The Heart of Darkness: Gunung Mulu National Park

Sarawak is home to some of the lushest rainforests in the world, a green haven that’s home to over 1,000 species of fauna and 8,000 species of flora. One of the best places to experience all of this is at Gunung Mulu National Park. Known for its vast cave systems, dense rainforests and mountain treks, Mulu’s attractions aren’t only above ground. Its subterranean world reveals show caves, with adventure caving experiences on top of that. Those interested in trekking can tackle the famous Pinnacles; most of the treks will take 1-4 days and will thrust you into the heart of the Bornean rainforest.

SHOW CAVES

There are a total of 5 show caves in Gunung Mulu National Park which have designated platforms for easy access. Although faintly lit, it is advised to bring a torch with you.

Deer Cave

Up until the recent discovery of Son Doong cave in Vietnam, Deer Cave was known as the largest cave passage in the world. It is still a magnificent natural structure (174m wide, 122m tall) which can be visited at a fraction of the cost. The cave is accessible via a 3.8km long boardwalk to conserve the natural environment from travellers, and travellers from leeches. The walk will take roughly 45-60 minutes. Its many water columns protruding from the ceiling allow you to grasp true scale of this cave. Deeper inside the cavern, all natural light disappears; at the end of the path is the Garden of Eden, a lush green opening with sunlight streaming through.
Inside the cave, a constant squeak reveals the 3 million-strong wrinkle-faced bat colony who have made their home here. Every evening between 4 pm and 6 pm they exit the cave for feeding and you can catch see this bat exodus from a viewing platform outside of the cave.

Lang Cave


A 100m walk from Deer Cave is the much smaller Lang Cave. What it lacks in size it makes up for with beauty, with a range of stalagmite, stalactites and rimstone pools. It’s much easier to spot wildlife, where bats, insects and even cave prawns can be seen. Entry to Deer & Lang Caves is RM35, which includes the guide fee.

Wind Cave

A quick longboat downriver takes you to the base of Wind Cave, from where it’s a brief walk to the cave entrance. As the name suggests, at certain times of the day, a strong wind blows into the cave entrance – this has helped to shape the cave over the last thousands of years. Deeper within, only a slight breeze can be felt as you walk between large formations of stalagmites and stalactites. This is a relatively short show cave and will take no longer than 60 minutes to complete.

Clearwater Cave

Depending on the safety of the hiking route and weather, you may be able to walk to Clearwater Cave from Wind Cave; if not, it is only a 5-minute ride upstream. The base of Clearwater Cave runs straight into the river, which has an area sectioned off for swimming. To reach the mouth of the cave you must first climb the 200 steps to the top. Within the cave is a subterranean river which stretches over 170km of underground passageways. True to its name, the water within the cave is crystal clear with a section that allows you to dip your feet in. There is no swimming in these waters, as the currents are strong. Entry to Wind & Clearwater Caves is RM65 including the guide fee and boat transfer.

The Fastlane

This show cave implements some adventure caving aspects which will require your own headlamp. There is a pathway to follow which takes you through the 1.5km-long cave. Look out for (non-poisonous) blue racer snakes, white crabs, bats and other cave fauna. Entry to The Fastlane is
RM65 RM including the guide fee.

ADVENTURE CAVES

Lagang Cave (beginner/intermediate)

This cave involves no difficult terrain to overcome. The whole experience will take roughly 3-4 hours to complete and will have you walking across the old river beds and boulders, as well as spotting interesting insects that have adapted to the nocturnal lifestyle.

Racer Cave (intermediate)

This cave is slightly more challenging, as you’ll be climbing up and down slopes with the help of ropes. Within the cave, you will find, alongside insects and bats, the racer snakes that have adapted to this subterranean lifestyle.

Clearwater Revival (intermediate)

After being guided through Wind Cave and Clearwater Cave, you take the plunge and step off the paths. Depending on the weather and water levels you will explore the deeper sections of the cave accessible only through the river. Other intermediate caving includes the Drunken Forest Cave, Kenyalang Cave, Fruit Bat Cave, Garden of Eden Valley Walk and Stonehorse Cave.

Clearwater Connection (advanced)

This adventure cave takes between 6-8 hours to complete and requires a good level of fitness. It begins at the end of the Wind Cave and continues along to the subterranean river. Sections of this cave will have you traversing through tight squeezes, and areas which are too dangerous to free climb will have fixed ropes. In the end, there is a 1.5km river section where you float down to Clearwater Cave.

TREKS AND TRAILS

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles at Gunung Mulu National Park

The most picturesque of all the trails, The Pinnacles is a 3D2N trek to reach the towering stone spikes. After a longboat trip and an 8km hike, you will arrive at Camp 5 which is your base camp for the night (own bedding and food required).

At 7 am the next morning, you make your ascent to The Pinnacles which is only a 2.4km journey, although it ascends roughly 1.2km. The average individual will take between 4-5 hours to trek up. The descent back to Camp 5 will take another 5 hours where you will spend one more night before hiking back to the boat.

The Pinnacles Trek is RM415 RM and includes a mandatory guide.

The Canopy Walk

A 480m walkway suspended above the treeline offers visitors another perspective on rainforest life. Delivering a peaceful escape from the insects below, you can discover treetop life from 20m above ground, crossing strong, but shaky suspension bridges along the way. The Canopy Walk
costs RM45.

GETTING TO MULU

From Singapore, you’ll have to take a connecting flight from either Kuching, Miri or Kota Kinabalu. From the airport, there are local shuttle buses as well as a private shuttle bus for those staying at the Marriott.

 

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