My Borneo Adventure part 4

24 03 2010

Inside the Fairy Cave

Entrance to the cave

The entrance to the fairy cave is rather small and unimpressive and does little to reveal the size and beauty of the main cave.  But being small and low it was ideal to experiment with flash photography. But having no tripod made it quite a challenge finding a suitable place to place the flash unit. We needed to light up the subjects (namely ourselves) and part of the cave while keeping the flash body out of sight.

Mystic cave entrance

The sign at the entrance advises those who enter to watch their heads as the cave ceiling drops to a point where most people need to duck or risk knocking their head on outcrops of rock. Just behind the main entrance of the Fairy cave the passage narrows and visitors are made to climb up a narrow set of wooden steps.So up I went  for the very first time.

I have yet to visit the Niah and Mulu Caves (both also in Sarawak) but the Fairy Cave is by far the most impressive cave I have ever been to. Even Batu caves in West Malaysia pales to the size and beauty of the Fairy Cave. You enter the main cavern from it’s lowest point and climb up using some steps provided. careful, these steps are very very slippery. You can see from the picture above staircases leading up to the mouth of the cave (not in the picture). As you climb up higher and higher the cave opens up and reveals it’s true size and beauty.

Woon Hwan and Tzy Wen had been telling me about how impressive this cave was but I was not convinced. I had really wanted to visit the Mulu caves, which by the way was the original intention of my trip to Sarawak. But plans changed and that plan had to be postponed. But now i am suitably impressed. The main cavern is so huge that neither I nor Tzy Wen could snap a picture which shows it in it’s full glory. To do that one would need an Ultra Wide Angle Lens and a multiple lighting system. perhaps one day i would return here to do just that.

Viewing platform

The Borneo Parks and Forestry Department which is the caretaker of the cave has done a great job in providing ease of access to the cave  whilst  maintaining it’s natural beauty. I know the staircases do not look as if they were put there by nature but it’s an acceptable compromise. At least they have not made gaudy guardrails and lighting systems! Almost right at the back and centre of the main cavern is a viewing platform from which you can see the main opening of the cave. You can see Woon Hwan giving Tzy Wen a lesson on the flora and fauna found in this cave and how they evolved over the last few million years. Me? I was so impressed by the beauty of the cave that I missed his talk. I really did not know he was such a Naturalist.

I had thought that this was it. The Main Cavern. I wanted to get up to the mouth but then Tzy Wen and Woon Hwan showed me that the Fairy Cave goes back even deeper. Far deeper than i have ever been in any cave before.

Just look at that! This part of the cave is just the beginning. You can see Woon Hwan in the near distance and Tzy Wen in he middle. This part of the cave is easily 150 metres long but still well lit as it faces the main cavern. Our attempts at using the Nikon remote flash system proved to be inadequate to light up the cave.

Here is  Tzy Wen trying his best to take a self portrait but to no avail. His camera and lens were just not up to it but I did manage to fire a few shots with my camera and remote flash. You will notice that most of the cave is still in darkness. Still the cave went on but past the point where Tzy Wen tried his self portrait, the cave was enveloped in darkness. Sunlight from the mouth of the cave does not reach this part of the cave. The picture I took of Woon Hwan above was only possible with the use of my flash at full power. Even then I had to use photoshop to increase the exposure by 2 full stops! If you switched off your torchlights in this part of the cave, you would not be able to see anything, not even your own hands placed in front of your face!


These sets of steps are typical of the ones you will find all over this cave. The ones here lead up to the last part of the cave and out into the opening you see at the top (midlde of the picture). One lesson we learned form trying to take photographs in a cave. It’s very hard to do it with just one flash unit. Too little power and you cannot light up the subject, too much and you overexpose the cave nearest the flash unit.

out of the rabbits hole

A short scramble over some rocks at the top of the staircase leads you to the opening at the very back of the cave. Compared to the size of the cave, this looks like a rabbits hole. hardly noticeable from 20 feet away. to the right of this opening (left in this picture), is a path that is supposed to lead you up to the top of the hill in which the cave is situated. We did not dare go up as it was rather slippery.

Cave Mouth

After a short rest we climb back down into the hole and headed for the main cavern. Upon reaching it i took the picture above. This is the main opening to the Fairy Cave and is the only source of light. Soon we had to leave the cave and make our way to Sematan where we planned to stay the night.

I hope to come back here and spend more time exploring this cave and perhaps make my way across Sarawak to visit Mulu too. There si so much to Sarawak left to see. Anyone who loves the outdoors would find Sarawak a treasure trove of adventure.




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