HIDDEN beneath a backdrop of lush tropical jungle and vibrant azure waves, lies the mysterious Gua Batu Sirih.
Few are even aware of the limestone cave’s existence in Sabah’s Pulau Balambangan — located 3km west of Pulau Banggi — where its entry is found beneath the cliffs. In fact, the island’s locals were the only ones with knowledge of the place until it was officially discovered in 2014.
Pulau Banggi assistant sub-district officer Awang Syairin Awang Bakar said the cave’s potential value as a national heritage was immediately recognised the moment researchers witnessed the intricately patterned rocks throughout its expansive interior.
“We have determined it as a beautiful work of nature which needs to be protected as a national heritage,” he said during the recent four-day Kembara Media Negaraku programme.
The cave was among destinations visited by journalists who took part in the programme, which focused on national appreciation and patriotism.
Gua Batu Sirih is part of the recently gazetted Tun Mustapha Marine Park, and is receiving a limited number of five to six visitors per day.
With interweaving corals on its walls, that were hued and carved by nature’s tools — saltwater and rain — the cave’s unique properties on their own already make it an alluring site for visitors.
Inside, the rocky surfaces seem to glisten under the ray of lights cascading from gaping holes in the cavernous ceiling, projecting an ethereal semblance to the cave’s facade. Deeper within the caverns, where the sunlight begins to fade, the silhouettes of scurrying creatures suggest a strange new world waiting to be explored.
“At the moment, we have requested RM11 million from the Tourism Ministry to develop the cave’s appeal as a tourist site.
“A professor from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak who visited the cave confirmed that these shiny, crystal-like rocks are not present in other famous caves such as Gua Niah.
“We have a truly unique place here in our very own Sabah,” Awang Syairin said.