The swiftlet's nests can only be harvested once their young have hatched and the birds vacate the nest. When they return, they will construct a new nest, therefore the old ones can be harvested.
The harvesting takes place in the same manual fashion as it has for centuries. Some brave men scale the heights and carefully place themselves along rattan ladders, ropes and bamboo scaffolds. A team of men on the ground pull the ropes and help position the balancing platform, which in turn is hanging from the ceiling (as high as 90m) by ropes.
The harvesting is authorized twice per year by the Department of Wildlife. Harvesting time occurs between late February and early April, depending on the season, but typically only lasts about 10 days. Then again there is another 10 day harvest between late July and early September.
Entry is 30 MYR. Camera fee is also 30 MYR.
Open Sunday through Thursday : 8am ~ 1pm , 2pm ~ 5pm
Open Friday : 8am ~ 11:30am , 2pm ~ 5pm
Still full with impressions of the Gomantong Caves we are on our way again, our destination is not for away anymore, we are getting close to Sukau.
During our ride we saw this artificial cave. I know, I know, it is a very bad picture. But it isn't easy to take photos out of a minivan, while being tossed around like a milkshake because of the bumpy road :-)) But it was interesting to see this artificial cave, so that's why I decided to post the picture anyway.
The Gomantong Caves are protected and it is only allowed to harvest the nests of the swiftlets twice a year. The birds nests are worth a lot of money though, and that's why they started this artificial cave.
There are four species of swiftlets that build their nests on the wall of the cave. But there are only two of types that are edible. The "black " nests are less valuable and they consist of hardened saliva mixed with feathers. The other type of nests are the "white " nests, which are made of pure saliva These 'white' nests can fetch more than US$ 500 per kilogram.
You can read more about the rest of this trip on my Sandakan page!
You absolutely need a good torch when you go inside the cave. It is pitch dark in there and as you probably understood of my previous tip, it is quite nice to see where you are walking. The walls, the board walk, the railing are covered with huge cockroaches. Oh yes, and if you are interested, you can spot some other creepy insects on the walls of the cave as well! The trail follows those walls, so you have lots of opportunities to have a look! ;-)) I can't remember the exact name, but I can recall being highly impressed by seeing a huge poisonous bird-eating centipedes and spiders...... eekss..... can we continue our walk now.... I want to get out of this cave!!!! :-))
Nope, not yet! Hahaha, we have to see 'why' we are in this cave first! It is time to look up! Looking up is interesting as you can see those thousands of bats and swiftlets. Besides that you can see the constructions the local people use to harvest the birds nests. The cave is so high, it is hard to believe they can climb up there just using ladders, ropes and poles. The birds nest are used for the famous Chinese 'bird's nest soup'. And these birds nests is what makes this cave so unique.
How interesting it may be to look up, I have to warn you for doing that at the same time! The swiftlets and bats don't care where they drop there sh!t, and if you don't watch it, it might be on your head. As you can see I am torn between disgust and amazement by this cave. Hahaha, but I 'survived' and I am happy to have dared to have unique and most likely 'one time' experience :-))
As I don't have any pictures of inside the cave myself, I'll give you two links to pics on the web instead. On the first one you can see the cave, on the second one you can see a picture of a swiftlet inside the cave.
picture of the Gomantong Cave
Picture of a swiftlet inside the cave