Suddenly there was a startling sound from above the trees. It’s like trees breaking apart or boulders cracking. Then our guide, Jangin yelled “Run!!!”. From the mouth of Lang Cave, we tracked back a few meters towards the plank walk junction where the other path leads to Deer Cave. “What the hell is that?!” I asked Jangin as I was catching my breath. “Maybe wild monkeys!” he said looking up. For a moment there I thought I was in an adventure game or movie, running on plank walks while being chased by rolling boulders. I’m not sure if our young guide was jesting us. But what a start in our exploration of Gunung Mulu National Park.
Gunung Mulu National Park
Gunung Mulu National Park is one of Malaysia’s natural park inscribed under UNESCO in 2000. This huge nature park covering an area of 85,671 hectares consists of three mountains including the second highest in Sarawak, Gunung Mulu (at 2,377m), 295 km of cave systems, around 20 millions of years old geological wonder and teeming biodiversity. There are no direct roads leading to this park. Just the way Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) likes it to further preserve the place. SFC is the managing arm responsible for protecting the whole park, Only 10% of the park is open for tourist.
Since there are no direct roads leading to the park, the easiest way is to fly direct via MASwings. The longest and more adventurous way is a combination of road, boat ride, river and treks.
We flew in to Gunung Mulu National Park from Kuching via MASwings. At the airport, we met Jangin, our official guide assigned by the tour agency our organizers hired. Jangin is still a young fellow, a local but basing on his looks, he seems to have a mixed foreign blood. He welcomed and accompanied us in our checkin at Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa. After briefing us on what to expect for the next few days, he went off and got to see him again for our official tour the following day.
Mulu Marriot provides free transport to the Park HQ on their cool modified pick-up truck. There’s only one main road at the park and it leads to the Park HQ. Along the way, there are several home stays for budget-conscious travelers. The whole park is quite organized. They have a neat office and receiving areas for guest. Each visitors are documented. We were provided a wrist-band which is also our park entrance good for three days. We’re not allowed to remove it though. Good thing it’s waterproof.
Into the Rainforest
Jangin led us to a plank walkway that stretches at least 3km into the rainforest. It is very similar the ones at Niah National Park in Miri. Made of sustainable materials and elevated from the ground to lessen the impact on the forest. It was a pleasant and educational walk as we admire the trees and even the creepy crawlers along the wooden rails. Once in a while Jangin would stop to share some trivia. Make sure to take time to inspect, there were even a young green viper on a tree branch, some endemic squirrels scuttling around and even large spiders. We reached the viewing deck for the flights of bat in the afternoon. A place to rest before we move on at the caves
After the short hustle from Lang Cave entrance, we’re finally stepping into one of the four “show caves” of Gunung Mulu National Park. The others are Deer Cave, Clearwater Cave and Cave of the Winds. Lang Cave was discovered in 1977 by a local Berawan farmer, Lang Belarek. Lang, who happens to be Jangin’s grandfather! No wonder he looks different from a typical Malay. One dismay I had was tripods for photography are not allowed in the caves. This made it challenging for me as I have to rely on steady hands and high ISO for my camera. I do understand that it would interfere with the flow of traffic on the narrow plank walkways.
Lang Cave is moderately sized and easily navigable cave thanks to its 240 meter plank walkway. Despite its size it’s a perfect cave to showcase a variety of rock formations good for newbie in caving. I love how well lit the cave was with just warm light (unlike the multi-colored lights in Vietnam caves) that it really shows the pristine formations in the cave. From the stalactites, stalagmites and beautiful wall of Jellyfish like formations which is one of the highlight of the cave. Lang Cave is gorgeous. Even the leaf-like shape of the cave mouth framing the lush forest looks scenic.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.