sign in a cave in Laos

5 December 2013

Limestone hills around Krabi in south Thailand

South Thailand has many limestone hills. I've been to Krabi more than 10 times and always enjoy the landscape, of tower karst, sheer limestone hills along the coast, and karst islands sticking out of the sea.

And of course there are caves. One of the most famous is Tham Phra Nang off Ao Nang.

Rock climbing is very popular on these hills. And many people enjoy canoeing through the caves.

Khao Khanab Nam seen from Krabi town -

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

26 November 2013

Gua Cadu, Merapoh, Pahang

Gua Cadu is a limestone hill marked on the map, west of Merapoh.

It was documented by British geologists in the 1940s and shown on geological maps since then. It was initially written as Chadu, but now the 'h' has been dropped. Richardson wrote "Many of the limestone hills, notably Gua Chadu, ....., contain extensive caves, most of them festooned with stalactites and stalagmites.".

The limestone here is quite young compared to other parts of the peninsula.

As the hill has never been explored by cavers, we went to have a look 18 Nov 2013.

We went in from the north, from Pulai near Gua Musang. Much to my surprise there is a track all the way, although of course a 4WD is definitely needed. We passed some other limestone hills -

Gua Sembuang

and had to do a river crossing, luckily this car came through first so we were able to see how deep the water was
Part of the area is taken over by the Pulai mining company.

Gua Cadu is quite small and not very high but contains a large cave. Large in terms of passage size but it is not long.

The entrance is large. The slope up into the entrance chamber is well used by elephants. We have now seen a few caves in the Merapoh area which are visited by elephants, see separate blog.

A passage leads down into a small chamber and I found elephant bones here. Seemed to be a young elephant. The poor thing probably went down into that area and couldn't get out and must have suffered a horrible slow death by starvation.  There was no sign of the skull.

A climb leads up into the main passage which goes through the hill to another entrance.

There are some nice gour pools and above those, another climb leads to a large dry passage also going to another entrance. This is used by serows (mountain goats) as a toilet. It was good to see that
they only dirty 2 places and don't use the whole cave as their toilet.
fresh and old serow droppings

Looking out to the main entrance from the upper chamber

Across the Sg Cadu is another smaller hill
After lunch we continued driving along the logging trails. There is much evidence of logging, see separate blog.

I knew there are some long limestone hills to the south west, about 4 km long according to the map. We were eventually able to see them, although the view was obstructed by bamboo and there was a blue haze. These should be Gua Jadur and Timah.

 As already mentioned there were quite a lot of signs of logging
We eventually came out at Sg Temau. It had taken almost 2 hours to get to the cave and another 2 hours to get out back to the main road.

See more on the elephants
and the logging and deforestation

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

25 November 2013

More elephants in Merapoh caves

Earlier this year, in Feb 2013, I did a post on elephants in and around Merapoh caves. Since that blog I went back to Gua Gajah Marah in Nov. My earlier posting on this cave was in Sept 2012.

On this latest visit, I was shocked to find the whole area outside the cave had been completely cleared. See post on deforestation.

There was a lot less elephant dung in the entrance and none of it was fresh. So it looks like the animals have stopped going to that cave.

The day before, on 18 Nov we went to Gua Cadu. This is well visited by elephants as the
entrance slope was like a mine field, with droppings everywhere.
 The top of the entrance slope ends in a climb up so this is as far as the elephants can go -
However there was a small passage leading down, with a drop of about 1.5m into a small chamber. Sadly I found the bones of a probably young elephant in this chamber. It must have gone in and been unable to get out, and probably suffered a very slow lingering death as it starved. Found many of the bones but not the skull.

There were even piles of droppings on a ledge, not sure how it got there, I assume the
elephants just stick their backsides over the ledge.

As in the other Merapoh caves used by elephants, there is no sign of them digging for salts from guano or rocks. However you can see the rub marks below the ledge (above). And this tree trunk is covered in mud from elephants.
There is new life growing in the fresh droppings -

 There were fresh droppings on the logging trail, these smelt as if they had been deposited very recently -

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Malaysia has the world's highest deforestation rate

Not exactly a caving issue, but one that is related as many areas around limestone hills are being logged.

This Google forest map from 15 Nov 2013 (Mongabay) reveals that Malaysia has the world's highest deforestation rate. A similar report appeared in The Star on 21 June 2013,Nasa: Malaysia sees 115% jump in deforestation.

I'm not going to make any comments on the articles. The point of this blog is that just after the report was published on Mongabay I was caving in the Merapoh area, in Pahang, and I saw the effects of logging.

The first day we went to Gua Cadu which is a remote hill only accessible by logging trucks. The drive took 2 hours each way, and much of that time was spent on logging trails, as well as areas cleared by mine companies.

The following day we went back to Gua Gajah Marah. This is in a hill at the back of Merapoh village. There is a new gravel road leading out of the village and ends at a newly cleared area which will be the new rubbish dump for the area. Beyond this the track goes to a huge expanse of freshly cleared land.

I was shocked as when we were there in Sept 2012 it was thick vegetation and very hard to drive to the cave. Now it is a huge expanse of nothing.

Sept 2012, Gua Gajah Marah hill and entrance -

And Nov 2013 -

The whole area has been cleared -

Anyone who has traveled on the road from Gua Musang south towards Raub, or from Gua Musang to Cameron Highlands will have seen many logging trucks on the road. From the road is is not obvious from where the logs are coming from, but once you leave the main roads and go into the more remote areas that you see vast areas of devastation.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission