One of the highlights of the trip so far for Matt and I was once we left the lodge (after brekky and another boat ride) was the visit to the Gomantong Caves. The one we visited was the “black cave” – the second largest limestone cave in the world (we were told) – filled with “black nests” which are made by swiftlet saliva and feathers; bats; cockroaches; rats, venomous centipedes (some longer than your index finger) and guano. The smell was not so great, but you got over it quickly to take everything in. I reckon the cave was 6-8 stories high with light filtering in from holes in the ceiling. The formation was similar to cenotes in Mexico but there was no water underground (that has been discovered yet, anyway) and there are no stalagmites or stalactites, which makes it very difficult to date.
Once that trip had concluded we were brought back to the airport to wait for 3 hours for our quick jaunt back to Kota Kinabalu – even scoring priority boarding and near-front-row seats on the plane! Easy trip in a taxi to Hotel Eden54 where we set ourselves up for the next three nights.
Since we had an idea of what we wanted to do while in Kota Kinabalu, we set straight out to get it all sorted out. Luckily all the tour operators are located in the same general area so we didn’t have too far to go! First we planned to book a whitewater rafting trip with a cultural village tour, but the agency was closed so we headed downstairs to Scuba Junkie where we were going to look into some snorkelling options. We were blown away by the friendliness of Melly, a Canadian who was full of gusto and chatted with us about the tour we could go on, which we were super impressed with. We didn’t book straight away as we still wanted to check out our other activities, but we ended up going back the next day to lock everything in with her.
After checking in there it was time for a beer (isn’t it always?!) but we decided to have a good look around town first. We made our way down to the waterfront where we explored the markets (enveloped in the smell of fish – hell for me!) and weaved our way through the fruit and veggie stalls and tried to find a snack but felt a bit overwhelmed by it all – plus most of the signs were in Malay, which wasn’t helping us at all.
The handicraft markets were a bit disappointing as all we found were heaps and heaps of stalls selling (the same) pearl jewellery and baskets – nothing very noteworthy. We tried to find the infamous night markets (inadvertently walking right through them as they sort of mesh together with the fish market) and gave up after a bit of grumbling. We stumbled through a few more streets of used goods before parking ourselves on the waterfront for a beer at the Irish pub. We couldn’t decide on what we wanted to eat, having had our hearts set on local fare, so we went the total opposite direction and dug into some pretty yummy pizza at Little Italy. It ended up being a happy decision – we weren’t let down with the food!
After hours of walking and an early morning we were pretty beat and headed in for an early night.