In the almost pitch dark main chamber of Madai Cave, on the soft thick carpet of swifts'and bats' droppings, sit a small village of wooden huts. The only light filtering into this village is from the natural skylight on the cave's ceiling above. For most parts, it is dark and gloomy with the pungent smell of droppings scenting the air, with the voices of people, echoing through the dark passageways.
The villagers who lived here during the harvesting season, are the owners of the holes or domes of swifts's nests on the ceiling,tens of meters above. High above,you could faintly see "tookang" or nest collectors,peeling off nests from the limestone rockfaces.
They lived here, amidst the darkness and the pungent smell, to harvest as well as to protect their inheritance from other owners and poachers. On average, a sizeable dome 2 meters across has between 50 to 80 nests sticking on it. With a kilogram of bird nest or about 100 nests, fetching USD500 or more in the open market, and with an annual turnover reaching USD2 million coming out collectively from Madai Cave, paranoia is good. Altogether, there are 114 domes inside the cave and each is privately owned through inheritance by an Idahan family, an indigenous race populating the Kunak and Lahad Datu countryside.
The harvesting seasons, Papas, Penanggah and Penengging are respectively in April, August and November with each season lasting for three weeks.
Info from : Rabbani HMA