Nestled within the deep interiors of the vast Borneo jungle is a hidden UNESCO World Heritage site called Gunung Mulu National Park, where you can behold some of the most spectacular caves on earth.
Gunung Mulu National Park is situated on the north-western part of Sarawak, the larger of the 2 Malaysian states in the vast Borneo island. The easiest way to reach here is by air, either from the nearby town of Miri or Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. (Check www.maswings.com.my for flights availability).
We flew from Kuala Lumpur to Miri by Malaysian Airlines and from Miri, we took a MasWings fokker plane to Mulu. We arrived in the late afternoon and were greeted at the "airport" by our guide (www.pinganchorage.com), who took us to Royal Mulu Resort (www.royalmuluresort.com), where we stayed for 3 nights.
Royal Mulu Resort
We wanted somewhere comfortable to stay after our outdoor adventures, so we chose the very comfortable Royal Mulu Resort, which is about 10-minute drive away from the National Park. The Resort consists mainly of wooden chalets built on stilts.
Our chalet, being in the midst of the amazing rainforest, was large and comfortable, with a balcony facing the nearby Melinau River. The whole surrounding area was unbelievably tranquil, with low clouds hanging over the nearby mountains and the remaining mist after the many rainfalls we had brought about a kind of quiet serenity to the whole place.
We found out when we were there that accommodation is also available at the Gunung Mulu National Park itself . However, the accomodation on the Park looked very basic compared to our Resort.
Things to do
The most common itinerary for a visit to this part of Borneo is a trek through the amazing Gunung Mulu National Park and a stop at the 4 famous caves in the vicinity, watching the groups of bats spiralling out from the caves. The more adventurous visitors might want to go further to take the Pinnacles Trail and the Headhunter’s Trail, both of which must be done with the presence of a Park Guide for safety reasons.
You need at least 3 days to make a trip to the Pinnacles and back and you would need to camp in basic accommodation on the way to the Pinnacles. Due to time constraint, we were not able to change our schedule to fit in this wonderful experience.
All visitors to the National Park are required to register their names at the Park Headquarters and the Park contains the world’s largest cave chamber and an intricate network of caves. On our first day there, we were guided through a 3 km hike through the amazing rainforests. It was a journey of constant discoveries of new plants and insects for us. Even the undergrowths were worth looking at!
We visited the Lang Cave and it was indeed a wonderful experience to see the splendours of nature which had taken shape in the cave after so many years. The various shapes of stalagmites and stalactites, some of which are still alive and growing, were a sight to behold. From there, we proceeded to Deer Cave, which has one of the world’s largest cave entrance. We soon realised that not every cave is the same. We saw different formation of stones and different kinds of plants that grew wildly around the cave entrances.
We then headed out to an open-air observatory and witnessed one of the greatest phenomenons of this area; the exodus of millions of bats out of the caves. It was indeed amazing to watch them flew in perfect formation and harmony like disciplined soldiers doing their march during a parade. After the first group, many more groups came spiralling out, accompanied by the “oooohhhs” and “aaaahhs” from all the visitors below. We were told that the bats would ascend to the sky and later search for food in the vast jungles below.
The next day, we took a ride in a long boat from our Resort through the winding rivers and feasted our eyes on the beautiful sceneries of mountains and villages along the riverside. I enjoyed being able to observe the villagers' way of lives from a distance, without intruding their privacy, which would have been the case if we were actually there.
We reached the enchanting Wind Cave after a rather steep climb at the end of the tranquil dark green river. Right across on the other side, we visited the last of the 4 famous caves, called the Clearwater Cave.
On our way back to the Headquarters, we stopped to take the Canopy Walk at the Park. It would have been nicer if we had the opportunity to stay a few more days to be able to do some of the more adventurous trails which will take us deeper into the rainforest. I guess we will just have to return again some day for another rainforest experience!!