Monday, March 11, 2013

Jungle Trekking in the Mulu Caves

The Gunung Mulu National Park located deep in interior of Borneo, in Sarawak is a UNESCO declared world heritage site. This remote park is known for some of the most spectacular karst formations and cave systems on earth.  The diorama of Gunung Mulu Park is dominated by a towering sandstone peak, the Gunung Mulu that rises to a height of 2,377 meters above sea level in the midst of dense jungle.
Over years, the flow of water draining down from the slopes of the peak has cut deep gorges through the Park’s limestone mountains, so that within the rock, a complex system of caves has been created. This vast cave system is still being discovered and currently only about 362 km (2011) of these fascinating caves have been explored.
Visiting the Mulu World Heritage Area involves quite an arduous journey, no matter which route you choose.  Initially this journey to Mulu used to be extremely difficult as there are no highways that lead to Mulu.  The only way to get to Mulu, is actually by air. Mulu today has its own airport and you can fly into Mulu, over the dense impenetrable jungle from the coastal city of Miri or then from cities like Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. 
An alternative mode of travel is to arrive at the park by navigating the Baram, Tutoh and Melinau rivers in a series of boats. However, this mode of transport is not very reliable as the boat services are often suspended due to adverse weather conditions. Adventurous travelers have even in the past walked to Mulu via the ‘The Headhunter’s Trail’ which runs down from the scenic town of Limbang situated on the Limbang River, near the northern section of the park. However this trail is rather isolated and even though it is well-marked it can be disrupted by floods. Visitors who wish to access the park, via this route have to do so via licensed tour operator.
Getting to the park is only half the adventure, for many such escapades await you at this densely forested enclave known to host seventeen diverse vegetation zones populated with many species of flora and fauna, including 109 species of palms. The early days of explorations to the Mulu caves, involved very rudimentary accommodation options, however, nowadays visitors to the park can book to stay at Royal Mulu Resort, a well-equipped, self-contained resort located within the park.
Park entry tickets to this UNESCO World Heritage area, allow visitors unrestricted access to the park over five calendar days. Each visitor needs to buy his/her own ticket as these are non-transferable. The various cave systems in the park include:-
The Clearwater Cave System- 189km
The Benarat Caverns System- 50.7km
The Terikan Caves System- 32.5km
The Cobra/Cloud/Bridge Caves System- 15.5km
However the most famous cave in Mulu is the Sarawak Chamber, reputed to be the largest underground chamber in the world. The Sarawak Chamber is capable of accommodating 40 Boeing 747 aircraft. It was discovered during the British-Malaysian Mulu ’80 Expedition. The maximum dimension of the cave are said to measure 700 x 400m and while roof of the cave has an estimated height of 100m. The cave is located on the northern side of the Melinau Paku Valley and can be reached via a three and a half hour walk from the Park headquarters. Other cave attractions at Mulu include the Deer Cave which has the world’s largest cave passage was well as unusual rock formation that has the shape of the silhouette of Abraham Lincoln, the American father of the nation.
At the park headquarters, guides can be hired for various caving expeditions like trekking to explore the Wind Cave or hiking to Deer cave, which has an added attraction of bat fights. Other expeditions include trekking along the Melinau River to access the Wind and Clearwater caves, or even trekking through the various forest zones to get to the summit of the Gunung Mulu peak.
If you are a nature enthusiast and enjoy hiking or trekking then you cannot afford to miss out on the spectacular attraction of the Gunung Mulu park on your Malaysian sojourn.


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