Mulu National Park

Caves, bats and jungle
Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia


Back to the airport, this time just for a short 30 minute flight to Mulu. The alternative being 2 days on a boat and a non-road, to reach the jungle! It was the funniest flight ever, there were 6 people on the small propellor plane. I was the only tourist (which is weird being such a touristy destination) and somehow ended up with a ‘business class’ ticket (I paid less than £15 for the flight…!). The safety announcement was hilarious, it included sayings like ‘smoking is a big no no’, ‘if you are wearing heels, in an emergency take them off, even if they are expensive’ and ‘we know you love love love your mobile phones, but they have to be switched off’ !!!! As soon as we were going up, we were coming back down again. But the air hostess still managed to run round and give everyone a carton of Milo (chocolate malt milk)!

Mulu is famous for its limestone caves – several of the caves hold world records for various cave features. The caves were featured on the BBC Natural World series (caves episode) which I watched before I came and got rather excited!

The park HQ is just 1.5km away from the airport, but to save myself a boiling hot walk in no shade, I paid £1 for a lift down the road! After sorting out some activities for the next couple of days, I had a bit of time to kill, so went back out for a walk around the river – lots of pretty flowers around! A couple of girls I was staying with in Kuching are also here – its a small world when you’re traveling.

Then at 2pm, off to the caves! First up – Lang Cave. This is the smallest of the four ‘show caves’, it was a 3km walk away from the Park HQ (thank goodness not a Bako style 3km walk!). It has a huge array of stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, shawls and rimstone pools. It was really pretty. Some of the formations have been given names, such as ‘the jellyfish’!

Next up – Deer Cave. This is the biggest show cave at Mulu and also boasts the largest cave passage in the world, at 2.2km long. The passage was formed as a result of an underground river that once flowed, eroding the limestone. It is from this cave that the famous bat exodus occurs. We walked the entire length of the cave, mounds of guano (bat poo) surrounding us everywhere! We could see the bats on the ceiling of the cave, large black areas covering the white ceiling. Inside the entrance of the cave, looking back towards the outside, it looks like there is a face in the rock face – its been named the ‘Abraham Lincoln’ rock. The cave was huge!

After exiting the cave, we waited nearby for the bats to (hopefully) make their exit. We waited for 90 minutes and almost giving up hope (it had been raining and they are less likely to come out in the rain), we heard a loud whooshing sound.

The sound became louder and louder, then a long ribbon of bats were heading up, out of the cave entrance, into the sky. They were swirling around each other, so cool! The short ribbons came in intervals of around 2-3 minutes. After about 8 had passed out, a really long ribbon came out, it kept coming and coming and coming – for about 5 minutes, a continual stream of the bats weaving their way out. Pretty spectacular. A bat hawk was circling the skies nearby, making swoops at the rushing bats.

The bats can fly upto 150km away (towards Miri) in one night, they eat up to 40 tonnes of bugs per night – apparently the reason for the ‘lack’ of mosquitos here, not sure why I have acquired about 20 new bites then. We stayed watching the bats for a while, before making the return 3km walk back to the HQ in the dark.

The food at the Park HQ is pretty good – I had some nasi lemak. It came with some dried anchovies. I’ve seen a lot of these in the markets and they smell horrific, you can almost smell them from the other side of the road. Ive never been brave enough to try them, but given they were sat infront of me today, I did try them (one!) and didn’t actually taste as bad as they smell! I probably won’t be repeating the experience though!!

Across the river the locals were having a party to celebrate the return of a few people, so of course we went to join in! Plied with free beer all night!

Friday 10 February 2012

Off to see some more caves!

But first up, off to Batu Bungan, a Penan village. I got there via a traditional longboat, which felt rather wobbly! The Penan people are traditionally nomadic (and their lifestyle is very much similar to the bushmen of Southern Africa), but now some of them have settled in small villages. The houses were all built up on stilts and some of the older women had huge holes in their earlobes, rather like the Masai.

After another short boat ride and a walk into the jungle, I had arrived at Wind Cave. This cave had some pretty stalagmites and stalactites, but wasn’t as pretty as Lang cave yesterday.

Next up – Clearwater cave. Getting to this cave involved walking up and down and up and down, then 200 steps to the entrance! This cave was much larger, formed as a result of an indoor river and right in the middle, the remains of a huge waterfall!

A 15 minute boatride back on the longboat and then after a midday rest, off to the canopy walk. They have built a 480m long suspended walkway, attached to the trees, in the tree canopy. The walkway was about a foot wide and made of wood and rope. I was pretty scared walking along the wobbly planks! Didn’t see much wildlife, just an interesting view of the upper parts of the huge strangler figs, the epiphytes and lianas.

On the 1.5km walk back to the HQ, I took a 3km detour to Paku waterfall. It was a rather muddy path given all the rain we’ve been having the last couple of days. The waterfall was in a pretty clearing, falling into a swim-able pool.

By the time I got back at 5pm I was exhausted.

I had intended going on a night walk at 7pm, but the torrential rain that started at 6pm and lasted all night quite quickly saw the end of that.


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