This guide to Gunung Mulu National Park covers the following topics:
Reasons To Go to Mulu National Park
- One of the most spectacular cave systems in the world
- To experience the Borneo rainforest
- The Bat Exodus from Deer Cave
- Good park facilities and trail network
- Remote but readily accessible with flights from Kuching, Miri & Kota Kinabalu
- Range of accommodation to suit all budgets
- Good mix of tours and activities
Gunung Mulu National Park is justifiably famous for its limestone karst formations, some of the most spectacular caves on earth. Mulu is home to the world’s largest underground chamber (the Sarawak Chamber), the world’s largest cave passage (Deer Cave) and the longest cave in Southeast Asia (Clearwater Cave).
Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2000, the park is dominated by three mountains – Mulu, Api and Benarat – and covers 52,000 hectares of primary rainforest.
The Mulu experience is not confined solely to its caverns. The park’s biodiversity is as impressive as its cave system with Mulu containing 15 different types of forest – including mixed dipterocarp, heath, peat swamp, moss forest and montane vegetation – and thousands of species of ferns, fungi, mosses and flowering plants. The park is also home to a wide variety of mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish and insects and other invertebrates.
The Show Caves
Four “show caves” can be visited as day trips from the park HQ. These are accessed by jungle trails, plank walkways or pathways through the caves.
The enormous Deer Cave is the most visited cave in the park. It is over 2 km in length and 174 metres high. A 3.8 kilometre raised plankwalk runs from the park headquarters to the entrance of the cave. A visit to Deer Cave is usually combined with a trip to Langs Cave, a relatively small cave that has some interesting rock formations. Spotlights highlight interesting stalactites and stalagmites.
Clearwater Cave & Wind Cave are accessed by boat. Wind Cave has attractive stalactites and stalagmites and fresh breezes at narrow passages of the cave. Clearwater Cave is accessed via a 200 step climb. Its named after an underwater river that flows through the cave. The Clearwater Cave system extends for 227 km and is 8th longest cave in the world.
The Bat Exodus
Deer Cave is home to 12 species of bats including a massive colony of Wrinkled-Lipped Bats which is estimated at 2.5 to 3.5 million individuals. On most evenings millions of bats leave the cave between 5.30 and 6.30 pm and go in search in food. On some occasions the bat exodus can begin as early as 4.30 pm and on some days the bats do not emerge at all.
The clouds of bats move out of the cave in streams or ribbons that spiral and change shape. As the bats emerge, bat hawks swoop in from nearby cliffs and snatch a meal. The bats travel up to 100 kms from the cave to search for food, returning early in the morning. Each bat is estimated to eat 5-10 grams of flying insects per night.
There is a good selection of accommodation ranging from guest houses, park accommodation to a luxury hotel. The park HQ offers hostel and longhouse rooms (both with fan) and air-con, chalet-style units (deluxe garden bungalows or rainforest lodges). There are budget guest houses near the HQ and the Marriott Resort & Spa is located 10 minutes from the park.
Gunung Mulu National Park has the best facilities, accommodation and trails of all national parks in Sarawak. The park infrastructure is also well maintained. There is an excellent Discovery Centre at the park HQ where you can learn about the park, its caves and the flora and fauna of the area. There is also a gift shop and cafe at the HQ. You can pay for WiFi access at the park office but the internet speed is slow. There are no banks or ATMs at Mulu so make sure you bring enough cash for your stay.
There is a dual pricing ticket system with foreign visitors paying more than Malaysians. Five day entry tickets for foreigners are RM 30 (adult) and RM 10 (Child, 6-18 years). The price for Malaysians is RM 15 (adult), RM 7 (Senior, 60 years and above) and RM 5 (Child, 7-18 years). Malaysians must show the IC card as proof of citizenship.
Getting To Gunung Mulu National Park
MASWings, a subsidiary of Malaysian Airlines, operates flights to Mulu from Miri, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu using 64-seater ATR turboprop aircraft. There are 3 flights a day from Miri (30 mins) and daily direct flights from Kuching (1 hr, 35 mins) and Kota Kinabalu (55 mins). The weather in this part of Sarawak can be quite unpredictable and flights are sometimes delayed due to thunderstorms or strong wind.
The People of Mulu
You will meet a range of different people at Mulu. The Berawan & the Penan are the two main indigenous groups living in the area but there are also Kelabit, Lun Bawang and Iban. Three longhouses are located close to the park with Penan communities at Batu Bungan and Long Iman and Berawan at Long Terawan. The Melinau and Tutoh Rivers are the main navigational ‘highways’ that link the various communities.
Cave Exploration & Scientific Expeditions
The first scientific expedition to Mulu took place in 1977/8 when the UK’s Royal Geographical Society sent a team to Sarawak. To date there have been 25 caving expeditions to Gunung Mulu National Park to uncover its hidden secrets. To learn more about the caves, how they were formed and the various expeditions see the Mulu Caves Project, an excellent site maintained by leaders of past and present expeditions.
Tours & Activities
In addition to the show caves there are a number of jungle trails and adventure treks that enable visitors to experience the rainforest. These include the Gunung Mulu Summit Trek, the climb to see the Pinnacles of Gunung Api and the Headhunters’ Trail which combines river travel, trekking and a stay in a longhouse. There is also 480 m long canopy walkway and a number of caves are open for adventure caving.