25 May 2008

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Gunung Mulu National Park

Gunung Mulu National Park is one of Nature's most spectacular achievements and the 'jewel in the crown' of Sarawak's expanding network of national parks. It is also the largest national park, covering 52,865 hectares of primary rainforest, which is criss-crossed by fast flowing rivers and clear jungle streams. Mulu is dominated by three mountains - Gunung Mulu (2,376 m), Gunung Api (1,750 m) and Gunung Benarat (1,585 m). Yet many of Mulu's greatest attractions lie deep below the surface. Hidden underneath the forested slopes of these mountains is one of the largest limestone cave systems in the world.

This system, a breath-taking natural wonder, contains a number of record breaking caves. With the world's largest cave passage (Deer Cave), the world's largest natural chamber (Sarawak Chamber), and the longest cave in Southeast Asia (Clearwater Cave), it is not surprising that Mulu is now world-famous. Over 200 km of cave passages have been surveyed but this is thought to represent just 30-40% of the actual total.

The oldest of Mulu's caves started to form about 5 million years ago when sideways earth movements resulted in the formation of both limestone and sandstone mountains, lying side by side. Millions of years of heavy rain and the action of rivers and running water carved out the vast subterranean system that exists today. The weathering process still continues; dripping water creates new rock features, limestone is slowly worn away, and underground rivers carve and sculpt the caves, transporting limestone debris to the cave mouth or redistributing it within the system.

Although Mulu is synonymous with caves, the 'Mulu experience' is not limited to underground attractions; above ground there is plenty to see and do. The park is covered in rich primary rainforest and offers a whole range of nature-based activities. There are some excellent jungle treks and mountain hikes, including the challenging trek to view the Pinnacles - 45 metre high, razor sharp limestone spikes that sit majestically on the slopes of Gunung Api.

With it's rich bio-diversity, and world-famous caves, Mulu offers the adventurous traveller an exhilarating cave and rainforest experience, possibly unmatched anywhere else on Earth.

Mulu's four Show Caves were selected for their uniqueness or sheer beauty. They can all be visited as day trips from the park HQ and are accessible by plankwalks and well-lit concrete paths. Strategically positioned spotlights highlight the unique features of the individual caves. A plankwalk leads through the forest to Deer and Lang's Cave whilst Clearwater Cave and Wind Cave are reached by taking a longboat up the Melinau River, or by following a 4 km nature trail. The more adventurous can do Adventure Caving.

Treks and Trails
Mulu has three adventure treks, all of which require a certain level of physical fitness. Basic camping gear is useful as overnight stays in jungle base camps are required. Trekkers must be accompanied by offical park guides. Most tour operators can assist with travel arrangements for these treks and can also supply any necessary equipment and food.

* The Pinnacles
* The Headhunter's Trail
* Gunung Mulu Summit Trek

Ever since the 1930's the rich rainforest of the Mulu area has attracted scientists. Every expedition seems to discover something new - a plant or animal species previously unknown to man, animal behaviour patterns, a rainforest remedy, etc. Although these studies and expeditions have unearthed a mountain of scientific facts, they have barely 'scratched the surface' of Mulu's bio-diversity. However, this 'barely scratched surface' includes an impressive array of plants and animals.

The park contains 8 different types of forest - including peat swamp, health and mixed dipterocarp, moss forest and stunted upper monane vegetation - 4,000 species of fungi, 1,500 species of flowering plants. 1,700 species of moses & liverworts and estimated 3,500 species of plants.

Mulu's wildlife is equally impressive and includes 75 species of mammals, 262 species of birds (including the eight species of hornbill found in Sarawak), 74 species of frogs, 47 species of fish, 281 species of butterflies, 52 species of reptiles, 458 species of ants and 20,000 species of invertebrates. Mulu National Park

How to get there?
Miri, in Northeast Sarawak, serves as the main gateway for Gunung Mulu National Park. Malaysian Airlines operates scheduled services from Miri and Limbang to Mulu using 19 seater Twin Otter aircraft. The flight takes approximately 45 minutes. Phone MAS (082-246622) for further details.

The park can also be reached by boat (via Marudi). However, there is no regular boat service on the last section of the trip so longboats must be chartered. This is best done in a group to save cost. Tour operators are able to arrange boat passage to Mulu if required.

Accommodation facilities
Accommodation facilities consist of chalets units, hostel-style rooms and a camping ground. Kitchen facilities are provided so that visitors can prepare their own meals. Please contact the Sarawak Tourism Board for the latest room tariff rates.

In addition to the park accommodation, the Royal Mulu Resort, an international class hotel, and a number of guesthouses are situated along the Melinau River, adjacent to the park.

Accommodation & Other Charges

Upon arrival visitors are required to register at the Park HQ. Next to the registration counter there is a good information centre. The Park HQ also has a canteen which sells drinks and light meals.

Pre-book your accommodation, bring a raincoat, torch and camera flash (tripods are not allowed in the caves). Non slip shoes are essential as the trails are slippery. Plan for at least 2 days' stay in the park to see the cave system.


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