taking your time and walking quietly along the way, as you may well see some of the park's wildlife. If you leave the Great cave and return along the plank walk around clouds intermingling, you can see half a million of swiftlets are returning to their nests, whilst half a million bats fly out to forage in the forest. This is one of Niah's most spectacular sights which represent only a small niche in the earth complex ecosystem. One of Niah's other notable sights is the unusual number of luminous fungi that growth at dark night.


Colourful birds, squirrels, lizards, butterflies and all manner of unusual insects and invertebrates are commonly seen. Cave creature like Cave Spider, Cave Cockroaches, Cave Bats, cave snake and frogs.  If you are lucky, you may see monkeys, flying lizards and the occasionally hornbill.



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