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Gunung Mulu National Park, Miri, 98008 Sarawak, Malaysia

GPS: 4.0922601785727, 114.89584694967

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Rich in biodiversity and fascinating geological formations, the Gunung Mulu National Park is named after the eponymous mountain (Mount Mulu). Founded in 1974 on the original lands of the Berawan people and Penan tribes, this nature reserve is located in the north of the island of Borneo, in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, south of the Sultanate of Brunei. The Gunung Mulu National Park is known for its impressive collection of caves (the largest in Southeast Asia), intact forests (one of the last remaining primary forests in Malaysia) and karst peaks (called pinnacles).

Until the advent of the White Rajahs during the colonisation of the archipelago in the second half of the 19th century (Raj of Sarawak), this wild region was inhabited by the Iban, a people of warriors and headhunters from Borneo. After several unsuccessful attempts, the Gunung Mulu mountain range was first climbed in the 1920s by a local rhino hunter named Tama Nilong. Subsequently, various expeditions and discoveries were made through the thick tropical jungle, rushing rivers and rocky outcrops to investigate an exceptional network of limestone caves. Covering an area of 544 km², the Gunung Mulu National Park is slowly being opened up to tourism, much to the dismay of the region’s indigenous communities who consider the land sacred. The park contains one of the largest cave systems in the world, estimated at several hundred kilometres of galleries (of which only less than half are explorable to date). These abyssal underground cavities were formed over tens of millions of years by the passage and infiltration of water through the sandstone, shale and limestone rocks that are ubiquitous in this remote part of Malaysia.

In addition to its endless lines of caves, the Gunung Mulu National Park is also renowned for its fabulous karst landscapes. In the shape of a cone or a peak, its massive pinnacle forest is made up of very old limestone formations (consisting of steep cliffs, deep gorges and sharp rocky peaks). The high rainfall and humidity give the park a lush nature and dense primary rainforests. The latter contain 17 distinct vegetation zones, producing creatures and species of incredible biological diversity.

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  • The pinnacle forests and rocky peaks of the Gunung Mulu National Park (the highest peaks are located on the slopes of Mount Api, nicknamed the fire mountain); one of the most biologically diverse places in the world
  • The limestone caves in the park (Clearwater Cave, Deer Cave, Wind Cave, Lang’s Cave and Conviction Cave) accessible via wooden walkways and paths; the Sarawak Chamber and its pharaonic dimensions (700 metres long, nearly 400 metres wide and 70 metres high) being in the Good Luck Cave (called Gua Nasib Bagus or Lubang Nasib Bagus)
  • The monumental entrance and Garden of Eden of Deer Cave; the stalagmites and stalactites of Wind Cave; the concretions of Lang’s Cave (also known as Lagang’s Cave); the underground river of Clearwater Cave and Good Luck Cave; Paku Waterfall (near Deer Cave)
  • The Canopy Skywalk at almost 500 metres above the canopy; adventure trails to be enjoyed over several days in the jungle or in the mountains: the Headhunters’ Trail, the Pinnacles Trail and the arduous ascent of Mount Mulu (forest huts and shelters are set up on the ascent path)
  • Swimming, hiking, climbing and potholing activities in communion with nature; rowboat trips on the park’s wild rivers (Melinau and Tutoh)
  • The daily spectacle of the flight of countless bats from Deer Cave (in late afternoon)
  • The variety of fauna (monkeys, deer, bats, swallows, salanganes, frogs, fish, butterflies, insects, reptiles…) and flora (primary forests, moss forests, mountain vegetation, several thousand plant species including orchids, carnivorous plants, ferns…); ; the emblematic bird of the rhinoceros hornbill (a revered species among the Dayak people)
  • The sandstone mountain of Mount Mulu (2,376 metres above sea level); the limestone mountains of Mount Api (1,750 metres) and Mount Benarat (1,585 metres)
  • The typical habitat of the Iban, a people belonging to the Dayak, called longhouse (long wooden house built on stilts); the local handicrafts of the village of Batu Bungan; the indigenous community of the Penan and Berawan; traditional dances
  • The caves are thought to have been formed about 60 million years ago. They were mentioned as early as 1858, by the British Consul in Brunei, Spencer St. John (who was appointed secretary to James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak).
  • The Gunung Mulu National Park is home to the world’s largest natural underground chamber, the Sarawak Chamber. Its surface area is equivalent to more than a dozen modern football stadiums and can hold 40 Boeing 747.
  • New underground galleries are updated regularly. A scientific expedition conducted in 2011 led to the discovery of 30 new kilometres of linear cave lines. In 2015, a huge cave system called Conviction Cave was unearthed (it extends to the Gunung Buda mountain range north of Gunung Mulu).
  • Each scientific exploration in this parallel and secret world brings its share of discoveries (surveys, samples, data collection, connections between several caves, new underground passages…). The Mulu Caves Project website provides detailed information on the various expeditions to the cave system in Gunung Mulu National Park since 1978.
  • According to the latest figures, more than 300 kilometres of caves within the park have been explored by man as follows: 227 kilometres for Clearwater Cave, 50 kilometres for the Benarat Cavern System, 32.5 kilometres for Terikan and more than 20 kilometres for the Cobra/Cloud/Bridge cave system. On a global scale, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky (United States) is said to be the longest cave in the world with a length of 627 kilometres.
  • Burials dating from 1500 to 3000 BC have been found at the entrance to Wind Cave.
  • The majority of the caves in the Gunung Mulu National Park, such as Deer Cave, are home to a large bat population estimated at several millions.
  • The floral heritage of the park is incredibly prolific. According to the latest inventories, it includes 3,500 species of vascular plants, 1,500 types of flowering plants (including 170 species of wild orchids), 8,000 varieties of fungi and 109 species of palm trees. The fauna is not to be outdone, with 20,000 types of invertebrates, 270 species of birds, 81 types of mammals, 76 types of amphibians, 55 species of reptiles, 48 varieties of fish, 28 types of bats, 280 species of butterflies and 25 types of snakes.
  • Borneo is home to the world’s second largest rainforest after the Amazon. However, the forests are increasingly threatened by industrial plantations of oil palms and monoculture trees. These activities, which are detrimental to the maintenance of the rainforests, are often to the detriment of local communities.
  • Because of its difficult terrain and steep relief, the Gunung Mulu National Park is sometimes used as a training ground for the Malaysian army.
  • Mulu is particularly difficult to reach, but it does have a small airport with connections to the cities of Miri, Kuching or Kota Kinabalu. Another option may be to reach this place by boat from the nearby town of Kuala Baram, which is close to Miri, via Marudi (to do so, you will have to make a long journey by sailing the Baram, Tutoh and Melinau rivers).
  • February to September are the least humid and most enjoyable months to visit the site (whatever the period, plan effective solutions to protect yourself against insects). Good walking shoes are essential for walking through the wet forest, over the muddy ground, up the karst hills and across the streams of the Gunung Mulu National Park.
  • The caves and most of the hiking trails can only be visited in the presence of a guide (remember to book their services in advance and do the same for your accommodation, which is limited in number).
  • To increase your knowledge of the specific fauna and flora of the Gunung Mulu National Park, if possible choose a guide from the local communities.
  • The path leading to the top of Mount Mulu is probably the most difficult, but it offers a unique view of the park’s environment.

Where to eat

  • Café Mulu
    (varied breakfast)
  • Good Luck Cave'fe Mulu
    (fast service)
  • Marriott Café
    (delicate dishes)

Where to go out

  • Kelabit Highlands
    (perfect for hiking)
  • Loagan Bunut National Park
    (superb aquatic ecosystem)
  • Niah Caves
    (stunning archaeological sites)

Where to sleep

  • Mulu Backpackers Homestay
    (simple, clean and welcoming)
  • Mulu World Heritage Area...
    (inside the park)
  • Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa
    (modern and sophisticated)

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