Gunung Mulu National Park

What’s the opposite of sailing? Jungle walking on a mountain, of course! And Gunung Mulu National Park is just the place to do it.

We spent three days walking through the tropical rainforest of Sarawak in central Borneo at this UNESCO site. It was the perfect place for some R&R after days of heavy sailing and copious editing.

Mulu was the biggest cave system in the world until Hang Son Doong (Mountain River Cave) was discovered in the heart of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the Quang Binh province of Vietnam. At the time of writing the Vietnamese caves are not open to the public, but Mulu certainly is.

You can fit St Paul’s Cathedral of London in here!

Small stalagmites forming a miniature cityscape on a ledge

Stalactites and stalagmites meeting in the middle

Sometimes it was a bit of a tight squeeze

New stalagmite forming in real time

What’s Abraham Lincoln doing here?

We took leisurely guided strolls through most of the caves, but for the real potholing (spelunking) enthusiast there are deep dives into the furthest recesses of the caves where you camp out under the guidance of a local expert caver.

Check out the full video episode here:

But Mulu is not just about the caves. There are two hour walks, day walks and multi-day treks in one of the most beautiful places to visit in Borneo. We didn’t have long enough to do one of the mountain treks and, to be honest, I’m not sure our knees would have been up to it.

Walking through the forest floor

The rangers grade your trekking ability as you walk and they make the decision about when you should not go any further. One of the longest walks over a number of days has three stops, the final push to the top requiring good fitness because it must be completed fast before nightfall.

To ease ourselves in, we went to the bird hide within the forest. This is an unaccompanied walk, but you have to clock in and say when you will return so that if you have an accident the rangers will be able to find you. Safety is taken seriously at this park.

View from the top of Treetop Tower

At the top of the rainforest canopy it was bright and noisy with life.

To get to the Clearwater Cave and Cave of the Winds you have to take a narrow canoe along the river. It was pretty damp on the day we went and by the time we arrived it was properly raining.

Liz squeezing her bum into the narrowest canoe in the world (maybe)

Sungai Melinau Paku stream

Jamie laughing at his own jokes in the rain

The park is also home to the The Mulu Canopy Walk, a 480m suspended walkway in the rainforest and still one of the longest in the world. Between 25-30m above the forest floor, it is constructed using no nails, screws or fixing devices, but is held in place by ladders and ropes. You are advised to keep moving and not to have more than one person on the wooden planks at any one time. We were told it is renewed every five years or so, but we were pretty sure that most of it fell into the ‘or so’ category. This is not something that anyone with the faintest fear of heights should attempt.

In the evenings, rather than eating at the swanky Marriott (where we were staying because Liz got a stupidly cheap deal) we enjoyed local food from a nearby village restaurant, where we tried wild fern cooked in garlic. It was delicious. Since then we have found it in markets on Borneo and have learned to cook it ourselves on board SY Esper.

Fern leaves foraged from the river banks.

The three day break was packed with walking and stunning sights. The only thing which lets down the park is the single-use plastic wrist band you are issued with on arrival. WTF? Come on UNESCO stop doing this, surely you can find a more environmentally-friendly way of identifying guests?

Apart from that one blip, it was amazing and we want to go back!

For more information about Gunung Mulu National Park try these websites:
UNESCO List
Gunung Mulu Park Website

As always, thanks for supporting us and allowing us to share our adventure with you.

Peace and fair winds

Liz, Jamie and Millie xxx

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