Exploring Batu Caves with the Dark Cave Educational Tour25 January, 2014
Batu Caves is not just about the 272 steps and the Hindu temples at Temple Cave – there is also the Dark Cave where visitors can explore the fascinating cave ecosystem with a guided educational tour. The cave is at least 100 million years old and the limestone that surrounds it was originally formed from shells and coral, from when this entire area was underwater. The cave is also home to millions of both fruit- and insect-eating bats where their droppings (also known as guano) supports an ecosystem within the cave, with cockroaches, spiders, crickets, snakes and other creepy crawlies living off either the guano, the bats themselves or each other.
As you climb up the 272 steps towards the Temple Cave, you will find that at step 204, a path branches off to the Dark Cave. Follow the path and right at the entrance into a very dark cave, there are registration tables where visitors can sign up for the tour. You will also find a mini-exhibition of the bats you can find the Dark Cave. You will most likely be able to only hear the bats flying around in the cave due to the darkness so this is the best time to see what those bats would look like upclose.
For RM 35 (Adult), you can sign up for the Dark Cave Educational Tour – you don’t have to bring any special equipment for the tour as torchlight and helmet will be provided. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothing and keep yourself hydrated as the tour is about 45 minutes long and the cave can get quite hot at times (with temperature of 27º -29º Celsius and 85-90% humidity year round). Do note that the Dark Cave tour is not available on Mondays; the tour is available from Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm and on Saturdays, Sundays, Public Holidays 10.30am to 5.30pm.
If you are visiting on a weekend, I strongly recommend that you start your trip to Batu Caves early if you intend to do the Dark Cave tour – when we started our Dark Cave tour at around 11am, the group was quite small and it didn’t feel very crowded (we only waited about 15 minutes to start the tour) but as we make our way out of the cave at around 12 noon, I noticed that there were a lot of big groups sent into the cave within minutes of each other. Furthermore, there was an almost 2-hour wait for visitors who just registered around 12 noon.
Large bags, backpacks, food and beverages, wheeled devices and strollers etc. are not permitted in the cave. You can take photos within the Dark Cave but no tripods are allowed in the cave.
There are no restrooms at the cave compound. The only restroom/toilet available is at ground level before you take the 272 steps up the Batu Caves.
During the tour, you will see a lot of creepy-crawlies that had evolved to survive in this cave ecosystem. If you think that the crickets, centipedes and spiders you see in a natural environment is scary, you should see the evolved versions in this cave environment. Thankfully, they are as afraid of you as you are afraid of them so they will leave you alone and they are generally much smaller than their relatives outside the cave (food is much more limited here).
In the top left corner of the picture below, you can see what the evolved centipede looks like – scary right? The legs are significantly longer so that they can sense where they are going in the dark. The snake you see in the picture below – the Cave Racer – is found much much deeper in the Dark Cave (which are off-limits to visitors on the Educational Tour).
Further into the cave you’ll find spectacular stalactites and stalacmites and they are just beautiful – these natural structures takes many many thousands of years to form! You are not allowed to touch these structures as you can contaminate them and affect their future formation.
What I liked about this tour is that it is not very commercialised and touristy – the guides are strict on flash photography or shining torchlights at anything above shoulder-level as the bats may get disoriented by the bright lights. You are also not allowed to wander off the main concrete path for safety as well as environmental reasons (as you might step on some creatures or damage the stalacites or guano deposits).
The tour concludes at a collapsed cave site where sunlight illuminates this part of the cave (but still we have only explored a small percentage of the entire cave) – with the light here, this is also a good spot of group photo-taking; the other parts of the cave are just too dark to do this. From here, the guide took us back to where we started the tour.
The Dark Cave was not always this well-preserved – decades ago, the Dark Cave was open to all to explore without any guided tours and there was considerable damage to some of the cave walls in terms of graffiti. What’s left as a reminder to all that is the graffiti on some of the cave walls and the “youngest” structure in the Dark Cave – this chair that was installed for cave explorers to rest. 🙂
There is also another tour for the more adventurous explorers – the Dark Cave Adventure Tour – it is an extended Educational tour followed by fun and exciting adventure to the wilder section of the Dark Cave system. The highlight of the trip will be the infamous Crawl Passage. There will be elements of climbing, sliding and the epic crawl. You can expect to get wet and dirty during Adventure Tour. You will therefore need to wear and prepare accordingly with the appropriate attire/gear for the tour.
There is a minimum of 1 week advance booking and it is only available during weekends with a minimum of 10 persons per group booking. It is 3-4 hours long and there are quite a number of points to take note of – for more info, see: http://www.darkcavemalaysia.com/next/?page_id=59