My trip to the Batu Caves just outside of Kuala Lumpur provided me with a fascinating insight into just how territorial monkeys can be!
Easily accessible on the KTM commuter train (RM3 fare from KL Sentral), the Batu Caves has its own station on the network and being completely free to visit and explore, it is without doubt one of the ‘must-do’ activities on every backpacker’s itinerary when hanging out in KL! The caves, which are located around 8 miles outside of the city, are not only notorious for the 272 steps that form a rather steep ascent up the hill into the mouth of the caves, but also for the cheeky and somewhat aggressive monkeys that hang around the area to terrorise the tourists!
The caves are 100m above the ground, accessible only by the public steps, and are formed out of a hill made of limestone, which is said to be around 400 million years old. The Batu Caves are also a very important religious site, as during the Hindu festival of Thaipusam, hundreds of thousands of revellers descend here to worship.
Monkeys. I absolutely hate them! I knew beforehand that I would see many of the little pests on my ascent up the steps, as I had seen from photos from fellow travellers that all they seem to do is sit on the fencing and eat bananas and crisps (the monkeys I meant, not the travellers!). I had to run the gauntlet on my way up to the caves, and I was quite nervous as I could see many of the admittedly small macaques looking menacing on those steps. Many of them were eating, but there was a slightly larger monkey that was running around, almost in circles. Although many of the tourists were taking photos with their iPhones and whatnot, I could see that they were still giving the monkeys a wide berth.
As I began attacking the 272 steps in earnest I put away my bottle of water which I had bought at KL Sentral earlier on in the morning, and just hoped for the best that the dastardly monkeys wouldn’t bother me. I think I managed to get up to around the 40th step or something when all of a sudden a tame-looking monkey with an infant strapped to her chest jumped at me out of nowhere and pulled my bottle of water out of my shorts pocket! I was too busy looking for the aggressive ones that I had underestimated the rest of them! Oh well, at least now with no water bottle, surely no more monkeys would approach me? Then again, I did have my camera in hand and I sure hoped that they wouldn’t want to eat that…
I was told that giant spiders lived in these caves, and although I didn’t see any myself I was still a little more nervous than I would have been had a hostel-mate not cheekily scared me beforehand! Even though there are some amazing rock climbing opportunities present here, you are encouraged to spend too long in these caves, as to not “disturb the ecosystem”. What you must remember about the Batu Caves is that the journey up and the surroundings are the main highlight; the little tours around the caves themselves are merely a way of getting out of the sun (or rain)! That said, I found them to be spectacular and very interesting in the little time I got inside them, and they are unquestionably one of the finest cave systems I have explored.
I learned that the cave entrance was once used by the Temuan People (a tribe related to the Orang Asli, who still live in parts of Taman Negara as I visited one of their villages there only days earlier) and you can really see evidence that Human civilisation used to call this place home before the monkeys took over the place!