A Local's Guide to Caving in Gua Tempurung, Ipoh
September 20, 2018
by Carrie Lim
The magnificent, Southeast Asian country of Malaysia is a hub for exotic wildlife and amazing natural landscapes. Ipoh, a small town in the state of Perak, is the home to some of Malaysia’s awe-inspiring caves as well as an adrenaline junkies dream thanks to the variety of extreme sports the town offers. One of these amazing sites is Gua Tempurung, a cave that is nestled in the jungles of a local village in Ipoh.
History of Gua Tempurung
Gua Tempurung is one of largest caves in Peninsular Malaysia and it is located in Ipoh. This limestone cave is littered with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites spanning a whopping 3 km but you won’t have to walk all of it as it depends on the tour that you decide to take when exploring the cave. The cave also holds historical significance as it was once a hiding place for the locals during the Japanese invasion in Malaysia. You’ll be able to see remnants of what happened there during that time throughout the cave such as indents in the cave walls from bullets. The cave was also used in the past for mining and there are parts of the cave where the old tools of these miners were found and are now showcased for visitors!
What to expect?
There are different routes for visitors to take when exploring Gua Tempurung. The first route is also known as the dry route whereby you are mainly walking on a paved path and upstairs when in the cave. You’ll be able to see the stalactites and stalagmites as well as old graffiti left by the locals during the Japanese Invasion as well as miners from many years ago. Like the name says if you are only taking the dry route, you will remain dry and won’t have to worry about getting wet as you are only walking through a paved path. The path is also well lit so you won’t need to buy a headlamp and I would consider this route the easy one for those who are just looking for a short trek through the cave to see some crazy stalactites. While I was there, I noticed a lot of people went to the cave to just take photos and do little mini-photoshoots.
The other route (which is what I did) includes the dry route but will also include a trek deeper into the cave where you’ll be going off the paved path. In the first half of the tour, you’ll need to be prepared for a lot of walking and climbing as you’ll be climbing up quite a lot of steps to reach the different viewing platforms (the Golden Flowstone and Top of the World). On this route, you’ll get to see some amazing sights and learn a little bit about the history of this cave. After a certain point during this cave exploration, you will be getting wet as a long river passes through this cave. You’ll even have to crawl on your knees through the cooling water as the ceiling will be pretty low for short periods of time. During this route you’ll get to see amazing limestone structures, thousands of years old stalactites & stalagmites and feel 100% real, natural marble stone. Once you go off the paved path there will no longer be electric lights and you will have to rely on headlamps which you’ll be required to buy. Your first challenge during this trek once you leave the path is you’ll have to slide down a short but steep limestone formation. The guide will demonstrate first and will be waiting at the bottom to catch your feet to safely guide you down the rock. Furthermore, there are also two more guides who will help you from above before you slide down. Then from there, there will be a hole in the ground which is just small enough for you to climb into. This where you’ll enter the underground river and where you’ll have to prepare yourself to get wet. If you’re worried about the dangers of going deep into this cave, have no fear! The trek is super safe as you’ll be lead by an experienced guide who is going to ensure you’re safety every step of the way. Also, you’ll be wearing helmets for your safety and water will be provided to you as well. It’s truly an amazing experience you wouldn’t want to miss out on!
- You’ll need to purchase a headlamp if you’re going to do the second route. You can buy a headlamp yourself before leaving for your adventure in the cave or you can buy it from any one of the stalls that are stationed near the mouth of the cave. However, I do recommend buying one yourself as these sellers at the cave itself tend to hike up the price of the headlamps.
- Be sure to bring a change of clothes for the second route because you will get very wet.
- Also if you don’t have your own waterproof shoes, I recommend you wear a pair of sports shoes you are planning to throw away as they will definitely get destroyed at the end of the trip. You may also be able to rent waterproof shoes for a small fee from the tour company you booked from; I rented mine for only RM 2.
- A waterproof bag is the best option when you’re trekking through the cave but if you don’t have one then you’ll need to keep your phone in a zip lock bag and your clothes in plastic bags inside of your own bag. Basically, do anything you can to prevent your belongings from getting wet.
- In my own personal experience, bringing a camera when doing the wet route is not a good idea as the caves are so dark that there isn’t any chance of having nice pictures or videos. If you decide to do just the first route or you don’t intend to go too deep into the caves, then bringing a camera along is no problem! Many people go to the caves just to get a shot of the amazing natural landscape it has to offer.