03.10.2011 - 05.10.2011
There are 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malaysia inducted based on the merit of it's natural attributes (as opposed to cultural/historical sites). One of them is Mulu National Park, home of one of the world's largest caves.
Day 1: Off The Beaten Path (not really)
To the uninitiated, a trip to Mulu National Park might sound like a jungle expedition. But in actual fact, it's a short 30 minute flight from Miri to Mulu airport, which in turn is a 2 minute van ride (RM5/person) to the park HQ. You can also fly in from Kuching or Kota Kinabalu; flying is the only realistic way of getting here.
You get an aerial preview of what's to come on the way there:
This is Mulu Airport, only MASWings flies here:
The accommodation in park HQ is pretty decent. Clean, with hot shower and air-con. If you want something a little more luxurious, there is Royal Mulu resort. But we had no regrets staying at one of the longhouses in park HQ, which looks like this:
Meals are limited to the lone cafeteria in park compounds. Acceptable for our 3 day 2 night stay, but we were starting to get sick of the food due to the lack of variety. But then, who comes here for the food?
Tip: Bring your own snacks, fruits, drinks to park HQ.
We had nothing to do on the first day, so we started wandering around. It took us more than an hour (felt closer to 2 hours) to get to Moonmilk cave, and there wasn't much to see there. Just a dark scary cave that you can walk through on the way to Clearwater Cave, if you decide to trek there.
Most people just take the boat to Clearwater Cave when they join the guided tour. Which is what we did the next day.
Tip: Most of the guided treks in Mulu are easy. Boardwalk all the way. You can even do them in flip flops.
Day 2: Show Caves Tour
The "must-do" in Mulu is the show cave tour, covering 4 caves, with each of them being quite distinct from the other. We head to Clearwater and Wind Cave in the morning.
We make a stopover at an orang asli village on the way there:
The entrance to Wind Cave, you will know how it got it's name when you walk through the narrower passages.
Some interesting rock formations in Wind Cave. The last one looks like a monk.
Clearwater Cave has a river running through it, and it exits into a pool outside via an underground passage.
We took a dip here after visiting the caves, the boat will wait for you and you're free to linger.
After lunch, the tour continues with a guided walk to Deer and Lang Cave. It was a slow, relaxing walk, since we were in a group of 10, with our guide pointing out things to see on the way.
A pair of lantern bugs, which frankly I have never heard of until this trip:
Interestingly (sadly?) most of the group were caucasians, not many locals seem to be interested in this place. They don't know what they're missing out on!
First stop was Lang Cave and we see more interesting rock formations here. Look out for swallows and bats hiding in crevices on the cave ceiling (sorry, no pics!).
Deer Cave is just a few steps away.
The rocks start to remind you of things after a while. Sort of like clouds. This one's an iguana.
Deer Cave was known as the largest cave passage in the world until the discovery of Son Doong cave in Vietnam. But all this is irrelevant when you get inside the cave passage and realize how immense it is.
The black patch on the top left corner are bats. Lots of them!
And this is their, erm...toilet?
Tip: Be prepared for the odor of bat droppings. It was ok for me though. Not bad enough to make me feel like throwing up.
This is the view of Deer Cave from the outside.
Everyday, at dusk, the bats will fly out from the caves in a mass exodus to feed in the jungle. The start of nature's graveyard shift. They fly in a helical, ribbon like formation. And it's a continuous stream of bats that lasts for 45 minutes!
What a finale to the show cave tour.
Day 3: Paku Waterfall
On the final day, we take a self guided walk to Paku Waterfall, which is about 30 minutes from park HQ.
And that's the end of a great experience, with the show caves undoubtedly the highlight of the trip.