You have to wade through a water-filled tunnel and brave a variety of insects and slithering creatures to get to the Lost World Valley, nestled in the Lost World of Tambun theme park in Perak.
Exploring caves is a popular recreational activity among outdoor enthusiasts. Crawling through narrow passages, wading knee-deep in mud or guano, and looking at magnificent limestone formations inside a cave can be both gripping and rewarding.
Perak probably has more caves and limestone hills than any other state in Peninsular Malaysia – and many remain uncharted. And so, to the Lost World of Tambun (LWT) in Perak, did my buddy Brian and I go for a caving expedition.
Yes, Tambun offers more than just its famous Tambun biscuits.
Since the RM60mil LWT theme park opened in 2004, it has garnered numerous awards and been drawing in the crowds. On weekends, it is packed with thrill-seekers. Lately, to cater for a wider category of tourists, more adventure activities have been added for those seeking a bit of challenge. You can take your pick from caving to hiking, rock climbing to camping.
We chose to explore the 6th Mile Tunnel, and our guide was none other than LWT’s tireless general manager Calvin Ho. My initial thought was that the tunnel was six miles long. Oh, heavens, I dreaded the thought of squeezing myself into narrow passageway for miles and miles, risking face-to-face encounters with slithering reptiles.
“Nah!” Ho allayed my fears. “The most you have to do is duck your head or crawl but the passage is wide enough to walk through for most people.”
The tunnel, discovered in 2006, got its name from the fact that it is located on the sixth mile of a village here. In reality, it’s only 700m long and takes about three hours to explore. No one knows how the cave was formed but there are many theories surrounding it. One is that it was a former tin mining area abandoned after the tin ran dry. Traces of tools used to excavate ore still remain in the cave.
“We work with a geology professor and discover new things all the time. It’s important that we don’t take out anything from the cave so we can keep it in its original state,” said Ho.
Another theory is that the tunnel was once used as a communist hideout because the names of A.Wahab and Rashid Mydin have been found scribbled on the wall in red ink. You can still make it out although the ink is quickly fading.
“The cave was kept very quiet and locals don’t want to talk about it. The local folks called this area cebuk mas because it probably contained gold at some point. I don’t believe the area has anymore tin,” Ho said.
We had already been informed earlier that we would have to brave mud and deep water, so we came well prepared for a wet and filthy ride. Armed with life jackets and headlights, we began our journey.
First, we had to cross Tasik Cermin. Ho jumped in first, rope in hand, and swam across to tie the rope to a tree. One by one, with LWT marketing coordinator Shamila Raj bringing up the rear, we threw ourselves on our backs and let the mild wind nudge us slowly over the lake.
“Just relax and enjoy the ride!” Ho hollered. The water was warm and pleasant.
We then walked past a housing estate and reached a lotus pond. To get to the entrance of the tunnel, we had to cross this pond. This time, the water was cold, and we emerged grubby and unsightly with our clothes soiled. Here, we observed a minute of silence and prayed for a safe journey.
Once inside the cave, we found ourselves in water up to my waist (for most people, that would be up to the chest). We splashed and waded through. The tunnel was hauntingly quiet, and to prove how dark it was, Ho made us turn off our headlights and put our hands in front of our faces. We couldn’t see a thing!
We walked carefully because some parts were rocky and slippery. Ho showed us many unique rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites, which were still growing, signifying that the cave was “alive”.
There were mining artefacts strewn about, including a sieving basket. We also saw rocks stacked on top of one another and an obvious “dry storage area” near the ceiling of the cave, which might have been used to store weapons or food.
Ho spotted a millipede, picked it up and put it on his thighs. I refused to touch it but caught a lovely picture of the multi-legged anthropode. We continued on, listening to the cave dwellers’ cacophony of sounds.
“Mind your head!” Ho warned as we hunkered down and crawled through a short section of the tunnel. This is where being vertically challenged helps. Being tall, both Brian and I took a few hits on the ceiling of the tunnel.
Ho stopped abruptly at one point and ducked underneath to look at a crevice. “This is where the python usually sits,” he shrugged. I sensed disappointment in his voice.
“He must have gone hunting for food today because he’s not in his place. Oh well,” Ho sighed, and continued walking as we stood there, momentarily frozen.
I couldn’t tell if Ho was joking because it was pitch black but he later told us he was serious.
“Sometimes, you’ll find the snakes coiled on the vertical wall so you have to keep your hands close to your body and not knock against the wall. We’ve seen vipers and other snakes in here before. Once I almost stepped on a terrapin…” he trailed off.
We came across bats, spiders, glowworms, snail shells, a tortoise shell, a millipede, glittering crystals on the ceiling and abundant insects along the way.
“You’ll see a lot of bats flying around. These are called the microchiropteran bats. They keep the insect population in check so there are not too many or too few insects in the cave.”
According to Ho, when the bats defecate, the guano drops to the floor and sides of the cave. The insects then flutter their wings to create a hole in the soft guano to lay their eggs. Eventually the guano solidifies and resembles an egg carton. These cartons are visible at many points along the tunnel.
Towards the end of the tunnel, Ho pointed at a frog and whispered, “Bring out your camera.”
The frog’s eyes emitted a red glow in the dark but before I could snap a picture, Mister Frog jumped. Darn.
“When there are frogs in the cave, there will probably be snakes. The python must be here somewhere.” Both Brian and I flinched at the thought, and quickened our pace when we saw light at the end of the tunnel.
This was where the Lost Valley awaited.
It seemed as if we had entered another world, one with a broken-down fort, fruit trees and all sorts of flora and fauna surrounded by hills. Ho led us on a short trek, past a small stream filled with fish. He said he had a surprise for us. It was meant to be one of the highlights of the trip, he said.
He climbed up a few steps, and, pointing to a rock formation, he proclaimed: “Here it is!”
Brian and I looked at each other, confused. Shamila was equally puzzled. Was there something behind the rocks?
“It’s a mini waterfall but there’s no water today since it hasn’t rained the past few days.”
Ho was more crestfallen than us but smiled anyway.
“There is a lot more on the other side of the hill that we have yet to discover. We’re doing it slowly because this is such a huge area,” he explained.
After a short break, we made our way back to the tunnel. We didn’t encounter any snakes, thankfully, and it had been an interesting day. – Story and photos by REVATHI MURUGAPPAN
For enquiries on caving or other adventure activities, call the Lost World of Tambun at 05-542 8888. Reservations must be made two days prior to the trip.