For those of you new to the Lifestyle Fifty Borneo travel series and if you’re perhaps searching for what to do in Borneo – Welcome! Today’s post will be giving the lowdown on some impressive Mulu Caves in the Borneo jungle, a fabulous longboat ride, and a video to give you a flavour of what it’s really like!
Mulu Caves & A Longboat Ride
Today we’re taking you from Mulu Resort on a river journey. We’ll be visiting a tribal handcraft market, embarking on a Mulu caves tour, and enjoying a longboat ride through some of the remote parts of Mulu National Park in Sarawak.
Is Borneo worth visiting, people have asked me since we returned, and the answer is an indefatigable YES.
We loved our time in Kuching (city with soul) and spending time at an Orangutan sanctuary. Among other things we have loved kayaking down a lazy river deep in the Borneo jungle, and watching a bat exodus at Deer Cave during a Mulu caves tour on our second day at the National Park.
Borneo Eco Tours
We travelled with Borneo Ethical Adventures a company that puts the accent on ethical tourism. With our tour leader Alison we had adventures, saw amazing sights and gave back to the community by volunteering.
Borneo Travel Must Do
If you’re thinking of Borneo holidays and about Borneo points of interest, then a trip to Gunung Mulu National Park is an absolute must.
It should definitely be on your list of “What to do in Borneo.”
Read on and find out why … or scroll to the end of this post for more stories about Borneo in this Sarawak adventure.
Borneo Travel. The adventure continues. Mulu Caves.
Gunung Mulu National Park, deep in the heart of Borneo.
It had been a busy day yesterday with lots of walking so we had slept well, and we awoke to the steamy tropics and sounds of the rainforest.
Cicadas were beginning to start their ‘whirrings’ and the soft plop of palm fronds could sometimes be heard falling on damp grass.
Although the sun was already rising in the sky, the rainforest canopy kept us reasonably cool as we headed to the Mulu Cafe for breakfast. We had the choice of Western, Malaysian or local food.
We were about to head off for a river journey to Batu Bungan Longhouse Art and Craft Market as well as Clearwater Cave, part of a Mulu caves tour.
The Mulu adventure continues
We departed park headquarters around 9am.
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Just hangin” around waiting for passengers. Then we went on a fab longboat ride with @borneoethical adventures to Clearwater Cave. Magic moments in Borneo @sarawaktourism .. .. .. #travelgram #visitsarawak #thisissarawak #wildlife #offthebeatenpath #malaysia #exploremalaysia #bucketlist #travelblogger #exploremore #wanderlust #mulu #sarawaktourismboard #sarawaktourism #jazzinthejungle #borneoethicaladventures #adventure #jungle #longboat #borneoethical #travelplaylivemagazine
The ride in the longboats along the Melinau River was like something out of the starting scenes of Apocalypse Now.
The equatorial rainforest scenery hugged the river, and was so scenic.
Local villagers were waking up, washing in the river, or setting off on their longboats to fish. It was peaceful and beautiful and I had to keep reminding myself to stay in the moment and not allow one second of day dreaming because we were really really deep in the jungle of Borneo.
As Alison’s itinerary states, a boat ride on these rivers is like meditation in nature.
We arrived at the jetty where we were to get off for the local markets and immediately a buying frenzy ensued as we admired and bought arts and crafts.
Beaded necklaces, rattan placemats, bags, beaded key rings, coconut salad servers and ladles, the list goes on, and our guide Henry’s dad was at the entrance testing our skills with a blowpipe.
The Borneo jungle and a lazy river
Then we journeyed further up river and out from under the forest canopy witnessing the beauty from another perspective.
The longboat skippers skilfully steered their craft through the shallow water as the river was low.
We soon arrived at what must be one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in the world.
A pea green pool of water shaded by the rainforest canopy set beside a picnic spot where Alison waited for us with cookies, and layer cake, and refreshments.
Then Henry and Andy guided us to Clearwater Cave and Cave of the Winds.
First we visited Cave of The Winds where, true to its name, we really did feel a cooling breeze gushing between the rock face in a narrow tunnel.
Kings Chamber housed an impressive display of stalagmites and columns along with a rock formation which looked like a king with his queens.
Clearwater Cave, Asia’s Longest Cave
We climbed about 200 steps to begin our tour of Clearwater Cave, Asia’s longest cave at nearly 107km. At the entrance we were enthralled by the plants clinging to the caves outer walls especially the one leaf plant, which was prolific, but is endemic to this very spot. Things in this part of the world can be extremely curious.
We were guided along boardwalks to viewing platforms through an intriguing underground network of passages formed over two million years.
The contorted shapes of various rocks represented kings, wizards in profile, camels, curvy women and flying objects and … whatever your mind could dream up.
To use the word awe inspiring would really be doing this cave a disfavour because it was much more than that.
The winding network of steps and boardwalks led us under the earth to a fast flowing river … it was like a journey to the centre of the earth. Henry told us the river flows on through around 200km of passages.
Andy had us practising a form of martial art not unlike Tai Chi to regain some energy – in some caverns the carbon dioxide was high and you could smell the gas above the slightly dank cave smell.
The enormous caverns, rock formations and boardwalks which finally led out of the cave high above the river induced feelings of other worldliness, and again great wonder at our place as humans on this ancient planet we call earth.
Going back down the 200 steps was easy peasy because we knew we would be having lunch and a swim.
For when you come out of the cave there is a crystal clear pool filled by water that flows out of the cave.
Many of us changed into swimmers in the park change rooms and dived into the clear water, which was oh so cold, but beautiful after a hot and sweaty walk in humid conditions.
Henry’s sister and family had cooked us a tasty lunch of chicken curry, pumpkin, bamboo shoots and rice and after our mornings exercise it went down very well!
We found out that one of our party had a birthday so led by Natalie from The Natalie Gillespie band, we all sang Happy Birthday to in this most beautiful spot deep in the jungle of Borneo.
All too soon it was time to jump back on the longboats for a cruisey ride home, cooled by spotting rain which threatened, but didn’t pour down.
We were back at Park HQ around 2pm for coffee, and fried bananas in a rum and raisin saucem with ice cream while we watched the boats go by.
Watch the Video
The jungle night walk
Monsoon rain started falling just before we were due to head off on the jungle night walk and there was some doubt as to whether we might go or not.
Luckily the weather eased and we set of with Henry and Andy to immerse ourselves in the inky black night and sounds of the rainforest.
Top of sound was the ubiquitous calling of frogs, followed by the loud pitter patter of rain drenching the canopy overhead; a canopy which protected us to such a degree that although we could hear the rain we didn’t get wet … until later.
As we moved through the pitch black night the rain got heavier but it didn’t deter our guides who with strong headlamp torches were able to pick out a hammerhead slug sliding along a handrail, a green pit viper coiled languidly around a branch, a giant snail clinging to the bark of a tree, a huge spiny stick insect marching along the underside of the handrail, and a very scary giant centipede which Henry told us is … “Venomous, more deadly than a scorpion.” Indeed he looked a very angry type of fellow and we gave him a wide berth,
Soon the downpour became torrential and made a thunderous noise on the broad, canopy foliage and the wooden boardwalks. We gave thanks to our bright yellow Mulu ponchos which Alison had provided and marched on stoically until the guides called it a day, and we did a rather faster march back to Park HQ.
Walking in pouring monsoon rain in an equatorial forest at night made us feel not just sodden, although we were, but alive, and fully connected to nature.
We weren’t cold but we became wet from the feet upwards and soon my quick dry trousers were not so dry at all.
Our plastic ponchos crinkled and crackled.
Around us now not the eerie silence of a desert landscape as are used to in in Western Australia, but a cacophany of sound, a veritable rainforest orchestra tuning up all around us.
Mulu National Park Guides
Again I had to keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be in Borneo. In a place which until quite recently was only accessible to explorers and adventurers on long expeditions, willing to risk their lives, but which now a woman like myself can discover and interpret without too much bodily risk and in a relatively short time, helped by knowledgeable guides like Henry and Andy.
They were both so skilled but different in their guiding – Andy had a certain gravitas about him and gave us hard facts, while Henry was more likely to wrap a fact into a story.
I was intrigued to hear Henry’s own story. He grew up in a nearby village and didn’t go to school. He became a porter at the park, then a boatman, then a sweeper (makes sure all the tourists in a group come out of the caves) and then he became a guide, a job he’s now been doing for fifteen years,
“If you can’t run, then walk and you will get there in the end if you just keep at it,” were Henry’s words of wisdom.
Later on, wet clothes drying and ourselves towelled dry we sat on our verandah at the longhouse watching the rain tipping down and gliding down the oversized leaves of the forest around us we marvelled at the antics of two bats which were keeping our overhead area insect free.
They flew up and down the balcony, just under th lights, scooping up any stray insects foolish enough to be tempted to fly into the light.
As Alison had previously told us, Mulu has a pretty healthy ecosystem thanks to the bats, and multitudes of mosquitoes are just not a thing here despite the climate.
Tomorrow come with us we volunteer at a local primary school, and then head off on an adventurous boat ride to a neighbouring long house for a traditional barbecue of fresh boar and forest vegetables.
What people are saying
“Just sitting at home reviewing photos from a holiday I arrived back from yesterday. This hoilday was arranged and organised by Ali Pritchard a wonderful woman who lives and breaths her dream. Ali will take you on an amazing journey through Borneo Malaysia to share with her the wonders this part of the world has to offer. Her love for the people and the place is infectious. You will venture thru the streets of the city of Kuching find yourself walking a jungle path in search of the elusive porboscius monkey take a long boat ride to a long house spend a day kayaking along the winding river surrounded by beauty then exploring the depths of caves still being formed along the way making special connections with the people you meet as well as being able to give to those communities through time spend making enrichment treats for the Orangutans and Sun Bears or singing and doing craft with the children of a local school in Mulu.
I would highly recommend you join in on one of the many and varied adventures that Ali has to offer. Her all encompassing care for the environment and people makes your holiday special as she treats you as special too.” Michelle
What an amazing day it had been.
Previous Posts in this series
- Borneo Travel Adventure – BorneoPart 1
- Orangutans and Kayaking – Borneo Part 2
- Matang Rehabilitation Centre – Borneo Part 3
- Bako National Park – Borneo Part 4
- Mulu National Park – Borneo Part 5