Saturday, June 4, 2011

Explore Gunung Mulu National Park

Gunung (Mountain) Mulu National Park is a lush tropical jungle home to longest network of caves and magnificent pinnacles situated in Mulu, on the island of Borneo, the State of Sarawak, Malaysia. The park was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2000 because of its biological significance and limestone karst features.The park is also dominated by three mountains, Gunung Mulu 2,376m, Gunung Api 1,750m, Gunung Benarat 1,585m where more experienced cavers can arrange for challenging caving activities here.

Getting to Gunung Mulu National Park

Because of its geographical location, the only practical way of getting to Mulu is by air. MASwingsa subsidiary company of Malaysian Airline Services operates direct flight to Mulu from Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Miri flying on ATR72-500 aircraft. If you really love nature and can’t depart from it, you may choose the much longer route through the river from Miri, which will take 10 to 12 hours of boat ride, where as the plane takes only 30 minutes.
Where to eat and sleep
There are 3 types of accommodations to choose from if you start your activities from the park Headquarters (HQ).

Royal Mulu Resort (check out my review) offers 3-star resort accommodation sits in the middle of rainforest only 5 minutes drive to the park. This place is suitable for honeymoon treat, family vacation and travelers travelling on higher budget seeking for resort activities, nature and comfort. Buffet breakfast and dinner are usually included in the package. A la carte menu is only available during lunchtime. There’s also one small privately run restaurant outside the resort.

National Park HQ provides accommodations within the park area as well. This is the most convenient way of exploring the park without any transportation arrangement and you need to pay park entrance fee RM10 (USD3) one time only on the first day. Re-entry fee is chargeable on daily basis to those who stay outside the park.  Foods are easily available at Cafe Mulu which owned by the park.

There are upcoming privately run lodges outside the park area. Mulu River Lodge is one of them, literally a stone throw away from the park entrance is offering RM35 (USD10) per bed inclusive of breakfast. It has long house concept with a role of single bed arranged against the wall and certain sections have curtains served as partitions. Next to the lodge is Sweetwater Restaurant runs by the same owner serving local food, local rice wine and beer. Currently bookings are only available via the phone (+6012-850 4431/+6012-871 7934) or walk-in.
Best time to visit
Mulu National Park is open all year round. You can’t possibly avoid the rain because it is sitting in the tropical rainforest and it rains almost 280 days per year in Mulu.  So there is no perfect timing to visit except to coincide with the blossoming season in June-September (can be considered the driest months), where you’ll see more birds and animals around. Do bear in mind of the great influx of tourists and booking ahead is necessary for guides and accommodations especially for independent travelers.

Experiencing UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Caves: Mulu National Park is famous for its four show caves (Deer, Langs, Clearwater and Wind). Each caves are unique and has its own beauty. Deer Cave is the largest cave in the world and home to over millions of bats and swiftlets. If the weather permits, visitors may witness bat exodus at bat observatory outside Deer Cave in the evening. During my visit, the bats didn’t come out for 2 days and only managed to see it on the 3rd day. As the name suggests- “show caves”, the normal route leading to the caves are accessible by the convenience of concrete pathway and wooden plank walkway. Very tourists-friendly and I mean extremely tourists-friendly despite the flight of stairs you have to climb. If you’re up for squeezing between rocks and getting yourself dirty, you MUST go for adventure caving ranging from introduction, intermediate and advanced level to avoid extreme disappointment.
  • Nature Walk: There are few sites cater for short day trips out from Park HQ. Discover the world’s longest canopy walk (480meters), night walk along Kerangas and Lowland Riverine Forest, medicine plant trail, Paku waterfall and trekking through the Camp 1 trail. If you pay closer attention to your surroundings, you’ll find these living organism around you (as shown above).
  • Boat Ride: You may experience the longboat ride going to the Clearwater and Wind Caves. The boat stops at Batu Bungan Village, a Penan longhouse settlement and a small handicraft market is open everyday except Sunday. Besides that, make a trip down to Long Langsat stream and enjoy the crystal clear river and a swim.
Arranging your trip
You may arrange your trip with tour operators or directly arrange with the Park HQ. Bookings are necessary to avoid disappointment as some of the activities must be accompanied by guides. If you’re on a budget, independent tour (booking directly with the park) is possible and can be done at a much lower price.  If you plan to stay with Royal Mulu Resort and looking for convenience, the resort will take care of that through their activities tour packages.
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