Niah Caves: Everything You Need To Know About Niah National Park

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Niah Caves (or Gua Niah in Malay) is an amazing cave complex with a long history about an hour and a half southwest of Miri in Niah National Park. It’s a popular day trip from Niah or can be visited as part of a bigger exploration of Sarawak. I visited Niah on my way between Miri and Bintulu. It was the perfect half day stop.

Niah Caves Sarawak is famous for being the site of the oldest discovery of human remains in southeast Asia. It’s known that humans lived here over 40,000 years ago. It’s believed people have lived here almost continuously from this time until the 19th century.

It’s also home to rock paintings and the huge Great Cave which is two kilometres long, up to 250 metres across and 60 metres high. It truly is a great cave!

Niah Caves
Inside Great Cave at Niah Caves

There’s also nice hiking here to the caves along an easy boardwalk, an archaeology museum and it’s a very enjoyable to spend a half day here.

If you have been to Mulu Caves, like I just had when I visited here, you may be wondering if it’s worth going to another cave complex. I can say it definitely is. It’s a different experience visiting the Niah Caves in Sarawak, and I highly recommend it if you have the time.

Below, I share everything you need to know about Niah Caves National Park including how to get here, what you can do when you arrive, what it’s like, the Niah Caves Miri entry price and more. There is a lot to do here and this guide will help you plan your own Niah Caves day trip.

Want to make your visit here extra easy? Book a Niah Caves tour here.

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Niah Caves Sarawak

Niah Caves
Niah Caves entry

Niah Caves are in the Niah National Park, and this is where you are heading for your visit.

The Niah National Park is 3,138 hectares and became a National Historic Monument in 1958, after a 40,000 year old skull was found. It then became a national park in 1975.

In addition to the skull, evidence of human settlement was found with items like tools and cooking utensils made out of stone, clay and bone. This leads archaeologists to believe that this area has been settled since the earliest part of the Stone Age. Evacuation work still continues today.

In addition to the caves, a river flows along the park’s western border and there is a large limestone mountain mass which makes up a big chunk of the park.

Niah National Park Headquarters

Niah Caves Park Headquarters
Park Headquarters

On arrival at the park, head straight to the Park Headquarters, buy your tickets and get a Niah Cave map. They will also walk you thought your visit.

Niah Caves map and entry prices
Niah map and entry prices

After you buy your tickets, head to the building opposite this one where you’ll find the cafeteria, toilets and the boats across to the national park.

Niah Caves Head to this building after you have your entry ticket
Head to this building after you have your entry ticket

Cafeteria

Niah Caves Cafeteria
Cafeteria

The cafeteria is easy to find at the entrance to the building pictured above. I had lunch here after my caves visit and the food was good and cheap.

The best part was the cold drinks though!

Just before the caves, you are also able to buy drinks within the park as well.

Boat To Niah National Park

Niah Caves jetty to park
Keep walking to this building to get your boat to the park

Once you have bought any last minute supplies and gone to the toilet, keep walking through this building and you’ll soon see the jetty and boats across to the national park.

The only way to get inside the national park is by this boat which costs RM1 each way.

Niah Caves boat
Boat across to the park

The boat runs on demand, and you shouldn’t wait long. You’re then ready to start your visit!

Niah Archaeology Museum

Niah Caves Archaeology Museum
Niah Caves Archaeology Museum

After you cross the river, the first thing you’ll see is the Niah Archaeology Museum. I read this opens at 9am, but it was open when I arrived here at 8:30am.

It’s worth popping in to give yourself a great background of what you’ll be seeing in Sarawak Niah Caves.

Niah Caves Archaeology Museum
Archaeology Museum

It’s just a small museum, but it’s a good introduction to the site. There are displays on the geology, ecology and archaeology of Niah as well as replicas of the skull that was discovered and an original burial canoe thought to be 1200 years old.

There’s also a great model of Great Cave.

Walking To The Caves

Niah Caves start of trail
Starting the trail near the museum

It’s 2.8 kilometres to get to the first of three caves. Once you hit the first cave, the caves are quite close together.

The start of the walk to Niah Caves
The start of the walk to Niah Caves

The walk is great. It’s easy and enjoyable with plenty to see through swampy old rainforest. It’s mostly on boardwalk but some is on a concrete path. It’s in great condition and wasn’t slippery when I visited. I walked this in about half an hour.

It can get slippery after rain though, so be careful and wear shoes with good grip.

You may be able to spot birds, monkey and butterflies.

Niah Caves Stalls in the national park near Traders' Cave
Stalls in the national park near Traders’ Cave

Not long before the first cave, Traders’ Cave, is a toilet block and some stalls selling drinks, snacks and handicrafts.

Traders’ Cave

Niah Caves Traders' Cave
Traders’ Cave

Traders’ Cave is where birds nest collectors and guano (bat and bird poo) traders used to conduct business.

It’s not really a cave and resembles a rocky overhang. You’ll know you’re here when you see the scaffolding and the remains of huts where the bird nest collectors used to live up until the 1970s.

Niah Caves Traders' Cave
Traders’ Cave

It’s quite different walking through here compared to the path in the lead up. It’s quite an experience and, in some ways, more picturesque than the other caves thanks to more light.

Niah Caves Stairs up to Traders' Cave
Stairs up to Traders’ Cave

Just before the cave is the first steps of the trail too, but there will be more inside the caves.

Great Cave

Entry to Great Cave Niah Caves
Start of the entry to Great Cave

Keep walking for a few minutes, and you’ll come to the Great Cave. As mentioned above, this cave is huge.

This cave is where the 40,000 year old skull was found, so it’s an important archaeological site. As you enter, get your torch ready. You’ll need it!

Niah Caves Great Cave entry
More of the entry to Great Cave – you are meant to come off this boardwalk and walk by the fence on the left up into the cave. It soon turns into a boardwalk

At the entry to the cave, there are two options of where to walk. It’s confusing as it’s really hard to see one of them, the one you are supposed to take.

This path is on the left and actually involves walking up along the fence which doesn’t seem like a path at all. It will lead to a boardwalk though and avoids you backtracking on some of the path in this cave.

Niah Caves Inside Great Cave
Inside Great Cave

You can walk along here and it’ll join the other path about midway through.

If you find this confusing and end up on the main path pictured above instead, just be careful when the paths join again that you turn RIGHT and NOT left. I initially thought this intersection was where I was meant to turn left and then realised I was heading back to the beginning.

I met someone at the park who did the same thing, but he didn’t realise he had gone the wrong way and ended up missing out on the Moon Cave and Painted Cave. It’s a shame they don’t signpost which way to go.

On your way back through, you will take the other path out.

Niah Caves Inside Great Cave
Inside Great Cave

These first parts are not pitch black, and there is some light around, but you’ll still want a torch to explore here as there is a lot to see in this dark cave with many great rock formations. There are some places where there are holes in the top of the cave and light streams through which are extra pretty.

Niah Caves Inside Great Cave
Inside Great Cave

About 15 minutes after entering the cave, I reached the dark passage known as Moon Cave (Gan Kira). There is a strange moon-like feel to the cave with craters and all the guano.

It’s also completely dark in places. You’ll be fine if you stick to the path but you do need a (very good) light with you.

Things can be slippery in here thanks to guano on the path. I had to walk very slowly and still slipped a little at times. There is a handrail in parts, but it was absolutely covered in webs so I didn’t want to touch it. There are some narrow steps and bigger ones at times too.

Niah Caves Moon Cave
Moon Cave

I saw quite a few huge spiders on the ground in front of me, huge cockroaches and things jumping around which looked like huge black grasshoppers. There was also a sound that was just like Predator from those old horror movies 😮

It took me about 10 minutes to walk through this cave, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified. I was alone (which I don’t recommend) and my mind was having lots of fun imagining things that scared the $hit out of me.

Niah Caves Exiting the Great Cave
Exiting the Great Cave. I was so glad to be out of the Moon Cave!

At the exit of the cave is an ancient burial site. There are some signs here but nothing to see anymore.

Painted Cave

Niah Caves Entry to Painted Cave
Entry to Painted Cave

From here, it’s another 420 metres through the rainforest on a raised boardwalk to Painted Cave.

Trekking at Niah Caves
Walk to Painted Cave

This cave is famous for its ancient paintings (around 1200 years old) and old boat coffins were found here.

The pictures show animals, humans and the dead souls being taken to the afterlife via boats. The paintings are fenced off and hard to see as they have deteriorated over time. I couldn’t see them at all.

Niah Caves Inside Painted Cave
Inside Painted Cave
Niah Caves The fenced off part of Painted Cave
The fenced off part of Painted Cave

From here, you need to walk back to the boat to Park Headquarters following the way you came. The only difference is that in the Great Cave, you can go to the left to take the path you didn’t take on the way through.

The worst part is having to walk through Moon Cave again. Which I again found terrifying!

All up, the walking through the caves and to and from them took me about three hours. I didn’t rest, but took lots of photos.

Bukit Kasut

Niah Caves The start of the trail to Bukit Kasut
The start of the trail to Bukit Kasut

If you have the time, it’s also possible to walk to the summit of Bukit Kasut. This is 205 metres high and takes about 45 minutes on a boardwalk through a freshwater swamp forest.

I didn’t do this walk. It’s meant to be a little steep and can get quite slippery. It was also shut when I visited.

This walk starts not far from the museum and is clearly signposted.

Where Is Niah Caves?

Address: Niah National Park, Miri, Sarawak

Niah Caves map
Click the map to open it in Google Maps

Niah Cave Malaysia is located in Niah National Park about 83 kilometres southwest of Miri. It is near the town of Batu Niah which is the town to head for if you are bussing here.

The easiest way to visit is on a Niah Cave tour.

Click here for prices and options now.

It’s also possible to visit independently. I hired a car in Miri and drove to Niah Caves for my visit here which is straightforward. Look for the brown signs for “Taman Negara Niah”. There is free parking by the Park Headquarters.

You can also hire a taxi or get a bus. For a bus, get one going to Batu Niah. From where the bus drops you, it’s 5.6 kilometres to the national park entrance so you need to take a taxi for this final part of the journey. You can use Grab to get a taxi. To return afterwards, you can ask for help getting a taxi at the National Park Headquarters but this may be tricky.

Click here for our full guide to getting to Niah Caves from Miri.

Niah Caves Opening Hours

Niah Cave Borneo is open from 8am to 3pm daily for day visitors. If you are staying overnight, you can access the park from 8am to 5pm.

I was glad I arrived early at about 8:30am as it only gets hotter and busier. I passed a few tour groups on my way and it was much busier. I’m guessing most people arrive about 10:30am.

Niah Caves Ticket Prices

Niah Caves entry prices and accommodation prices
Entry prices and accommodation prices

There is no separate charge to visit Niah Caves Malaysia, the museum or anything else. You pay for Niah National Park entry only.

The Niah entry price varies depending on whether you are Malaysian or not. MyKad holders pay RM10 for adults, RM5 for 60+ year olds and RM3 for 6 – 17 year olds. The rest of us pay RM20 for adults and RM7 for kids.

You buy your tickets at the Niah National Park Headquarters. After you have these, you need to cross the river behind this building into the park and the boardwalk to the caves. This is by motorised boat, and it costs an extra RM1 per person each way.

Niah Caves Accommodation

Niah Caves accommodation
Accommodation

If you wish to stay overnight, this is easy at the on-site accommodation ran by the Niah National Park Headquarters.

There are clean and comfortable rooms with air-conditioning and private bathrooms or cheaper beds in a hostel bunk room. You can also camp here or participate in a homestay in a traditional 100-door longhouse.

You can find online booking for this accommodation and more information here.

Final Words

The start of the walk to Niah Caves
The start of the walk to Niah Caves

The Niah Caves Borneo are an excellent place to visit when you’re travelling round Sarawak or if can spare some time in Miri. It’s a great place to explore the great outdoors, walk through some magnificent caves and learn more about the history of humanity.

You only need a few hours to have a great visit here so try to fit it in if you can. I really enjoyed this national park. The hiking was relatively easy and the caves great. Although, I did freak myself out in the Moon Cave. It would be better to visit here with someone else for sure!

If I went back by myself, I would turn around and head back at the entrance of Moon Cave. I can still hear the Predator sounds when I think about it!!

Make sure you take a torch/head lamp/flashlight, water, sunscreen, hat and wear great shoes.

Book your Niah Cave day tour here.

Looking for other things to do in Miri? Find our full guide here. You can also find our full guide to where to stay in Miri here and our full guide to Miri here. Also, consider visiting Lambir Hills National Park here.

Planning a trip to Malaysia? Have any questions? Join our Malaysia Travel Planning Facebook group here now! It’s the perfect place to ask any questions and to be inspired!

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon is a certified Malaysia travel expert and can't get enough of travelling and talking about Malaysia since she first visited 21 years ago. She travels around Malaysia multiple times a year both alone and with her kids. She used to call Penang home and especially loves this food paradise. Sharon also has a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies, a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and has been certified by Tourism Malaysia as a Malaysia Travel Expert. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to this amazing destination.