The plane flight into Mulu was absolutely stunning. As you start to get closer the thick jungle trees start to surround large mountains full of caves. Massive mountains appear all around you and you really get the sense that you have finally arrived in what they call the ‘true jungle of Borneo’. It almost feels like you are in a completely different world, a new adventure awaits you the minute you step off the plain.
Since we arrived in the afternoon we went to the park information headquarters and were lucky enough to get into a last minute guided tour of the Deer and Langs Caves. The caves are two distinctly different caves situated 150 meters apart in the Southern Hills area of the park. While Langs Cave is the smallest of the 4 'show caves' in Mulu it has spectacular displays of stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, shawls and rimstone pools. The geological development was influenced more by the action of standing ground water dissolving the limestone rather than an active stream passage eroding it.
Deer Cave is not only the biggest show cave at Mulu it is the largest cave passage in the world. A 3km wooden walkway passes through peat swamp, alluvial flats and limestone outcrops before reaching the Deer Cave, which at 120 meters high and 100 meters wide is the world's largest discovered cave passage. A powerful underground river once flowed through this area, dissolving and eroding the limestone to create this cavernous space. The chambers in Deer Cave are an over-whelming and awesome sight. Looking out into the huge opening of the cave, the sun beams graced us with the presence. This is a rare occurrence and we were very lucky to witness such an occasion. Very breath taking and magnificent. It is possible to see from this vantage point, a remarkably lifelike profile of Abraham Lincoln outlined at the cave entrance.
The cave is home to the world's largest known bat colony comprising several million bats from 12 different species, and their droppings and remains have created a thriving and complex ecosystem on the cave floor. The billions of invertebrates include a unique species of luminous centipede (which was so cool to see) and cave racer snakes and pythons can occasionally be seen. We made our way through the cave and exited after 5pm to witness the ‘Bat Exodus’ where millions of bats stream from the cave in long floating ribbons. As we sat awaiting the exodus we could see many swiftlet birds flying overhead, suddenly we realized that it wasn’t raining but in fact it was the bird droppings from over head. This was a bit disturbing but we were unwilling to move from our spot so we held our ground. Suddenly without warning groups of bats started to exit the cave. What an sight to behold, they spiraled together as one and often it they appeared as a snake wiggling through the sky. We watched them for an hour and as the sunset we made our way back to the entrance of the park.
Walking back was a bit more tricky as the path was not lit the entire way and we had to use our head lamps to guide us. It was fun though, we spotted huge groups of fire flies high above us up in the tree top canopies and below us down by the river. We also spotted many different spiders, a few huge huntsmen spiders. We ran into two of the local lady guides and they entertained us for a while, showing us animals with their huge spot lights in the trees. They found a large stick bug, a grasshopper that sits on the leaves of the trees making an enormous sound like a bird and some tree frogs. They also showed us a spot on the path where you turn your headlamps off and wait a bit for your eyes to adjust to the dark. As they begin to, you start to see the jungle glow. You think it is the light of the moon but its not, it is a type of fungus that grows on the trees only in certain areas of the forest. It’s amazing and beautiful. Reminded us of the movie Avatar and the way their world appears at night.
We ended the night off with dinner and an early bedtime.
Dec 12th: Today started off with a long boat ride through the jungle river (the entire time it was raining which made it difficult to take photos) where we made a pit stop at a local Penan village. Here you walk through the village to small stalls where they sell their locally made jewellery and crafts. We bought a few bracelets from an older Penan women who had very large stretched ear lobes. We made our way back into the boat and took another small ride down the river to the Clearwater cave and Cave of the Winds.
First we trekked to the Cave of the Winds; you start to feel its cooling winds as you walk through it, but evidence of the river that once flowed here is all around you. It is situated above an ancient Berawan burial site. There is a spectacular chasm caused by a catastrophic roof collapse to the left of the walkway. Now, this dry river passage leads you to the “Kings Chamber” with a particularly special display of stalagmites and columns. For millions of years deposits of calcite have formed these majestic columns and they are found throughout this amazing cave system. Calcite stalagmite (upward growing) and stalactite (downward growing) formations.
We walked up 200 steps to the Clearwater Cave. There are some superb dripping stalactites and two species of bizarre one-leaved plants (Monophyllae pendula and M. glauca) at the mouth of the cave. From here you enjoy an opportunity to see the river and the unique flora that grows on the limestone cliffs. Named for the clear crystal water that flows through 170km of cave passages in this system. The river roars beneath your feet. Giant logs thrown high on the banks and wedged under boulders, evidence of its mighty power. This is the longest cave system in the world and starting in January they are sending in another expedition to discover just how far the river system flows.
Outside the cave you can swim in the crystal clear waters where this river flows from the cliff face. Jason and I jumped in with a few of the locals, we floated with the fishes and breathed in the tranquil rainforest around us. Although it was a rainy overcast day and the water was a bit chilly we thoroughly enjoyed our little dip in the water. We boarded another long boat and began our journey back to Mulu park entrance.
We decided to go to the tree top tower, 30 meters high and a great bird hide. From this vantage point we should have been able to see squirrels, macaques and hornbills and many other bird species however we did not see anything but a few butterflies and some small birds flying high overhead. It was the wrong time of day as well, just past 4pm in the afternoon and most of the wildlife here you see only in the early morning hours or late in the evening.
Jason and I took a walk down the night trail walk while Delphine and Nick went back to the room for a nap. Walking in we didn't see much, it started to pour rain so we rushed back to the local restaurant where we were to meet back up for supper. On our way we spotted a huge Branch Locust. It was very large, a lot of spikes along its body and moved like a praying mantis/grass hopper. I held the umbrella while Jason snapped some photos. I spotted a large tarantula on a tree, we managed to take a shot just before it zoomed off fast to the other side of the tree where we couldn't spot it anymore. We saw a few larger huntsman spiders again and we could hear the frogs but not spot any.
We ate supper quickly, the rain didn’t stop so we ran back to our hostel and called it a night. Tomorrow we leave Mulu heading for Brunei. We love this jungle and would recommend it to everyone. This place is magical and amazing, there are so many different hikes that can be undertaken and so many caves to see that this may be one place we come back to. So far Borneo is a real gem, very happy we came here.