Have you ever wanted to travel in a documentary?? Well I found just the place. Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, Borneo was filmed as part of the 1996 David Attenborough serious Planet Earth : Caves. Not only was I was completely blown away by the enormity, isolation and sheer beauty of the place, I got to step foot inside the largest underground chamber in the world – Sarawak chamber. Mulu is definitely one of Borneo’s travel charms.
Leaving Miri, Sarawak and flying over the dense rainforest is a great build up to the whole adventure. It opens your eyes as to how impenetrable and robust the rainforest here is.
The Gunung Mulu national park HQ is quaint and beautifully planned out. A clean, natural, wooden theme sweeps throughout the camp ensuring comfort whilst remaining tranquil. Wide boardwalks meander through the jungle connecting the individual residences, whilst the rainforest canopies continue to loom over you. Wildlife scuttle about plentifully, birds seem overtly happy and the insects are brighter and more bountiful than anywhere I’ve seen.
Finding things to do is easy. Start off by taking a look in HQ and grabbing some pamphlets of what to do around the park. Whilst you’re making your decisions, follow the boardwalks which disappear silently into the wilderness and see where you end up. The waterfall is a great few hour walk. Perfect for an afternoon swim. Note – Always bring your camera. You don’t know what critters you may find along the way.
Tackling some intermediate caves is a great way to build your confidence and open your eyes to the underground world of caving. The park offers and array of different caves for different experience levels. Starting with the Racer Cave was a buzz. 3 hours of not stop mud, hard hats, darkness and adrenaline. The guides are professional, fun and always up for a prank – so be warned *wink. After a few hours of exercise you are gratefully rewarded with a swim in the icy cold river which flows behind the caving systems.
Is exploring caves right up your travel alley? Feeling confident? Once you have accomplished an intermediate cave, you can sign up for one of the advanced caves (get in there quick, the spots fill up fast). The ultimate caving experience is the Sarawak Chamber, the largest underground caving system in the world. A guided 7 hr, completely enclosed adventure takes you deep underground, squeezing through small crevices and crawling down narrow tunnels. The highlight of my trip to Mulu.
For a more relaxed day or if caving isn’t for you, the 12km Garden Of Eden Valley Walk is perfect. You are able to explore many of the famous caves, yet still get off the track for a grungier experience. The day is spent hiking through creeks and rainforest, scrambling down large boulder passages and swimming with your backpacks above your head. An incredibly action-packed day for your inner explorer.
On days off from paid tours or longer hikes there is plenty to do around Mulu HQ. Some of my favourites were finding the hidden pathway to the river beach and lazing about reading and secondly, walking the 3km out of the park to the local karaoke bar, convincing the staff into hiring you the key to the treehouse for the evening and having a spooky rainforest night time treehouse chill session. This one is hard to organise but once you’re up there, high amongst the canopies with fire flies dancing around you and listening to the calls of the wild, you will be ever so grateful you went to the lengths you did. In the early afternoon make sure you head down to the entrance of deer cave to see the 3 million bats squeaking and squealing and they exit their cave for hunting.
Spending a week here is almost not enough. There is so much to explore. There is so much I still need to explore. Please don’t rush this place. Pay homage to your inner naturalist, indulge your inner explorer and encapsulate your mind with the beauty with this truly magical place.
Accommodation: Inside park the 21 bed dorm is $13-ish per night which includes a set breakfast. A great way to meet people and share stories of what the best things to do around Mulu are.
Getting to and from Mulu: Flying in and out of Miri. I tried the little 10hr boat but the river was to low.
Must Do’s: – Racer Cave ($32)
Our Tips: – Touching down on the tarmac the local taxi’s to shuttle you into their vans. It a very short walk to the National Park – save the cash.
How long do you need: – 1 week to relax and have time to do it properly. Also sometimes you have to wait a few days to book onto a caving tour. So its best to gives yourself a little more time.
Food: – Meals can only be purchased from Mulu HQ. It’s lucky that they are delicious. Meals are around $8.