The blisters will fade, but the memories will last. That’s what I keep telling myself as I hike through the Mulu Caves at Gunung Mulu National Park…in flip flops. Eighteen kilometres in flip flops that day to be exact (thank-you Samsung S Health app for keeping track.) Up stairs and down stairs, across slippery rocks and through tight quarters, with nothing but a thin layer of plastic between my feet and the bat guano (that’s bat shit for the lucky uninitiated.) I had misread the Mulu Caves tour package program, thinking we were to spend a leisurely day on the river instead.
Still it was well worth the blisters.
Because of its high biodiversity, Gunung Mulu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I’ve been to Borneo before, but only manage to see a bunch of frogs. It doesn’t take long after you enter the park to see Mother Nature’s myriad of creatures in their full splendor.
Stay close to your tour guide — he’ll see much more than you’ll be able to spot on your own.
But keep your eyes peeled too — lots of critters inhabit the thick jungle here.
The big draws for most visitors to Gunung Mulu National Park are Deer Cave and Lang Cave.
Many come to Gunung Mulu National Park and the Mulu Caves for the bats. Hundreds of thousands of the winged-creatures inhabit the caves and the trees of the park itself.
For a truly unique experience, stick around at the end of your Mulu Caves tour to see the bat migration. Hundreds of thousands of bats exit Deer Cave each afternoon between 5:00pm and 7:00pm (if the weather is good) before darkness hits, heading out to terrorize women and small children in the nearby village. (Joking. They just head out to the trees to find food.)
Deer Cave is probably the most impressive of the caves at Gunung Mulu National Park. With over 2 kilometres of cave passages, Deer Cave is the largest cave system in the world. The height and width at its smallest point is 90 metres.
The pathway through the cave loops around to what’s known as The Garden of Eden. An area of lush vegetation within the cave itself, made possible by a large opening above.
Travel Tips for Mulu Caves and Gunung Mulu National Park
- Bring ear plugs. Not for Mulu Caves themselves but for your accommodation at night. You’ll be basically in the middle of a jungle, and those critters do like to make their presence known at all hours of the night.
- Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots. Or flip flips if you’re into blisters and bat guano covered feet.
- A walking stick may also come in handy for some of those tight places if you have mobility challenges.
- You’ll get a guide as part of your Mulu Caves tour package, and most of them are pretty knowledgeable. Remember that these guys make next to nothing, so tips are always appreciated.
- Learn how to use your camera to take photos in dark interiors. Using a flash doesn’t do the caves justice, so even a small tripod might help for those long exposures. Just don’t lose your guide in the process. And don’t rely on your iPhone.
- Stick around to see the bats fly overhead as the exit the cave in the late afternoon. It’s not as spectacular as some would suggest (I thought they’d be much closer to the ground instead of hundreds of feet up in the air) but it’s still a good way to unwind for a few minutes before the long trek back to the Gunung Mulu National Park entrance.
- Bring a flashlight — you’ll need it not only to make your way through the dark caves, but also for the trek back to the park entrance to catch your bus. If you stick around for the bat migration in the late afternoon, it’ll start to get dark as you walk back the entrance.
- Bring plenty of water. There is a small shop at the bat exit viewing area if you do run out though.
- The entrance fee for Gunung Mulu National Park is very affordable — costing only RM 30 (about $7.40 USD) for a 5-day pass. This gives you unlimited access to the park and the Mulu Caves for 5 days.
- If you’re not going on a Mulu Caves tour package, the price to access Deer Cave and Lang Cave is another RM 30 (in addition to the park entrance fee.) The price includes a tour guide.