sign in a cave in Laos

15 November 2011

Batu Maloi, Negeri Sembilan

Batu Maloi is not a limestone cave. It is actually a large space below granite boulders in a river bed. It is located in Negeri Sembilan in Malaysia.

I wrote this article for The Star in 2004.

NewsHome > News > Features
Saturday March 27, 2004
The cave that wasn’tBy Liz Price

When is a cave not a cave? That of course depends on whom you ask. Generally a caver will say a cave is a natural opening in rock big enough for a human to enter. Most caves are in limestone formations. So I was sceptical when I kept coming across tourist leaflets which described a cave in Negri Sembilan as being 1km long.

I knew there were no limestone outcrops south of Kuala Lumpur, and I couldn’t imagine that there could be such a long cave that Malaysian cavers hadn’t heard of.

There was only one thing to do to satisfy my curiosity – go and investigate.

I found a willing victim – sorry, volunteer – to accompany me. My friend Mick is not a caver but I told him he could enjoy the day out in a forest reserve and wait in the sunshine while I explored any cave I might find.

The writer wading through the rush of water between boulders.

Pinpointing the location
So one bright morning we set off for the wilds of Negri Sembilan.

According to the tourist leaflets, the Batu Maloi Cave was in the Kampung Tanggai Forest Reserve in the Johol sub-district, 35km from Kuala Pilah. But they neglected to say in which direction from Kuala Pilah, and didn’t mark the reserve on the map!

Another write-up said the cave was 10 minutes from Johol and 30 minutes from Tampin. Well, at least from this I could roughly pinpoint the position.

I assumed the 10 minutes was by vehicle rather than by Shank’s pony.

We set off from Kuala Lumpur to Seremban, and then turned onto the Rembau road. From Rembau we went left onto the Johol road, and climbed up and over a big hill, which was covered in virgin rainforest.

The 884m Gunung Rembau was on our right. It was sad to see the forest alongside the road being cut, presumably for road widening. As we sped down the hill from the summit, there was a police roadblock at the bottom. I think the police were surprised to see two Mat Sallehs on this country road and just waved us through.

As we reached Johol and headed for Tampin, I made a note of time and distance, so I could estimate roughly where Batu Maloi was. After some time, I thought we had overshot.

So I stopped and asked some workmen, and we went back to Renggoh and turned off by the school. Six kilometres down this road, we finally saw a sign to Gua Batu Maloi.

A cluster of fragrant blossoms belonging to the Saraca, a common riverine tree.

Granite, not limestone
There were cows ambling down this lane and they made no effort to get out of the way, not expecting visitors mid-week. The lane ended near a surau, at a pleasant campsite situated by the river.

A signboard announced that there was indeed a cave, and as I suspected, it was of granite. The board also highlighted the dangers of caving.

We followed the path into the campsite and then got a bit confused as to the way on. We chose a trail which followed the river. We came to a junction after a short while, and I saw a few large boulders by the water.

This looked like the start of the so-called cave and an arrow marked the way in. But neither of us wanted to get our feet wet this early on, so we elected to take the forest path, to see where it went.

It meandered gently uphill, and after a while we noticed a very pleasant smell, which reminded us of honeysuckle. Looking round for the source, I noticed some orange flowers high in the tree canopy.

Then we spied a few flowers closer to us, almost at ground level. This orange blossom belongs to the Saraca, which is a common riverine tree. Although the individual flowers are nothing special to look at, together they provide a bright orange canopy, and their scent is very nice.

Impressive monolith

I was keeping an eye out for leeches, as this was ideal territory for them. Luckily they didn’t seem very abundant. This suggested there weren’t many mammals around in this area, and indeed we saw none, not even monkeys.

We came to a dilapidated wooden shelter later. I wondered who had had to carry all the materials up here to build the shelter, which had fallen apart through neglect.

Nearby was a huge granite boulder. This isolated monolith was about 8m high and 15m long. It was a very impressive sight.

The writer's friend Mick gets dirty scrabbling up and down some muddy slopes.

Mysterious creature?

After a while the trail began to descend. We soon reached the river, and I could see we were above the start of the cave. We decided to continue upstream for a short while, just to explore. We stepped into the clear water and paddled upriver. In this way we got rid of the few leeches that had attached themselves to our feet. Birds were singing on either side of us, and the sun shone brightly though the thick foliage of the tall trees.
We came across another cluster of Saraca trees with the same sweet scent. There were fallen logs covered with bracket fungi. At one point we saw an animal’s footprint in the mud, and were very puzzled as we only saw one print. What mysterious creature had left it?

Frogs plopping

The shady spot under the Saraca trees would have been an ideal place for a picnic, but we had nothing with us. So it was time to turn round, and go and investigate the cave at the huge boulders situated in the riverbed. Arrows painted on the rocks marked the way through, although in fact there was only one route here.

This section of cave was a mere 15m long, and had natural light filtering through. Mick, my friend, however decided he would go around the outside and meet me at the other end.

I soon popped out of the first section of cave and plodded downstream to the next set of boulders. Here the cave was a bit narrower and I was glad to have my torch.

A rope showed the way through, and I found the first section had quite deep water. The rush of water between the boulders and the plop of frogs as they jumped into the water when I disturbed them was quite atmospheric.

In the next part, I decided the water was possibly too deep to keep my daypack dry, so I hauled myself up and over some huge boulders and carefully inched my way across the top and down the other side.

Somehow I managed to slip the last few feet and landed in deep water. Luckily I managed to keep my camera dry.

It was fun negotiating this natural obstacle course. It was as if some giant long ago had been playing marbles with these huge stones, and had lost interest and left them scattered in the river bed.

I went through the final section of cave, and found Mick waiting for me on the other side. He had managed to get rather dirty, scrabbling up and down some muddy slopes. We had both had fun.

As suspected, Batu Maloi wasn’t a cave in the true sense of the word, but it was an interesting place and worthy of a visit.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

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