Photo: Magnificent and stinky.

Gomantong Caves

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For centuries, Gomantong Cave has been renowned as a home of birds’ nests: specifically edible birds-nest-soup-type nests produced from the saliva of the white-nest and black-nest swiftlets.

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The method of harvesting the nests is an ancient tradition still adhered to today, using a system of bamboo ladders and poles and rattan ropes the collectors hang from the roof of the cave to gather the nests.

The traditional system rigged up to collect the nests. Photo taken in or around Gomantong Caves, Sandakan, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

The traditional system rigged up to collect the nests. Photo: Sally Arnold

Collectors here must possess a special licence, and only a limited number are issued each year through a tender system. This is a very controlled industry and harvesting only takes place a few times a year: February and August for the highly prized white nests, which can fetch 7,000 ringgit per kilo, and April and August for the lower quality black nests, with a market value of about 4,000 ringgit per kilo. Nineteen caves within the Gomantong system produce the nests, but visitors have easy access ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 400 words.)

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