Mulu National Park, Borneo; May 2017

Mulu Park is in east of Sarawak just south of Brunei and isn’t accessible by road – it’s a day’s journey by boat or a short hop in a plane.


There is very little the other side of that journey in terms of amenities – it’s the park and a number of homestay like accommodation – oh and a Marriott for those with deep pockets. The place I was staying at, Mulu Village, was at the end of the road and a 10 minute cycle to the park.

The headquarters are organised really well and I booked my activities for the next few days. I had tried to get onto the Pinnacles trek, but they were out of places and so that’s one for the next time. The day had worn on and I decided for a quick jaunt round some of the forest near the HQ.

The evening gave way to gorgeous sunset with storms flickering on the distant horizon. ]

The next morning after an early breakfast I cycled into the park to check out the museum in the HQ before visiting Wind and Clearwater Cave the latter of which is one of the longest caves in the world. The visit, as so much of the park’s sights are, is facilitated by a trip up the muddy river. Wind Cave is particularly splendid with classic cave formations which feel like a Valley of the Giants version of caves in the UK since the tropical climate speeds everything up – in simple terms. Clearwater is cave is absolutely huge and is still being discovered (there is an Anglo-Malay organisation charting it) year on year. Obviously the show cave only gives you a taste of that, but the idea of these chambers and passages snaking for miles blows my mind.

After a very lazy lunch, a storm and a few hours with a great book (Temeraire by Naomi Novik) I went to see some more caves. You can never have enough of caves. This time it was a tour of Lang and Deer Cave. The former of these has some more great formations whereas Deer Cave is monstrous – it is one of the largest caves in the world (I think the number one is in Vietnam) and this is not in the least bit surprising when you leave the canopy to see it. It’s also home to about 3 million bats which spend their day squeaking away on the roof and covering the floor in vast amounts of guano. After leaving the cave I stayed around to try and catch the exodus of the bats, but the poor weather kept them away.

Lang Cave Entrance


Deer Cave Entrance from an angle that gives a profile of Abe Lincoln


The next morning I went on the canopy walk and its series of rope bridges through the forest. It’s a lot of fun and a good way of getting a different perspective to the inevitable craning up at everything from the forest floor.

In the afternoon I went adventure caving in Racer cave and I don’t have any photos of that since I wanted to look around whilst being in there and blurry torch lit pictures are probably not really worth it. The caving was exhilarating and a chance to scramble and climb with ropes and harnesses and get very muddy. When we were at the deepest point we would go we turned our head torches off and that absolute darkness is wonderful and disconcerting all at once. Caving is something I am going to look into more at home as a result of this and if you visit the park I’d add it to your itinerary.

I then went to see the Bats, but I am going to circle back to that because I went the next evening too. In the evening I took in a night walk where I got to see all manner of other worldly looking insects, spiders, tarantulas, snakes and at the time what the guide thought was a Tarsier. However, I’m going to have to downgrade that sighting to some other nocturnal mammal since Tarsier eyes do no reflect torchlight.

The following morning I went on a walk to a waterfall with someone I had met caving on the muddiest path ever which is always good when you’ve just cleaned everything the night before. At least there were no leeches. In the afternoon I had a private tour of Fastlane to Lagang cave – basically called this because it’s short cut. I had plenty of time to talk to the guide as a result and see some pretty awesome albino crabs as well as the usual swiftlets and bats hanging around.

That evening and the previous evening I spent waiting for the Bat exodus where 3 million bats leave deer cave and go hunting mosquitos. It was spectacular and ranks with the most breathtaking things I’ve seen. As well as the bats you see birds of prey chancing their arm (wing?) at some dinner which is why the bats come out in this manner in the first place.

So in summary – Mulu Park – awesome.

2 thoughts on “Mulu National Park, Borneo; May 2017

  1. Dear Mark, I’m writing a print piece (with my Belgian colleague Wim van Utrecht) about an oddity observed by an astronomer in Grahamstown, S Africa in, 1890, which we suspect may have been a ribbon of bats. To help readers visualise how amazing they can look, I wonder if you might allow us to use a detail from one of your excellent shots? – with proper credit and a link to your webpage of course. Thanks for considering this request. Martin Shough (Scotland)


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