The Madai limestone massif, lying midway between Lahad Datu and Tawau on the East Coast of Sabah is clearly visible from about 30km. This massif raises about 250 metres from the forest floor and it is also one of Sabah’s most important archaeological sites. Man’s existence can be traced back through the layers of guano to 15,500 years before present.
The Madai Caves are home to two types of fauna: the swiftlets and the bats. While the swiftlets are out foraging during the day and return to roost at night, the bats sleep at daylight and search for food at night.
The Madai Caves have been well known for generations among the locals for its supplies of bird nests for the Chinese delicacy bird nest soup. There are two types of edible bird nest, the white and the black. The white is by far the most expensive, fetching well over US$1,500.00 per kilo in Hong Kong markets. Harvesting of the birds’ nest here is a hereditary right of the Idahan people.
The caves can be easily visited, being only 1 mile from the main road. You can practically drive to the cave mouth. There, you can also see the nest collectors’ village just outside the caves. It is only occupied seasonally (during harvesting times). If you do intend to venture into the caves, do remember to take a flashlight with you as some areas are in total darkness. But where you come across daylight shining through some of the openings, you will see the most fantastic limestone sculptures.
In August 2000, after offering special sacrifices and prayers, the Ida’ans gave permission for the teams of the world’s toughest endurance race-The Eco Challenge Sabah 2000 to enter the Caves, climb the rattan-ladders and do the flying fox from its summit down to the jungle below.
How to Reach there:
Madai Caves, accessible by land from Lahad Datu or Tawau as it is only located 1.6 Km from the main road. To visit the Caves, permission must be obtained from the Ida’an elders. Visitors may visit the District Office in Lahad Datu town to make prior arrangements for entrance permission on their behalf.