After a 1 ½-hour walk through Borneo’s rainforest, I find myself at the entrance to Niah’s Great Cave. The terrain changes, and I feel like I’m beginning a journey to the center of the Earth.
As I enter, the air grows damp and thick, and the temperature drops. I crane my neck up, and my eyes, now adjusted to the darkness, follow the flimsy bamboo poles all the way to the cave ceiling. A few brave climbers are perched on top of the poles, fetching Swiftlet’s nests for Bird’s Nest Soup. These nests, produced by the small bird’s saliva, can earn a harvester upwards of $1000.
I begin my own dark climb up the wooden stairs leading to the back of the cave. As I turn a corner, I see a flood of light ahead. A gap in the cave ceiling is allowing daylight to stream through and illuminate the otherwise impermeable darkness below.