The middle of the afternoon is a sleepy time in Mulu National Park - the heat of the day has blanketed the jungle, and it seems other travellers. It is a quiet peaceful time to take a walk along the boardwalks through the park. Stroll along slowly and listen out for the birds and insects. Beautiful jungle foliage borders the pathways.
When taking long walks such as the loop walk of 8km, you need to notify the rangers at the front office and check back in when you return.
Combine your afternoon walk with a viewing of the bat exodus.
The Canopy Walkway is one of the guided activities in Mulu National Park. It involves a walk of about 20 to 25 minutes along the boardwalks in the direction of Deer and Lang Caves but turns left before reaching the caves. From there you climb a tower before heading into the canopy. This is not an activty for those who are scared of heights, but it does give you a different perspective of the forest. The suspension 'bridges' range from 20 to 45 metres up and are linked to 'platforms' around huge trees. They are quite rocky - I wouldn't fancy them in strong winds.
Try to book in for an early morning visit just as the forest comes alive. A great activity - include on your 'to do' list.
Mulu Village is located about 3km from the National Park entrance. It makes for a good morning walk. Head back to the airport and continue around past the perimeter of the airfield. There are a couple of rough tracks that head down to the river. Perched up on the river bank lies the village. There is a pictorial history of the area located in the village meeting point. This tells of the former nomadic lifestyle of the villagers. There is a well kept path along the river's edge which leads to the village school and the clinic. About a kilometre through the village is a handicraft centre run by local women but it was closed when I visited.
One of the highlights of a trip to Gunung Mulu National Park is witnessing the evening Bat Exodus from Deer Cave. Millions of bats leave the cave at dusk in search of a feed. A viewing area that contains both open air and undercover seating has been purposefully built for this incredible sight. Wave after wave of the flying mammals swarm from Deer Cave. You think it is over then another wave leaves the cave. At the viewing area you can see the bats beginning to move in the cave via the 'bat cams' that have been set up. Park rangers can point out the bat 'nurseries' where the young cluster together as their parents leave for the night.
Watching the bat exodus can be done independently by taking the boardwalk that leads to Deer Cave - 30 minutes walk - or it can be combined with the full day 'Garden of Eden' activity or the half day 'Deer and Lang Cave' activity.
This is a not to be missed experience.
Be aware that the bats do not leave the cave every night during rainy season. They may go for a couple of days without food so ensure you have at least two afternoons at the park to give yourself the opportunity of experiencing this incredible event.
The Garden of Eden is a full day walk that takes you through Deer Cave and out into a scenic jungle area where you can lunch beside and swim in a beautiful pool constantly filled by a waterfall. The walk through Deer Cave ventures off the tour boardwalk and involves some scrambling over rocks and wading through water - possibly up to your neck. (The tour is cancelled if water levels are too high.) Make sure your goods are in a water tight pack! The walk through Deer Cave can be tough if you are not ready for slipping and sliding on your backside, but the end result is well worth it.
After returning from the 'Garden' you can take a tour through Lang Cave and then wait for the bat exodus before heading back to park headquarters.
I highly recommend this tour - not too tough for those who are not into caving, yet an overall great experience.
Having been successful in my beginner/intermediate caving venture, I decided I would take the challenge and attempt the full day 'advanced caving' involving the 'Clearwater Connection'. Head torches and helmets are supplied but you need to bring your own lunch - you could be underground for 8 hours. Carry your gear in a waterproof pack - read on to find out why!
This trip is 8 - 10 kilometres underground, often over rough, slippery terrain and involves several 'squeezes'. One such squeeze is an almost vertical drop of 10 metres - lieing on your stomach in a confined space and trying to feel your way down, hoping your feet will touch the next narrow ledge to lower yourself further.
While only 8 kilometres, this caving is both physically and mentally challenging. Some groups take 8 hours to complete with the average being around 6 hours.
And why is it called 'Clearwater Connection' - you start in one large cave entrance, pass through many narrow passages before entering another cave system and are faced with one of the most beautiful sights of my life - an underground river of startingly clear water. Some of us decided we would swim for the last 500 or 600 metres. An incredible experience to be swimming underground.
The whole adventure was a real challenge - even the young, fit ones in our group of 5 thought it was hard work. But it was truly an incredible experience, one that I will never forget.
I highly recommend the beginner/intermediate half day venture and then taking the challenge to complete Clearwater Connection.
One of the reasons I came to Mulu was to try caving for the first time. If you want to do a full day 'advanced' caving trip, you are required to show evidence of previous experience. This can be done by completing a half day beginner or intermediate caving activity.
For me, the intermediate caving was a great experience. Head torches and helmets are supplied.
We travelled up river to Racer Cave. Upon entering the cave there was a 'squeeze' almost immediately. This meant getting side on between rocks, crouching and turning the body to get through. If you are worried about getting dirty or if you suffer from claustrophobia, this is not for you!
We had a very friendly guide, Eugene, but be aware the onus is on you - the guides and their companions don't do much to help. Luckily, I was with a group of very helpful novice cavers so we all supported each other.
In Racer Cave there was a few tough rope sections - or perhaps I'm just not used to using those muscles. The floor of the cave is very slippery and you need to be prepared to slide on your backside a bit.
It was a fantastic, challenging experience. For those who pass the test and want to do a little more, advanced adventure caving awaits.
While activities that involve entering caves must be done with National Park guide, there are several walks that you can undertake independently. A good morning walk is the Kenyalan Loop. This walk takes you down the boardwalks towards Deer and Lang Cave but then veers off for a couple of kilometres onto a clearly marked walking trail before meeting up with the boardwalk again. It is very peaceful on the walking trail and you can truly appreciate the natural beauty without doing any damage. Return time for this walk is between and 2 and 2.5 hours walking at a moderate pace. It all depends on how many insects captivate you!
A jungle night walk is offered every night in Mulu National Park. A guide leads the way on a walk of several kilometres along the boardwalks in the park. Group sizes can range between 4 and 16. Somewhere in the middle is probably best - enough eyes to spot the creatures of the night but not too large that the group is unduly slowed down.
I really enjoyed this walk - the range of animals spotted really surprised me - snakes, frogs, moths, snails, spiders, 'bugs' of all sorts and a weird almost prehistoric looking insect that our guide told us was a 'thorny stick insect'. I'm not sure about that but it was certainly unlike any insect I had seen before.
The night walk lasts between 90 minutes and 2 hours depending on the size of the group and costs 10 MR (about $3.50) per person. Well worth it!
I felt Racer Cave was one of the best tour caves available to the public. It is a beautiful 15 minute long boat ride from park headquarters and then a 10 minute walk in the jungle to the base of the cave. There are steep steps leading to the entrance of the cave, but once inside it is an easy walk. There are many impressive stalagmites covered in 'crystalised' bacteria. You may find bird nests, and a few bats. You should see spidrs, camel crickets and the waxy web worms. If you are lucky you may even see a Racer Snake.
My pictures don't do this beautiful cave justice. This activity was certainly value for money and I highly recommend it.
Don't forget your torch!
Both the Show Caves and the Adventure Caves at Mulu National Park offer the opportunity to spot a range of 'cave creatures'. While bats abound in Deer Cave, there are many other creatures to find. Perhaps the ones that fascinated me most were the waxy web worms - I'd never heard about these before. Living in the darkness of the caves, these webs 'spin' fine sticky loops that hang from the ceiling of the cave. When a small insect gets stuck on the filament, the worms suck up the web and eat the insects!
Other creatures include huge camel crickets with extremely long antennae and a range of spiders - all co-existing in the dark.
The pinnacle formations of Gunung Api and Benarat are spectacular examples of this limestone feature. Mulu’s Pinnacles tower above the surrounding landscape, some reaching heights of 40 to 50 metres. Centuries of water have eroded and dissolved the rock into razor sharp spikes which knife skywards through the surrounding rainforest.
The trail to view the Pinnacles is only 2.4 km long but rises 1,200m and the last section is near vertical with ropes and ladders to climb. Slow down, take time to enjoy the limestone forest, glimpse the tree shrews running past and as you reach the higher altitudes see some spectacular pitcher plants and rare orchids.
Fit, experienced trekkers may reach the top in 2–3 hours, the not so fit around 4–5 hours. For many, the descent is more difficult and can take 5 hours or more. Back at camp relax, cool off in the river and rest those weary legs in preparation for the return walk to Kuala Litut in the morning.
The Mulu Canopy Skywalk at 480 metres is the longest tree-based walkway in the World.
As you walk among the ferns and vines 15 – 25 metres above the forest floor and river you will enjoy this unique opportunity to get closer to the rainforest ‘web of life’. You need to join a guide tour from the park HQ which set you baqck for RM30. It is interesting to try. There is another in Poring hot springs near Mt. Kinabalu in Sabah. I think that one is the highest in the world ( a series of boardwalks suspended 60m above the ground).
The trail takes its name from its historical role as the route taken by warring parties between the Tutoh and Medalam rivers. The trail runs between park HQ and Limbang, a picturesque town on the Limbang River, north of the park. Trekkers can start from either end. To get to Camp 5 from Park HQ there is a 1 hour longboat trip to Kuala Litut which is the head of the 8km (3 hours) walking trail to the camp. At Camp 5 there is sleeping accommodation for a maximum of 50 persons and fully equipped kitchens. The next day you can either climb the Pinnacles with a Licensed guide or begin the walk along the Head Hunter’s Trail. Camp 5 is often fully booked.
The 11.3km trail from Camp 5 to Kuala Terikan is 5 hour walk through a very isolated area of Borneo and a guide is highly recommended There is a chance you will see more wildlife along this trail such as giant porcupine, wild boar or Macaques than in other parts of the Park.
At Kuala Terikan you need a longboat to take you downstream to a local longhouse for an over-night stay. Depending on river levels the long boat trip is about 3 hours but expect to push the boat at least a few times. The next morning another 1 – 2 hour ride takes you to Medamit to catch the van to Limbang (1 hour) where you should arrive around lunch time.
Deer cave is home to several million bats and their droppings form huge piles of guano, a food source for multitudes of cockroaches, beetles and other insects which scurry across the surface of the dry brown powder and consume dead or dying bats that have fallen to the floor. These insects, in turn, provide the food for other invertebrates centipedes and spiders, some as big as a hand, others hidden deep in white tunnels of web, This is a complex network of life, dependent on a daily spectacle when a stream of bats pours out of the cave, swirling across the sky and visible for kilometres. From the surrounding cliffs, hawks and peregrines dive into the stream to catch their meals and consume them in flight.