The Average Traveler's Guide to Gunung Mulu National Park

(Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo)

This guide is for the *average* American traveler. Some of you out there could trek many times this far through the jungle with bare feet and a loincloth. You already know who you are and what you need. I'm writing for reasonably healthy people who may occasionally go on day hikes in their local state parks, but aren't serious outdoorsmen.
Bridge with sign:  "Taman Negara Gunung Mulu"

Why Mulu?

Big, beautiful, relatively accessible caves in the rainforest. Also, supporting eco-tourism in Malaysia.

How to Get There

Flags at the Mulu airport View from the plane as we approached Mulu

There's no real road that goes to Mulu Park. Most people travel there by plane. Our flights went from Johor Bahru to Miri in northern Sarawak, where we spent the night. (It would have been faster to take a flight from Singapore to Miri. If you start out in Singapore, I don't actually recommend driving to Johor; it looks close on the map, but the traffic backup on the causeway is terrible.) We took the short flight to Mulu the following morning. The plane was not large -- only Twin Otters (propeller planes) fly into Mulu. Keep this in mind when deciding how much luggage to bring.

Even if you're coming from West Malaysia, Sarawak has its own passport control, which you'll encounter in Miri (or Kuching, if you fly through there instead). You don't need a visa, though.

The airport at Mulu was just a strip with a small terminal building -- I don't think there was a baggage carousel or anything. It did have a surau, a lunch counter, and a small souvenir shop. No air conditioning, though. The Royal Mulu (see below) provides a shuttle for hotel guests.

I think it's also possible to get to Mulu by (open) boat along the rivers, but that's about all I know about it.

What to Expect

Photo of the map at park headquarters

Where to Stay

Porch of the Royal Mulu Resort

We stayed at the Royal Mulu Resort, which is right on the river and not too far from the airport and the park headquarters. (I don't recommend walking there with your luggage, however. It's hot and you are likely to be rained on. Use the hotel shuttle van.) They give you free orange juice when you arrive. The rooms have individual air-conditioning, hot and cold running water, and are mosquito-free. The rooms have electric pots with which you can boil water and make tea or coffee. Complimentary bottled water was also provided. The food is OK. The resort has a pool. Prices are pretty reasonable by US standards.

There's guesthouse and hostel accommodation by the park headquarters that may be cheaper, but I have no firsthand experience of it. I think that package tours often make arrangements at guesthouses instead of the Resort.

What to bring: Clothing and Shoes

Other Essential Items

Optional Items

The "Show Caves": Deer, Lang's, Clearwater, and Wind

The show caves are the main attraction at Mulu and can make up a worthwhile two-day itinerary all on their own.

Deer Cave and Lang's Cave are close by each other. The entrances are a one-hour walk (on a boardwalk) through the rainforest from the park headquarters. A van from the lodge drops you off at the entrance.

The entrance to Deer Cave The entrance to Deer Cave, from the bat observatory

Deer Cave is enormous and, well, cavernous, whereas Lang's Cave is deep, but narrow and intimate. The main attraction in Lang's Cave is the great variety of fantastic limestone formations inside. The interior of Lang's Cave was actually fairly stuffy as well. (Deer Cave was cool and windy.)

We didn't see any sign of bats inside Lang's Cave.

River scene with an outboard longboat, such as the ones we rode in.
Clearwater and Wind Caves are close by each other. Boats to these two caves depart from the entrance to the Royal Mulu.

On the way to the Clearwater and Wind Caves we stopped by the Penan village to visit their bazaar.
View from the Penan village.  European tourists in the foreground

The bazaar at the Penan village
Left: The bazaar at the Penan village. Right: View of the hills from the Penan village.

A hen and chicks in the Penan village River geese, boats, and village buildings
Left: A hen and chicks at the Penan village.
Right: Geese on the river.

Beyond the Scope of This Webpage: Other Stuff to Do in the Park

Adventure Caving. Learn something about spelunking beforehand and be prepared to get wet and very messy.

"The Pinnacles." Although the park guides are excellent, if you've never been on an overnight backpacking trip before, a remote tropical rainforest in a foreign country is probably not the place to start. Practice in a state park closer to home first.

The climb to the summit of Gunung Mulu is a several-day affair and probably less of a good idea than the Pinnacles for those without significant hiking or camping experience. That being said, if you don't have any serious health problems, go join your local outdoors club and start gaining the experience!