It’s surreal. You fly in a small little airplane with 15 other passengers over the pristine 100 million year old ancient rainforest. The plane follows a huge brown snake of a river, turns and glides right into the rainforest. You have landed in Mulu. Mulu Caves is famous for being, until recently, the largest cavern in the world with its Sarawak Chamber so vast it can hold 10 Boeing Airplanes. The surrounding area of The Mulu Highlands is a beautiful jungle hinterland home to an abundance of unique wildlife.
How to get here
It’s a ridiculously quick flight from Miri. It actually felt like 15 minutes! You can fly from Kuching or Miri with MASwings. Tickets should be under 50 dollars each way. There is also the option of taking an extended adventure hiking the Headhunter’s Trail followed by a couple of boat rides over a few days.
The airport is just a ten minute walk to park headquarters. Just follow the few signs and walk, or else you can take a taxi.
Park hostel and bungalows – Book the park hostel and bungalows in advance on their site. Prices range from 51.80RM ($12 USD) a night for the hostel to 340 RM ($80 USD) for a deluxe 3 person bungalow.
Local guesthouses and backpackers – There isn’t a need to book in advance. When you arrive, you will walk past all the local accommodation on your walk to the park. Just after the airport you’ll see a “backpackers” and further down the road are around 3-4 different local longhouses. Rates are around 35 RM ($8 USD) a night at the local accommodation.
Camping – At one point the National Park allowed camping within the park but not anymore. You can ask the local longhouses if they will allow you to pitch a tent in their yard for a small fee. The Park recommended to ask the backpackers near the airport. We asked Mr. Edward near the Park HQ. He set us up right on the river and we had the most pleasant stay for just 5RM ($1.20 USD) a night.
Our campsite on the river in the backyard of a friendly longhouse family. When I asked him how much, he just laughed, shrugged and said “I don’t know 5RM a day?” That’s $1.20 USD.
3 day pass to Mulu is 30 RM ($7 USD). You can enjoy the walking trails, waterfall, scenery, and wildlife with this pass. However, to enter any of the caves, you must buy their packages.
On a small boat here on our way to an adventure caving tour.
Adventure Caving – Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced, 165 RM ($40 USD), 2-4 hours
There are 5 different beginner/intermediate adventure caves that can be explored with a small group between 3-8. We were an intimate group of four with a local guide through the Racer Cave (Intermediate), named after the cave dwelling Racer snakes that live within. Our experience included a beautiful 30 minute longboat ride to and from the cave entrance. The caving included using ropes and upper body strength to maneuver through the tight spaces. We found unique crystal formations, jumbo crickets, jumbo spiders, bats and beautiful blue and grey racer snakes scaling on the walls.
Advanced Adventure Cave – 300 RM ($70 USD), 8 hours
The Clearwater Connection. It sounds like a ton of fun and is probably the coolest thing to do in Mulu. You must be able to prove you are advanced with proof of caving club membership or former intermediate caving details. If you will stay in Mulu for some time, you can explore one of the intermediate caves and if the guide gives you a pass you may then try out the Clearwater connection. The highlight of this cave is hiking through the 1.5 km cave stream upriver to the exit.
The Pinnacles Summit – 3 day adventure to the summit, book online in advance, 406 RM ($96 USD)
This 24 Km hike over 3 days finishes with a tough climb to the razor sharp pinnacle summit. Along the way you are likely to see wildlife including hornbills at Camp 5 (one of your base camps along the way)
Show Caves – 35-65 RM ($10-$20 USD), 1-3 hours, all levels
There are several difference show caves that are easily accessible via plank walks. The caves are lit up to showcase all the beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations. The 65 RM tour includes a 20 minute longboat ride to the entrance. Of course there is the Sarawak Chamber you can book into (the second biggest cavern in the world).
The Nightly Bat Dance
3 million bats exit Mulu Caves National Park every evening
Go to the entrance of Deer Cave at the viewing platform around 5-7 pm the bATMs start to fly out depending on what the weather is like. (If it’s rainy, more likely at 7). At dusk, 3 million bats exit the caves, twisting and twirling in beautiful formations.
Waterfall Track and the 5KM loop Track
We were really lucky and spotted a family of maroon langurs bouncing from tree to tree. If you’re quiet and walk respectfully through the forest, you’ll spot wildlife. Many cool insects to spot as well. The waterfall varies in size based on season, can be up to 25 meters high but was only 2 meter high when we were there. Clean and refreshing swim!
Jonas loves this mega snail
Mulu is clean. If you want to swim in natural jungle rivers, this is where to do it. Try the waterfall track or if you stay at a local guesthouse on the river (like us!) you can swim there (this is where we bathed).
There is a designated area for wildlife spotting at night. You can spot some creepy crawlies and maybe some other night creatures if you’re lucky.
If you love caves and want to visit the pristine Borneo from Planet Earth, go to Mulu
The sort of downside: it’s all basically on lock. There are quite a few free activities you can do that will fill up a day and a half or so but you’ll want to book some guided activities. The adventure caving and the summit hike are big adventures that test your strength and endurance. These are good for people wanting to get some adventure with an intimate group. The nightly bat “show” is amazing and I don’t know how many other places in the world you can see that. Mulu Caves has something for everyone and despite what I read on the internet, it’s not really a place with heaps of tourists. It’s beautiful. Check it out!
Have you been to Mulu or are you dreaming of going?
P.S. Do you even tourist?