The Best of Mulu National Park
September 28, 2018
The Show Caves, the Pinnacles and the Headhunter’s Trail
Our group of intrepid explorers went to Mulu National Park to take on the Pinnacles, before proceeding to Limbang via the Headhunter’s Trail. The entire expedition took five days total, and all treks to the Pinnacles are set at a minimum of 3 days and two nights for the safety of the trekkers.
Where is Mulu?
Mulu National Park is situated in Miri division, Sarawak, Malaysia.
It is known for a 4-show caves (Deer Lang’s Caves, Cave of the Winds Clearwater Cave) and popular for the Pinnacles Headhunters’ Trails. Mulu can be accessed by airplane from Kuching, Miri or Kota Kinabalu in Sabah or on foot and boat via the Headhunter trail starting from Limbang to the national park.
Schedule of MASwings flights to and from Mulu as of 25 March 2018
Sarawak’s World Heritage Site (UNESCO)
To be a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognizes heritage sites that have outstanding universal value and provides the highest possible protection for those sites, considered to be important to all the people of the world in this and all future generations. For an area to be placed on the list of natural World Heritage Areas it must have at least one criteria of importance, whether based on cultural or natural values, and Mulu meets all of those criteria!
No other place on earth could compare to the Pinnacles in Mulu National Park. Besides the climb to the pinnacles, you will see some of the most pristine and untouched Rainforests of Borneo surrounding you, you can feel the freezing cold rivers and breathe the fresh, clean air. The Pinnacles viewing point is a 2.4 km ascending hike to 1200m above sea level.
While the climb itself is not overly strenuous in terms of stamina, there is a high slip risk as the terrain can be treacherous, so please note the following warnings:
DAY 1 – Getting there
The Mulu National Park is a short drive from the Mulu Airport, where you will have to register your entrance, with fees depending on duration of the stay and activities that are available in the National Park.
From here you can decide what you are going to do around the National Park.
While the Pinnacles trail requires prior booking, there are unguided walks you can go on, like the Botanical Heritage Trail (1.5km loop), The Kenyalang Loop, The Paku Valley Loop (8km), The Paku Waterfall and Kuala Litut and Camp 5.
Guided walks include the Mulu Canopy Skywalk, The Night Walk, Garden of Eden Valley Walk and The Mulu Summit Walk.
Show Caves and the Bat Exodus
After arriving in Mulu, the group proceeded to Park Headquarters to register and to place our bags in the lodging area, before beginning the exploration of the show caves. On the agenda, the Deer and Lang caves and witnessing the bat exodus.
Deer and Lang Caves
The caves of Mulu demonstrate an evolutionary history of more than 1.5 million years.
According to the locals, the Deer Cave was named so because that are was were the Berawan and Penan people used to hunt their deer. The Deer Cave is known for the Lincoln profile, visible from the inside of the cave. The giant doline (or sinkhole) called the “Garden of Eden” offers one of the world’s finest examples of the collapse process in karstic terrain, where the jungle floor fell through into the cave below, leading to a terrarium-like rainforest surrounded by cave walls.
HOT TIP: If you’re visiting the Deer Cave, bring a post card or letter! This cave is the only UNESCO natural heritage site that has its own postcode and functioning mail box! Mail yourself a postcard and be the proud owner of a postcard mailed from the bowels of a cave that is millions of years old.
Just 100 meters away is the Lang Cave, discovered by a man of the same name. Small and intimate, with walls beautifully decorated with long shawls, layers of rim stone pools on the floor, and throughout the cave, spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.
Around 5-6pm, we proceeded to the Bat Observatory just outside the Deer Cave to wait for the “Bat Exodus,” where millions of bats residing in the cave leave to hunt for insects. Unfortunately during our trip, there were very few bats thanks to the rain and the fact that the Exodus had happened the evening prior.
DAY 2 – Batu Bungan, Showcaves and the Hike to Camp 5
The People Longhouse
Day two began with a boat ride to Kampung Batu Bungan, a Penan settlement area along the Melinau River. Here the Penan people sell their handicrafts and wares, from woven bags to beaded accessories, and carved decorations to functioning blowpipes (darts included).
After buying knick-knacks and interacting with the local Penans, our group moved on to the Wind cave and Clearwater caves by boat.
Wind Clearwater Cave
At the right time of the day, walking through the narrow paths of the Wind Cave, you can feel the winds buffeting you due to air pressure. It is really something one has to experience to explain. The paths through the cave system are all that remains of what used to be an active river flowing through stone.
After the Wind Cave, we continued by boat to the Clearwater cave. The famous 250-stepped staircase leads up to the mouth of the cave, and many more steps lie within, so those who aren’t feeling up to the challenge can relax at the foot of the steps, and enjoy the clear water rivers that run out of the caves.
The Clearwater Cave is named for the crystal clear river that flows through for over 200km of cave passages in this system.
After exploring the cave and splashing around in the clear streams nearby, we had our lunch and proceeded by long boat for about 45 minutes to the drop off point called Kuala Berar. From there, our trek to Camp 5 began.
The Walk to Camp 5
The walk from Kuala Berar to Camp 5 is 7.8km in length and was relatively easy to walk, with clearly marked paths, though at times the roots of the trees were a hazard. One has to be alert while walking through the rainforests of Borneo, and always look before you step.
It was a test on our abilities that would be necessary during our walk to Limbang along the Headhunter’s trail on day 4, during which we would also have to carry all of our own bags.
It was fortunate that we walked this distance before attempting pinnacles on the next day, as it gave us a taste of what was to come. Two of our team mates ended up sitting out the Pinnacles climb for the next day, as they were not confident that they would be able to make the climb safely. Reminder to all climbers, as the Pinnacles climb requires climbing ladders, ropes and walking through areas with very sharp rocks. If you feel your balance or alertness is impaired, inform your guide at any time.
DAY 3 – To the Pinnacles!
Beginning at 6.00am in the morning, our group began our ascent to the iconic Pinnacles. The trail is 2.4km in length, and rises some 1.2km up. The last section is nearly entirely vertical, with 16 ladders and many ropes to climb. Our guides set a strict cut-off schedule to ensure that those who proceeded would also make it down the trail before sunset.
Our group (sans one who was forced to turn back) was able to reach the viewing platform within 5 hours! Not without our fair share of struggle and toil, as most of us aren’t well versed in hiking or mountain climbing.
The view from the viewing platform was spectacular to say the least, and all the more enjoyable for the effort it took to reach it.
After taking some photos of the Pinnacles, having our lunch, and a short rest, it is time to begin the descent back to Camp5. The way down was tougher, as we were warned, due to us having to navigate essentially in reverse, now with sore muscles. We managed to make it back to Camp 5 before sundown, and a dip into the freezing river next to the camp helped soothe some of our aching limbs.
For the experience, it was well worth it!
DAY 4 – Headhunter’s Trail to Limbang
Early the following morning, our team gathered to head off along the Headhunter’s Trail. Aside from MASWings flights, this trail is a great way of entering and leaving Mulu National Park.
We began our jungle walk as early as 7.20am to complete 11.3km trail to Kuala Terikan, with a trek that took an estimated time of around 4-5hours. Much of the Headhunter’s Trail now has wooden walkways across the muddier and marsh-like areas.
From Kuala Terikan, we left by boat to Ng. Mentawai (est. 20min) and continued till our last point at the longhouse, before we proceeded to Limbang town by van.
Notes: The Headhunters’ Trail can also be done in reverse, starting from Limbang and ending up at the Park HQ. Either way the trek offers an excellent introduction to the rivers and rainforest of Mulu and the added attraction of a longhouse visit.
We stayed overnight in Limbang before our flights the next day.
DAY 5 – Fly from Limbang
Goodbye Limbang, we are homeward bound! Another adventure done.
Active tour agents in Miri that can provide this adventure:
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