A Hindu shrine and a nature conservation area sit side by side at Batu Caves making it an interesting day trip from Kuala Lumpur.
Batu caves lie just 30 minutes outside Kuala Lumpur. Catch the red commuter train from Sentral Station. The train is clearly marked and tickets are cheap (about $0.60 each way). Once you’re on the train, just take it to the last stop. You might want to bring headphones and your own music for the ride because the train plays the same jingle over and over but other than that, it’s a pleasant ride through the countryside.
I was a bit worried we’d have trouble finding the caves but there is absolutely no missing them. Signs (and crowds) point you along the short walk from the train station to the caves.
Along the way there are fortune tellers, drink sellers, food stalls, and souvenir hawkers.
The first cave sits behind a giant statue of Hanuman. As you walk further along, there are several “cave dwellings”. The cave dwellings are paid attractions in an otherwise free area. We didn’t go in so can’t say much about them other than they don’t look like houses.
When you see the giant golden statue of Lord Murugan, you’re at the gateway to the temple cave. You will need to climb 272 stairs to get to the temple cave at the top. We got there around 11:00 AM and it was already getting hot so you might want to go earlier. Fortunately, the shade starts about halfway up the stairs.
The upper cave is a large cavern with Hindu shrines. Souvenir shops line the entrance stairs down into the cave. Construction to expand the temple on the lower part of the cave blocked our access to it. Another temple sits at the far end of the cavern (up some more stairs) under opening in the ceiling. A troupe of hungry monkeys lives near the main temple so be careful if you bring food with you.
In addition to the two temples, quite a few grottos with shrines sit in the smaller pockets of the cave.
As you head back down the steps from the temple cave, the dark cave is off to your right. And yes, you have to climb some more stairs to get to it – fortunately not that many.
The Dark Cave at Batu Caves are a natural conservation area. Part of the cave is open for guided tours, adventure tours access another part of the cave and the third part is only open for researchers.
The educational tour costs 35RM (about $9) per person and lasts 45 minutes. Our guide, Hazimi, provided us with helmets and flashlights before he briefed us on cave etiquette. Since the cave is a conservation zone, guides ask tourists not to shine their flashlights at the ceilings (disturbs the bats), not to wander off the path, and to turn off flashlights when the guide is talking.
Hazimi did a great job of pointing out the animals that live in the cave. He showed us several cave spiders, the Batu millipede, and cave crickets. He also provided information on the other animals living in the cave such as bats, scorpions and snakes.