Welcome past travellers and new travellers to an adventure in Mulu National Park, Borneo. This is part 5. If you’d like to read all the Borneo posts, you’ll find links at the end of this feature.
Borneo Adventure Mulu National Park
And we’re off!
Our merry group met in the lobby of The Grand Margherita Hotel in Kuching, at 8.45am for the short bus trip to the airport, and then onwards to Mulu National Park.
We picked others of our group up at The Ranee, a fabulous boutique hotel which is definitely on our list of places to stay when we return to Kuching one day soon.
We were sad to be leaving this city with soul, and as we bid farewell to the river, and the quaint streets and sights which had now become familiar, our hearts were a little heavy, and yet we were also excited to be heading to Mulu National Park today.
As Park Manager for 2 years a few years ago, Mulu National Park had been Alison’s former home, and she was excited to be showing us around her old haunts, and introducing us to the amazing sights and sounds of somewhere that is well off the beaten tourist track.
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On top of the world! Almost 😉 Navigating the Canopy Skywalk in Mulu, Borneo. 20 metres above the forest floor and 480m in length it’s the longest tree based canopy walk in the world. Just another magical moment with @borneoethical adventures and @sarawaktourism .. .. .. #travelgram #visitsarawak #thisissarawak #wildlife #offthebeatenpath #malaysia #exploremalaysia #bucketlist #travelblogger #exploremore #wanderlust #kuching #sarawaktourismboard #sarawaktourism #jazzinthejungle #borneoethicaladventures #adventure #borneoethical #travelplaylivemagazine
At the airport we checked in without hassle after which some members of our group had, shall we say, rather too much fun on the massage chairs, which amused us all, and we passed the time laughing and joking while we waited for the flight.
Off to Mulu National Park
A twin prop plane stood on the tarmac and from the gate we walked in light drizzle to board the aircraft – by now a motley crew it has to be said, no high end fashion on display here for we were headed to the jungle.
People were dressed in safari gear, or cut off pants and t shirts, sneakers and and flip flops.
Anticipation hung in the air like an electric mist. Alison wanted us to be surprised and awed by the place she had called home and the park she’d managed for two years. Her eyes shone with delight when she mentioned anything about of the name Mulu, and we were left in no doubt that we were heading towards something very special.
We sat back and relaxed during the hour and a half flight which was mostly through clouds, until the equatorial rainforest began to come into view.
“Look there on the right”, Alison said, “That white looking V in the mountainside, that’s Deer Cave where well be watching the bat exodus.”
We craned our necks and couldn’t wait to get off the plane.
Mulu National Park is only accessible by plane or by river, and interestingly, the nearby Marriott Hotel is reputed to be the most remote Marriott Hotel in the world.
How delightful it was to walk off the plane at Mulu Airport and just be able to hang around and casually take photographs.
We all posed for a group photo by the small aircraft and meandered slowly across the the arrivals halls to collect our suitcases.
Our baggage came out not on a conveyor belt but hoisted off a trailer onto a small grid with moveable bars which expelled our bags towards us. All so very casual.
Walking out from the small arrivals hall we jumped into the trucks, and cars which Alison had organised, throwing our baggage into their boots, and onto the back of small Utes. Then it was a five minute journey to Gunung Mulu National Park, the largest of the National Parks in Sarawak.
We walked across the suspension bridge dragging our cases behind us, and were delighted by the novel entry.
Mulu National Park Accommodation
Nestled under the canopy of the rainforest in lush jungle surroundings our longhouse accommodation was reached by boardwalks.
We were led to air conditioned long house accommodation -wooden houses built on stilts with wide verandahs.
At the park there are various types of accommodation available ranging from about RM55 per person for dormitory accommodation to RM320 for the more upmarket garden bungalows.
After unpacking we walked to Mulu Cafe for a tasty lunch of Nasi Goreng and Tiger Beer.
The cafe serves an array of Malaysian dishes as well as some Western staples and is set overlooking the Sungai Melinau river, in an open sided building, so guests can sit and watch the colourful long boats come and go.
There are a number of unguided walks around the park, mostly well signposted, and along the walks there are interpretive signs providing you with an introduction to the evolution of plants and the tropical rainforest flora.
Shortly after arriving we all assembled at the Visitor Centre to meet our guide Henry who then guided us along the boardwalks on a trail to the show caves.
Henry stopped to explain about the fauna and flora as we walked to Deer and Bat Caves about 3 kms away.
Lang Cave although the smallest of the show caves at Mulu is absolutely stunning. It has an amazing display of Stalactites and Statalagmites, helictites, shawls and rimstone pools and because of its relatively low ceiling, spotting bats and swiftlets is relatively easy.
Contrasting to this Deer Cave, which is only about 150 metres away, is the biggest show cave at Mulu and in the world. Its cathedral like cavern snakes about 2 km under the earth, its ceiling never lower than 90m high.
It was spooky and spectacular.
Henry pointed out the millions of bats hanging from the cave ceilings, mountains of guano, and also explained how the caves had formed and their geological history.
Deer Cave is home to at least 12 species of bats, the highest number of bat species occupying a single cave ever recorded.
It was hard to take in the size and enormity of the cave and the sink holes along with the history of their formation.
How amazing thought were the rock formations, and the weird and wonderful sights, not least the quirky sights such as the rock face which resembles Abraham Lincoln in profile.
But you could drive yourself dotty, I found, at Mulu if you stood and let your imagination run riot in the caves because there are so many fantastical formations – which would be great as inspiration for an out of this world movie maker!
We were each well prepared with a head torch, rain poncho, non slip walking shoes camera, water, and money for a drink and a snack at the tiny cafe at the natural auditorium bat platform meeting place.
Soon it was time to sit with a drink at the auditorium and wait for the bat exodus. All eyes kept checking the entrance to the cave. We were warned they don’t leave the cave every night, so there was a little anticipation and a lot of wishing going on as this was apparently a stand out scene in David Attenborough’s series Planet Earth.
Around 6pm we began to see a fluted shape of black dots fluttering on the outside of the cave.
Then the incredible bat exodus began and millions (they say about 3 million) bats streamed out of the cave, spiralling into the sky in long fluted ribbons. On an on they came, like puffs of smoke, like snaking tubes, flying in formation. Swirling through the dusk sky in meandering rivers of black. It was hard to believe that we had been walking under so many bats only half an hour earlier!
Craning our necks in the drizzle which had just begun to fall, we were mesmerised by the idea of so many bats, and the questions of why, and where and what. Why here, where exactly do they go and what does it all mean – so many bats!
It was a jaw dropping experience.
Mulu is already making us think and wonder and appreciate the wild and the diverse wilderness beyond the suburbia of our cities.
Our headlamp torches on, yellow ponchos shining like lanterns on our backs, we began the 3 km walk back to the park,
The night sounds of the rainforest were soft and dulcet intercepted sometimes by sharp calls, frog orchestras, and bat cries, along with the ever present noise of cicadas.
You felt as if the forests eyes were watching you.
Around 7pm we arrived back at Mulu Resort and headed for the cafe for a fantastic dinner which Alison had pre-ordered and set up for us consisting of curries, local vegetable dishes, a steam boat option washed down with Tiger Beer for us, gin and tonics and wine for others.
What an amazing day it had been,
Fast fact. Deer cave is home to 12 species of bats, which is the highest number of bat species recorded in a single cave.
- Bats are mammals, but the only mammals that can fly
- They can reach soeeds of around 100km ler hour and climb to an altitude of 3000 metres
- Fossils of bats as old as 50 million years are nearly identical to those Roudn today
- Bats feed on flyng insects including mosquitos which means that Mulu has a healthy ecosytem and – there are few mosquitos at Mulu.
Mulu National Park
Gunung Mulu National Park is the largest of the National Parks in Sarawak and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It’s a biodiveristy hotspot, 52,865 ha in total and researchers have identified more than 1500 species of flowering plants, 1700 mosses and liverworts, 450 ferns and 4000 fungi. 80 species of mammals, 50 species of fish, 270 birds, 50 reptiles, 75 amphibians and around 20000 insects. However, the list is dynamic and is constantly being added to,
The park was constituted in 1974 and opened to tourists in 1985 when 300 tourists visited. These days about 20,000 tourists visit each year, which when put into perspective with Bali is miniscule. Bali apparently sees that many tourists every day.
Licensed park guides from local communities guide and share their knowledge of Mulu’s complex geological, biological and cultural diversity.
You’ll find Fantastic interpretative panel signs around the park.
What people are saying
“This was by far the best tour I have ever done. From the back streets of Kuching, the cafe’s, medicine man, bars, restaurants and local markets not to mention the jazz festival and then through to the jungle, river and caves of Mulu Ali was greeted with warmth and affection. We whole heartedly appreciated her being introduced to her home away from home and her attention to detail, the early morning wake up calls, little local treats and fabulous company. Finally Ali is always trying to reduce plastic waste and the tourist foot print as well as supporting the economy of local villagers.”Rebecca
Click on the titles below for previous posts in this series about Borneo.
- Borneo Travel Adventure – BorneoPart 1
- Orangutans and Kayaking – Borneo Part 2
- Matang Rehabilitation Centre – Borneo Part 3
Why not come to Borneo and Mulu next year for a 10 day Lifestyle Fifty adventure? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll add your name to the list. (Open to partners too).
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