Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bukit Agung caves at Mulu National park have potential to be star attraction

MENTAWAI, MULU: The little publicised caves of Bukit Agung have the potential to become a star attraction in Gunung Mulu National Park (MNP) which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Sarawak Forestry Corporation ecologist Rambli Ahmad said the caves had many unique formations which were not only geologically fascinating but aesthetically pleasing.

They were carved by nature when the area was submerged in water millions of years ago, leaving behind a subterranean landscape which is still undergoing formation today, thanks to water seeping through cracks in the surrounding bedrock.

Rambli estimates the caves to be at least a million years old.

Rambli together with senior geological assistant Woking Rigot from the Minerals and Geoscience Department  Malaysia (JMG) and fellow team members have been exploring geological characteristics and formations around the Mentawai Ranger station in MNP since earlier this month as part of the Mentawai Scientific Expedition (MSE).

Mentawai lies about an hour by road from Limbang followed by three hours by boat up the Medalam River. Bukit Agung is about one-and-a-half hour from Mentawai by boat and on foot, depending on the level of water in the river.

On Thursday, the team managed to enter as far as 1.1km to explore and map the relatively unknown caves.

“The formations are very beautiful while the caves are coloured in hues of golden orange,” Rambli said, noting the caves’ eco and geotourism potential during a recent presentation on his team’s findings conducted at the Mentawai base camp.

Geological features that the team encountered in the caves so far include underground streams, rock pools, cave curtains, cave pearls and columns.

Rambli, who is one of a handful of speleologists in Malaysia, told The Borneo Post that efforts must be made to protect and promote the caves of Bukit Agong.

Despite lying off the beaten track, the caves are showing signs of vandalism with earlier visitors defacing its walls with graffiti.