Ever since I had my neck injury, I had many friends and colleagues coming up to me and telling me “not to do anything stupid or adventurous anymore” but I guess the ‘thrill seeker’ spirit is still lurking somewhere within me. I still yearn to expand my horizon and push my boundaries with adventure and extreme outdoor activities. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. I chose to embark on my first adventure, since the injury, with YMCA Outdoor Adventure group for their water caving expedition at the relatively unknown Gua Batu Maloi. My first ‘caving or black water tubing’ experience in New Zealand was, surprisingly, very challenging and fun and I knew it was just a matter of time that I would get to repeat this extraordinary experience. 🙂
Nested in the midst of the lush rainforest of Mount Tampin Forest Reserve, which is a 3 hours drive from Singapore, Batu Maloi is a nature site made up of stacks of gigantic granite boulders and rocks. It is unlike a real cave, which is essentially an underground space caused usually either by erosion or geological processes. The Batu Maloi cave system is more like a ‘make-shift’ cave, formed beneath the masses of large boulders and it has a stream of water that snakes across the stones and rocks of the floor. Hence, the phrase “water caving” instead of simply “caving”. Water caving is definitely not an activity for the prim and proper because one is certainly expected to climb, squeeze, crawl and even get fully submerged underwater for a few seconds! You have been warned!
And so, my caving adventure begins with 2 of my adventurous girlfriends, JZ and Eileen! 🙂
Our journey began with a relatively easy trek that took us through the startlingly beautiful foliage and greenery of the rainforest. What a captivating sight!
Using ropes to traverse along the creek. I would highly recommend you guys to don a pair of gloves as it would help with your grip.
A picturesque view – Natural light filtering through the cave openings.
As we ventured deeper into the caves, we found ourselves at areas where the water level had risen up to our chest. The water levels in the cave have been known to rise extremely fast after heavy downpours (It was a rainy day the day before!) and there were even instances where unwitting explorers were trapped inside the cave for hours. We were fortunate enough to have local guides with us as they would re-direct our paths in areas where the water current was too strong or risky for our safety.
For the bulk of our caving exploration, we had to constantly wriggle our bodies through tiny gaps and crevices, crawl around narrow and winding passages in complete darkness with hordes of bats flying above us (Thank god for headlamps!) and slide down large rocks to get ground. At times, we even had to hold our breath and crawl underwater (fully submerged!) to make our way through to the next opening.
Sometimes, there was nowhere else for you to go except to go upwards. So, despite our battered bodies, we had to gather whatever strength left in us to pull ourselves up the 5m high boulders! Another section of the cave also saw us pitting against the strong currents of a waterfall, in order to advance to our final destination. Lose your grip and you might risk getting washed away by the currents!
Pit stop: Natural jacuzzi for us to soak our tired bodies and over-worked feet!
We might have gone home, complete with bruises, scratches and aching muscles but these superficial “injuries” were nothing compared to the amazing experience and sheer satisfaction of accomplishing this challenging activity.
Some Tips for those who are planning on a caving expedition:
1. You don’t have to be in a very good shape but be mentally prepared that you will have to rough it out. Some sections of the cave will require you to gather your strength to pull yourself up boulders and rocks, but with a bit of teamwork, it is not as difficult as it might seem.
2. If possible, try to wear a pair of long pants, rash vest (both for protection against rough and sharp surfaces) and water shoes for this expedition. Get a proper headlight because you will find yourself in complete darkness at times and that’s when you will realize just how helpful it is to have a light source while being hands-free.
3. Go for this activity with an open mind and adventurous spirit, and you will find yourself enjoying it even more! 🙂