IMAGINE… long before dinosaurs roamed Earth, the limestone hills in the Kinta Valley, Malaysia, were nothing but a balmy sea where corals and single-celled organisms thrived. They were complex life forms known to have existed during the Palaeozoic era 570 million years ago. These life forms took lime from the sea to make their shells. When these creatures died, their shells made up thick masses of lime mud and all in time crystallised into limestone. Limestone can be dissolved by rainwater, which picks up carbon dioxide from the air and soil and turns the limestone into calcium bicarbonate. The dissolving process happens along joints where the water finds its way down. Some joints form sinkholes and these become vertical chimneys and horizontal galleries or in short, they become caves.
Gua Tempurung (Tempurung Cave) has existed since early 8000 B.C. and it is one of the larger cave systems found in the scenic limestone hills of Perak. In fact, it is the largest natural limestone structure in Peninsular Malaysia. The cave measures 1.9 km in length and 120 metres in height. The cave follows a direct course through a mountain range called Gunung Gajah-Tempurung, located south of Ipoh towards Gopeng and Kampar. It is a cavern inside Gunung Tempurung (Tempurung Mountain) standing 497 metres high and is about 250 million years old. This means Gua Tempurung is even older than the mountain that rises majestically like a karst tower. Visible from the North-South Expressway near Gopeng, the mountain is an erosional remnant near an ancient coastline. Years of mineralisation of the limestone rocks yielded deposits of tin, with some tungsten minerals and other minor ores. In several locations inside the dry upper chambers of the cave, vein deposits of tin (cassiterite) are evident in walls and ceilings. Within the karst tower, there is a river-cave system. The river, Sungai Gua Tempurung runs about 1.6 km. It originates from the north and south outlets of a small catchment derived from the granite upland area to the east.
Gua Tempurung was first identified in 1887 in the Map of Perak-Malay Peninsula, which indicated a mountain spelt as “Gunong Tempoo Rong
Gua Tempurung is an impressive cave with beautiful speleotherms like stalagmites, stalactites, rim stone pools, curtains, straws, calcite crystals and pillars. There are also majestic columns of marble inside its huge cavern honeycombed with smaller caves of different dimensions. The cave holds mystery and intrigue that leave one curious about its deep, dark secrets dating back to 400 million years ago.