As part of our spring break travels, we dove deep into the Borneo rainforest and came face to face with cave fish, snakes, trees that rival California’s redwoods in height, fist-sized spiders, and millions and millions of bats. It was spectacular.
Our destination was Malaysia’s Gunung Mulu National Park, a.k.a. Mulu Caves. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site: hiking trails and campsites around some of the deepest caves in the world. Just what the doctor ordered for a nice break from city life.
And what a break it was. Here’s a detailed look, in no particular order, at just some of what we got up to. There was a lot — so much, in fact, that we’ll break this into two blog posts.
Clearwater and Wind Caves
The park was extremely well-managed, and offered numerous guided tours to various caves and other natural wonders. (In fact, you have to take a guided tour at the park — the better to control visitors and their impact on the rainforest.) One of our favorites was a trip up a jungle river to a pair of caves, Clearwater Cave and Wind Cave. We boarded a narrow wooden boat for the ride upstream.
We took lots of pictures on the boat ride.
To get to the caves themselves, we had to hike along some trails and walkways that had been carved into the limestone cliffs. Wind Cave was long and narrow but had plenty of larger chambers, complete with countless stalactites, stalagmites and other cave accoutrement. Clearwater Cave was huge, with the main chamber probably a couple hundred feet tall. There was a river running through it, with fish, and a few places where the ceiling had opened up, allowing light in and creating a great place for moss and other plants to grow.
Here are some pictures of the interiors. Hard to get really good shots, unfortunately, since it’s a cave and, by definition, rather dark:
And the three of us in the caves and on the trails. The little boy in a few of the pictures is Noah; more on him later.
As awesome as the caves were, probably our favorite bit was the refreshing dip in the jungle stream we got to take afterwards. The water was cold — this little swimming hole was fed by the same river we’d seen inside the cave — which was just what we needed after the long, sweaty hikes.
Here are some more pictures from the boat ride:
Lest we forget, the tour included a stop at a local riverside village, where the locals set up tables to sell weavings, wood carvings and the like. It was a pretty low-pressure place, unlike some other local shopping stops we’ve been taken to in other locales, and we ended up with some beadwork lizards for Nyan. But his favorite part of the stop — in fact his favorite part of the entire day, he told us later, better than the caves, the swimming, the boat — was this:
Yes, there were a few chickens wandering around the village, and Nyan spent most of his time watching them. Hey, whatever makes him happy.
The Canopy Walk
Another highlight of the national park (well, it was basically one highlight after another, to be honest) was the Canopy Walk. This is an attraction where you climb some stairs up into the rainforest canopy, about 100 feet above the ground — then you walk from tree to tree, down narrow wooden planks lined by wire mesh netting. It’s not for the faint of heart, I suppose, although it appeared to be very well maintained and safe, and we didn’t feel any sense of danger. Even Nyan was completely fine with it.
And why not? It’s a remarkable way to see the jungle from a whole new perspective, up near the top of the trees. From up there you can see some sky and nearby mountains, as well as the jungle streams and trails far below. The birds and bugs make a non-stop noise, and Daddy even glimpsed a flying squirrel or maybe a flying lizard (yes, they exist) soaring from one tree to another.
Here’s Mommy on the canopy walk:
Some shots of Nyan:
And more photos, including Mommy and Nyan at ground level, just before ascending.
The Jungle and the Airport
We took a ton of photos on this trip. We’ve tried to edit them down, but there are still a lot to share. Here’s a selection of random scenery pictures from the jungle and nearby landscape:
And here, some random pictures of Nyan and his folks in the jungle. Plus Freya and Noah — who were also visiting Mulu with their parents, on a three week trip from England. Lovely parents and lovely kids, and Nyan became fast friends with them. (Freya is 7 and Noah is 4.)
To get into the national park itself, you have to cross over the river from the parking area/drop-off point. The bridge is a springy wood-and-metal suspension bridge that has a hell of a bounce to it, as you can see here. Nyan took to calling it the bouncy-wouncy bridge. (It’s actually much bouncier in real life than it appears on the video…)
And finally, just for fun, the Mulu airport — the only way to get in and out of the national park area, other than a two-day boat ride, since there are no roads connected to the outside world. The airport is not exactly a bustling place – it gets maybe two flights a day on its busiest days. (Plus a couple shots of the view on approach to the airport)
More on this epic trip to Mulu in our next post. Stay tuned…