Archiv der Kategorie 'Sarawak'

Gunung Mulu NP, Part 2: The Rainforest

The caves are what makes Gunung Mulu stand out from other National Parks in Borneo, but the rainforest is also pretty good. There are and 3 longer trails which require a guide and will take from 2 to 4 days: the Pinnacles Route to the Gunung Api area, The Headhunter’s Trail towards Limbang and the Summit Trail to 2300m Gunung Mulu. Access to these trails is limited by availability of guides and accommodation, especially at Camp 5 for the Pinnacles and Headhunter’s. We had 5 days at the park and tried to book one of them immediately when we arrived but all were fully booked, so we explored the area around park HQ in detail and did some adventure caving.

Apart from that there are some ok trails around park HQ, most of which branch off the 3km plankwalk that leads to Deer Cave. The first path on the left after leaving park HQ is a small and winding plankwalk through an interesting forest section (there is a sign that reads ‚Nighttrail‘). It meets with the Moonmilk Trail after about 1km and if you walk left at the junction you‘ll come back to park HQ after another 400m, making this a circular path. We took this trail several times, both at day and night with a very bright torch. We found various lizards, geckos, cicadas, stick insects, leaf insects, several tree frogs species, spiders, giant crickets and many other strange insects.


Spider


Some insect


molting cicada

My favorite find was Wagler’s Pit Viper though:

A juvenile specimen of Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)

The Paku Waterfall Trail leads to a small waterfall (surprise!) and it is the only path that is neither a plankwalk nor paved near park HQ. The waterfall is not that exciting so the path is the goal. We took the path twice and the second time it started raining like hell when we were at the waterfall, about 2.5km from HQ. Puddles formed and merged until the path resembled a swamp but we had forgotten to bring the umbrella and where completely soaked anyway so in the end we gave up on trying to avoid the mud and water and just walked straight through. It was fun, the forest was interesting and we met very few people on this trail (not only when it rained) so this ‚Rain trail‘ is highly recommended. ;)


Tree frog

The last trail is the one that passes through Moonmilk cave and onwards to Cave of the Wind and Clearwater cave. It follows the river you cross when entering the park in a straight line of about 2km. We saw tons of lizards, a small brown ground-dwelling snake and many large and very colorful butterflies. Bring a torch for Moonmilk Cave.


Butterflies on the trail to Moonmilk Cave

There also is a bird watching tower close to park HQ (get the key for a deposit at HQ) and you can sign up for a canopy skywalk, which is great and shouldn‘t be missed. We went at 7 in the morning and were alone with our guide. We saw squirrels, small birds and an impressive pit viper, enjoyed the forest in silence and had a great time.


Canopy Skywalk


adult specimen of Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri) resting in the canopy

Gunung Mulu NP, Part 1: The Caves

Gunung Mulu National Park offers great jungle trekking and one of the largest cave systems in the world, making it one of Borneo’s highlights. The park can only be reached by plane (it’s a cheap 45 min flight from Miri) but it still is by far the most popular national park we‘ve been to. We intended to do the Pinnacles Route (which takes 3 days) so we decided to stay for 5 full days and booked our flights accordingly.


Mossy tree

The accommodation of the park was fully booked when we arrived (which we had expected after inquiring per email) so we stayed at the dorm of the hostel right at the park entrance. Almost everything in the area is pretty expensive compared to the coast btw, most likely because it is so remote: a single bed in the 24-bed dorm cost 35RM per night, a meal cost 10-15RM and a beer cost 8RM. Bad news was that the Pinnacles Route, which requires a guide and bookings for accommodation at Camp 5, was also fully booked for the next 5 days. So we had lots of time to explore the caves and trails around park HQ. We spent the first 2 days exploring the 4 ’show caves‘. These caves are very accessible, they have a paved walkway or plankwalk, handrails and they are lit so they can be visited by everyone. A good torch comes in handy to have a closer look at some of the stone formations but it is not required. For some reason you are still required to take a guided tour in order to visit them.

On the first day we went to Deer Cave and Lang’s Cave. A very easy 3km plankwalk leads to the caves which are close to each other but still very different. Lang’s Cave is a small and rather narrow cave with some beautiful stone formations while Deer Cave is a vast passage more similar to the Great Cave at Niah NP: it is more than 2km long and more than 150m high in places. We had walked towards the caves in heavy rain and when we stood in Deer Cave, waterfalls had formed there, dropping water more than 100m from the ceiling of the cave. I took some photos but they cannot describe what it felt like to be there.


Waterfalls in Deer Cave after heavy rain

There had been many people in the cave but when we emerged again, we were still surprised to see the large crowd of people waiting near the cave entrance for the millions of bats which leave the caves between 5 and 6 pm on most days.


Bats leaving Deer Cave in the late afternoon

On the second day we went to Wind Cave and Clearwater Cave. The guided tour includes a good boat ride from park HQ to the caves with a short stopover at a Penan settlement along the way. The mouth of Wind Cave doesn‘t seem that spectacular but further in, amazing chambers filled with stalagmites and stalactites await you. The ceiling has collapsed in a spot near the chambers and you can see the jungle high above and light beams perforate the cave.

The entrance to Clearwater Cave is only a few hundred meters and some 300 steps away. The cave is more than 100 kilometers long and the accessible area near the mouth is a rather large passage with an underground river running through it. You can have a swim in the river outside near the steps leading up to the cave entrance, but expect many people there.


Cave of the Winds

Nobody who comes to Gunung Mulu NP misses the 4 mentioned show caves I guess and their plankwalks were packed with people — sometimes our group even had to wait for minutes until other groups had left a certain area before we could proceed. You can also walk to Clearwater Cave and Cave of the Winds on a 3km paved trail (yes, almost everything near park HQ is paved or a plankwalk) and check them out alone right after the tour groups leave in their boats. You‘ll also find the river deserted then. The trail also passes through Moonmilk Cave, a narrow tunnel with great stone formations that seem to be covered in a white substance, and the cave alone is easily worth it. Bring a torch even if you already saw the caves with the guided tour and all you want is a relaxing swim in the river because they switch the cave lighting off at around 5pm and you will have to go through Moonmilk Cave again on your way back.


Lang’s Cave

We decided to sign up for two of the adventure caving tours as well. You leave the plankwalks, handrails and lights behind with a small group, hard hats, good torches and a guide on these trips. Expect to pass through some narrow passages and get muddy, it’s also very slippery almost everywhere inside the caves. Bring a good backup torch and sturdy shoes, trekking sandals are not allowed and you would most likely cut your feet horribly on the rocks in some passages if you tried to go with them.

The easy 1h Turtle Cave tour starts near the bridge in Clearwater Cave. After wading across the river and through a muddy pool followed by some climbing over sharp rocks you can see the forest outside at an opening. The route then carries on through the low passage that gave the tour its name: you don‘t have to crawl (and you shouldn‘t because there is lots of mud and up to 20cm of water on the floor) but it’s too low to walk upright, so you‘ll find yourself doing the turtle-walk. ;)


Some large creepy crawlie in Moonmilk Cave

The water gets deeper in some parts near the end, depending on the water level of the river to a certain extent I guess. This part doesn‘t seem directly connected to the river when you walk through but when the water level rises (making the tour impossible) it most likely is. When we were there we had to swim through one of the last chambers because there was a lot of water in them. It was just a few meters and I managed to do it with my backpack in one hand above my head but I wouldn‘t recommend to bring a camera or anything that would get damaged by water on this trip. You won‘t be able to take good pictures anyway unless you bring very expensive gear and even if you have a good camera with a very bright ultra wide-angle lens in a 100% waterproof bag it’s not really worth it because Turtle Cave doesn‘t really have impressive stone formations or large chambers. It’s more about having fun climbing through the mud and water and we had a blast! When we emerged from the cave we jumped into the river outside with all our clothes and shoes on to get rid of the mud. :)


Lang’s Cave

The second adventure caving trip I did was Racer Cave, an intermediate trip that took about 3h. The cave is named after the Cave Racer snakes (Orthriophis taeniurus) that tend to hang out in a narrow passage close to the cave entrance where they lie in wait for bats. The cave requires a certain degree of fitness because you have to climb some ropes up and down steep, slippery rocks inside the cave. Apart from the snakes, bats and swallows the cave is home to some impressive spiders and other creepy crawlies. Unlike Turtle Cave there is no river in Racer Cave and you won‘t get wet unless you count the sweat.

Miri

Miri is a city of 300,000 close to the South China Sea but without a downtown waterfront. It is the closest city to Gunung Mulu National Park and a return flight to the park from Miri cost us 60€ pp. We stayed at Miri for a total of 3 nights, two before our flight to Gunung Mulu and another night when we came back.


San Ching Tian Temple near the Saberkas Weekend market

There aren‘t any real attractions in Miri and it rained almost non-stop when we were there so it didn‘t become one of our favorite spots in Borneo. There are two chinese temples which are worth checking out and the small fish market is pretty interesting for half an hour. The other markets in the center are ok as well if you are into markets or just want to buy some tasty pineapples or bananas. There are some malls, many large hotels, a petroleum museum and a municipal park with some theme gardens.


There was no rain the morning we left for Gunung Mulu!

We also checked out Taman Selera Beach, which is a 15 min bus ride from the city center, but found it rather mediocre and swimming is not allowed due to strong currents according to signs posted there. There’s a playground and in the evenings some food stalls open next to it. Maybe I‘m a bit harsh because of the weather we had but altogether I wouldn‘t recommend to stay in Miri for more than a few days.

We read that there are some good dive sites close to the city but I didn‘t try them. And the city definitely has some good seafood restaurants.