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Malaysia Travel Guide

Delving into Sarawak’s Magnificent Caves

It takes a lot of geological ducks to line up neatly in a row and stay there for a few million years to create a cave. All over Sarawak, home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world, those ducks have lined up numerous times as many of the most spectacular caves in the world were discovered and continue to be discovered right here.

Many of those already discovered are now ready for you to explore. But a word of warning, not all of these breathtaking, stunning subterranean caverns are easily accessible, but that just makes the most beautiful caves in the world all the more alluring.

Source: STB Photo Gallery

Sarawak is a big state and the tropical weather can make travel to certain parts of the state challenging and exciting. And with so many outstanding caves, it can be difficult to decide which ones to visit first and in which order.

So, while each cave has its own unique beauty and each is incomparable to another, this post will help you appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature’s masterpieces in Sarawak while visiting at least some of them while you are in Kuching or Miri.

1. Sireh Cave, Serian

Located about 70km South of Kuching, Sireh Cave or Gua Sireh is a true hidden gem with its stunning rock paintings believed to be about 20,000 years old, large chambers and caved parts with clean underground water.

Gua Sireh. Source: Sarawak Tourism

A trip to Gua Sireh can be made within a day. However, it isn’t an easy hike as there are some wooden steps and narrow passageways that one needs to get through. It is recommended to take a tour from Kuching where you can arrange to be picked up at your hotel. You can book tours to Gua Sireh here.

Upon arriving at Bantang Village, your journey continues on foot up a flight of wooden stairs that lead you up to the cave entrance. This is where you will be greeted with cave paintings estimated to be 20 millennia old and peculiar cave residents such as Cave Racer Snake, bats, insects and catfish.

Gua Sireh’s ancient charcoal paintings. Source: Sarawak Tourism

The interior of the cave has some unique yet stunning shapes that are warm-toned swirls and curves decorated for effect. Believed to be one of the earliest human settlements, archaeological materials such as pottery shreds, animal bones and food debris from the Stone Age, New Stone Age, and the Iron Age, have also been recovered inside Gua Sireh.

Caves - Gua Sireh

Inside Gua Sireh. Source: Klook.com

It takes approximately 4 hours to tour the cave and remember to bring a change of gear when visiting Gua Sireh as the tour takes you through to the neighbouring Broken Jar Cave that requires you to walk through a pool of water.

2. Deer Cave, Gunung Mulu National Park

The magnificent Deer Cave. Source: National Geographic

This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to millions of bats. It is said that between 2 to 3 million of them reside in here! The Deer Cave, which is probably Sarawak’s most famous cave, is located at Gunung Mulu National Park, about 90 minutes flying time from Kuching, or a 30-minute flight from Miri.

Deer Cave was only discovered in 1979 by British caver Andy Eavis whilst helping Malaysia better understand and appreciate the potential of the newly established Gunung Mulu National Park.

Deer Cave is the largest cave passage in the world. The entrance is so enormous-nearly 500 feet high- that the sun reaches deep inside and fresh air flows through the caves, allowing a peculiar, awe-inspiring habitat to exist.

As you walk through the cave, you’ll see millions of dark patches on the walls. Those are bats resting so try not to disturb them!

Source: STB Photo Gallery

As the day ends and after you’ve explored Deer Cave, stick around for one of the most spectacular phenomena you’ll ever see.

The Deer Cave bat exodus happens every day at dusk. Millions of bats leave the cave to search for food. It’s an awe-inspiring event.

Nestled in the lush wilderness of Borneo, Gunung Mulu National Park is accessible by river and road but we recommend light plane. MasWings, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, provides direct flights to Gunung Mulu National Park from Miri, Kuching, and Kota Kinabalu.

Upon arrival at Mulu Airport, book guided tours here or here. Most of the tours are all-inclusive and provide airport transfers. Accommodation is varied so do your research!

One other point, local communities who have lived off the land for thousands of years and respect and appreciate what it has provided them, have been trained as tour guides and will escort you throughout your visit to the caves. Make sure you pick their brains about the caves and ask about their beliefs!

The Bat Exodus. Bats fly in a spiral manner to avoid predators like hawks. Source: STB Photo Gallery

3. Clearwater Cave, Gunung Mulu National Park

When you visit Gunung Mulu National Park, you will find a unique environment that stimulates all the senses. One of the many gems of this Park is the Clearwater Cave that is the 8th longest cave in the world at 227 km and the largest interconnected cave system in the world. No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Source: Pinterest

The Clearwater Cave system contains an underground river and a plethora of unique rock formations. The amazing thing about these caves is that their true size is still unknown and even now, is still being explored.

Caves - Clearwater Cave

Source: STB Photo Gallery

Visiting Clearwater Cave in Sarawak is a real adventure that begins with the journey. There are two ways of getting to Clearwater cave.

From the park HQ, you can either trek the gentle 4km nature trail that takes approximately one and a half hours, or you can experience a long boat along the Melinau River with a stop at Wind Cave.

The Melinau River at Mulu National Park. Source: STB Photo Gallery

The Wind Cave features ancient, undisturbed stalactites and stalagmites that have, over hundreds of thousands of years, reached each other to create long structures known as pillars or columns. Once you’ve explored the Wind Cave, you can walk to Clearwater Cave in about 5 minutes.

When booking your tour for Gunung Mulu National Park, a visit to the Clearwater Cave and Wind Cave should be included as it is one of the must-visit sites at the park. If it isn’t, ask your agent to include it.

4. Sarawak Chamber, Gunung Mulu National Park

If you are into adventure caving, you must check out the Sarawak Chamber, one of the planet’s largest enclosed areas, natural or manmade. It is so huge, that it has enough space to house 8 jumbo jets in a row!

caves - Sarawak Chamber

Spot the person in the picture! Source: MuluPark.com

Getting to the Sarawak Chamber from the park HQ requires a full day of challenging adventure caving but some say that it is truly a once in a lifetime experience. The whole circuit takes about 10-15 hours which entails a 3-hour hike to Good Luck cave and then an 800m hike through a river channel to the Sarawak Chamber.

Source: MuluCaves.org

There are guided tours available to this magnificent chamber and you can find more information on the tours both here and here.

Before we move on from the Mulu Caves complex, if you seek even more adventure, you can attempt to hike the pinnacles of Mount Mulu. The hike is reportedly the most challenging hike in Malaysia (yes, even tougher than Mt. Kinabalu!) and requires a high level of fitness so make sure you train before you get here!

5. Niah Caves, Niah National Park

Located a mere 90kms south of Miri, the Niah caves are home to 65,000-year-old artefacts and cave paintings. It’s no wonder they are on track to be the next UNESCO World Heritage site. If that happens as expected, there will be a massive increase in visitors so you might want to get there soon, before the crowds!

Caves - Painted Cave

The ancient cave paintings at Niah. Source: TravelBlog.org

The site is also home to the oldest human remains found in Southeast Asia which indicate the caves were inhabited at least 65 millennia ago. You can check out fascinating artefacts including prehistoric utensils and turtle shells that will be on display at the Niah Archaeological Museum from January 2020.

Most importantly, the park is a major source of income to the local tribes people who also earn a living collecting edible birds nests built by Swiftlets high in the cave walls. The sustainably collected birds’ nests are prized by Chinese gourmets around the world and are exported under a supervised environment.

caves - Entrance of Niah Cave

Source: STB Photo Gallery

Getting to Niah Caves is easier than Mulu National Park as it is accessible by road. The journey by bus from either Miri or Bintulu takes approximately 2 hours so you can easily make a day trip out of it.

If you’d rather join a tour, there are guided tours from both Miri and Bintulu and you can get more information on these tours from here and here.

Source: STB Photo Gallery

No visit to Sarawak is complete without visiting her outstanding natural caverns. Whether you are a hardcore spelunker, an open-minded adventurer or an inquisitive visitor, Sarawak’s caves will provide memories and stories forever.

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Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Sarawak Best Travel Destination for Nature

Sarawak Best Travel Destination for Nature

Sarawak has been presented the ‘Best for Nature’ Award in Travel Journal’s Travel Awards 2017.

Through a Travel Journal readership survey, a poll was taken for the best destinations in the world and Sarawak won ‘Best for Nature’ for its environment-centered tour and travel packages, ongoing conservation tourism as well as its unique and irreplaceable nature destinations which are a balance of authentic and preserved, and modern connectivity.

Three national parks were singled out as exemplary travel spots for nature lovers, specifically Gunung Mulu National Park, Batang Ai National Park and Bako National Park.

Gunung Mulu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its flora, fauna and cave systems, while Batang Ai and Bako National Park are known as sanctuaries for Sarawak’s endangered rare primates, the orang utans and Proboscis monkeys.
Mulu Clear water cave

Image shows caver at Mulu National Park’s Clearwater Cave.

More info on http://traveljournal.sg/post/155751597056/best-for-nature-sarawak

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Categories
Tourism Malaysia

Malaysia’s best kept secret: Gunung Mulu National Park

By Vishnu Krishnan
Gunung Mulu National Park can only be described as pure magic. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has a plethora of animal and plant species that dwell within the confines of its lush primary forests, dozens of caves and Mulu Mountain.

One of the most unique features of this national park is its vast cave system that is centuries old.

The Wind Cave system, as its name suggests, is famous for the strong winds that gust through its chamber. The crowning glory of Wind Cave is the cathedral-like cluster of stalagmite and stalactite formations in the King’s Chamber.

A chamber for Kings (Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/visitmalaysia/4677581017)

A chamber for Kings
(Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/visitmalaysia/4677581017)

Take a 400 metre suspended plank walk to Clearwater Cave. Here you’ll get to see the mighty Clearwater River gushing through the cavernous expanse that leads to a clear pool at the end. The locals believe that swimming in the pool will rejuvenate your youth.

Clear Water is an emerald dream! (Source: http://mulupark.com/tours-activities/advance-level-adventure-caving/clearwater-connection/)

Clear Water is an emerald dream!
(Source: http://mulupark.com/tours-activities/advance-level-adventure-caving/clearwater-connection/)

To get to the next cave system, you need to cross the world’s longest suspension bridge between trees. The Canopy Skywalk stands 30 metres high and is 480 metres long.

On the other end, you’ll come across an ancient Penan tribal burial ground. Beyond that is one of the greatest caves in the world, Deer Cave. The cave dimensions are hard to fathom until you step into the 122 metre tall gaping hole.

In the middle of the cave, is perhaps the most gorgeous sight in the world, the Garden of Eden. Imagine a pristine patch of forest illuminated by the evening sun, shining brilliantly like emeralds. It’s a slice of paradise!

You don’t get much closer to heaven then at the Garden of Eden (Source: http://www.wondermondo.com/Countries/As/Malaysia/Sarawak/GardenOfEden.htm)

You don’t get much closer to heaven then at the Garden of Eden
(Source: http://www.wondermondo.com/Countries/As/Malaysia/Sarawak/GardenOfEden.htm)

Once you exit Deer Cave, don’t rush off yet. Stay until 6pm to see billions of bats streaming out of the cave to feed. If you have a pair of binoculars, watch the cunning owl hawks swoop on their prey.

Sarawak Chamber is one of the largest known cave chambers in the world by area and the second largest by volume after the Miao Room in China. Its surface area is a whopping 162,700 square metres with a volume of 9,579,205 cubic metres.

Experts say it is so large you can fly a jumbo jet through the middle of the cave without touching the walls. Crazy! The trail to the chamber takes about three hours before reaching the mouth of Gua Nasib Bagus or Good Luck Cave.

The Sarawak Chamber is basically the gaping mouth of the world! (Source: http://afwan.blogspot.my/2006/03/sarawak-chamber.html)

The Sarawak Chamber is basically the gaping mouth of the world!
(Source: http://afwan.blogspot.my/2006/03/sarawak-chamber.html)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The primary forests of Mulu are among the best places in Malaysia to observe local flora and fauna. The primordial serenity of these jungles are so tranquil and vast. If you are lucky, you can spot bearded pigs, hornbills, clouded leopards, vipers, tarsiers and even tigers.

The trees are extremely tall and beautifully buttressed. If you trek deep enough, you’ll be able to see pitcher plants and many other exotic species.

Finally, for the more adventurous trekkers, Gunung Mulu Mountain is a tough but exciting climb. The rock pinnacles of Gunung Api and Benarat are unique jagged rock formations that tower above the landscape and add to the mystical feel of the park.

The Pinnacles of Mulu Mountain (Source: https://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/borneo/exp/gunung-mulu-national-park)

The Pinnacles of Mulu Mountain
(Source: https://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/borneo/exp/gunung-mulu-national-park)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on Gunung Mulu National Park, including where to stay and how to get there, head to their website: http://mulupark.com/

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