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The Mulu Caves of Borneo
The National Park
Mulu caves is part of the Mulu National Park in Borneo. It is part of the land of Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia. Mulu is situated deep in the jungles of Sarawak and the only way to gain access is by taking a flight in a smaller aircraft, maybe even the Fokker or Twin Otter; from Miri city (also known as the oil town of Sarawak). Another option is to travel by river boat known as Express boat that transports more passengers and cargoes or hop into a Speed boat for speed and private transportation. The journey itself takes half a day and drain one of much needed energy for the adventure ahead. It sure doesn't beat the thirty minutes flight from Miri airport to the designated area. Then again, if you are the rugged type that wants the most of your trip, you might enjoy the river way, after all. On the way to your destination along the wide Baram river, you will stop in the small town of Marudi to stretch your legs after a couple of hours of boat ride, and here you have the chance to walk along the busy waterfront and shop lots selling all kinds of merchandise from groceries to textiles and stationery shop to motorboat accessories and repair shops. In restaurants popularly known as 'Kedai kopi' locally; means 'Coffee shops', sample the variety of food choices; mainly the local chinese and malays. Then they are choices of native delicacies. Please remember that even if you are familiar with other chinese or malay foods, it may not be the same in each state of Malaysia, especially this state. Taste for yourself, when you're there.
When it's time to return to the boat, along the way,you can see stalls selling pastries, cakes and biscuits, buy some to munch during the long boat journey to Long Terawan, a village belonging to the Berawan's, a minority race of sarawak natives. You can catch the view of their long houses situated on a hill. From here you will be transferred to another boat, called a 'long boat' to the National Park (If you are travelling on tour, your tour package might include a one way trip without a transition).
It's More Than Just Exploring the Caverns
Once you reached the National Park, after you have settled down in your choice of hotel room in the resort or rent a chalet. You will not be able to resist stepping out and walk the grounds to admire the scenery around you, limestone rock, deep clear water river and the surrounding forests. Breathe the cool clean air of the mountains. At dusk, you might catch streams of bats flying out from one of the world renown caverns.
There's plenty of activities, Either you are an adventurous hiker, explorer; a nature lover, traveler, writer, or someone who needs a break from a hectic city life. You'll find things to do and enjoy it. You might want to hike to the summit of Mount Mulu, the pinnacles or visit natives of the land and choose some unique handcrafts to bring back home as souvenirs. Would you like to camp out under the sky in the wilderness, on the river banks? You can ask the tour guide assigned to you or ask for information from the National Park's management office for tour options.
Be prepared though; you will not stay dry for long. Since most of the time you will use the Belinao aka Melinau river; which is a stone's throw wide, as a passage, where the Mulu National Park is. Alternately you will be travelling by boat upstream in the Tutoh river where you visit other ethnic groups like the infamous Penan and the Berawan race's long houses. During dry season you might be needed to pull the boat a short distance in the 'knee high' deep, river until you have reached a reasonably deep enough waters for the motor's propeller to start running without scratching the river's stone covered bottom.
Now, about leisure, if you have dreamed soaking in a warm tub somewhere in the jungle, there's a solution to transform imagination to reality in the form of a natural 'Hot Spring' within the National Park perimeters.
During your trip, you will definitely experience a difference of environment, culture and the chance to watch how foods are traditionally prepared and sample some of these exotic foods. People of the land are part of the 'Orang Ulu' tribes and their favored method of cooking is boiled clear water soup (No oil and added flavouring or MSG), opened fire barbeque (meat and fishes speared on a stick), fishes or meats stuffed in bamboo before cooking it under medium temperature fire.
In the evening, if you are back in the resort, you will be entertained with native dances and other modern entertainment that suits you. Here, you will experience a sense of peace and tranquility. Lulled to sleep by the sound of crickets and rise with the sound of birds chirping in the air.
- Mulu Caves Project Blog Archive
Watch this link and you'll have a better idea of what's in store once you get there.
Images of Mulu National Park
- Mulu Caves ~ Sarawak Photo Gallery by B Thomas Johnston at pbase.com
These photos will describe Mulu National park better than i can.
Famous caves to visit:
-Largest cave passage on earth (It can hold five of England's St.Paul cathedral).
-At the southern entrance, a rock naturally shaped like Abraham Lincoln's face seen from the side.
-'Garden of Eden' created by a hole on the cave's roof lets sunlight into the cave enabling rich green plants thrives under it. Creating a lush tropical garden.
Sarawak Chamber Cave
-World's largest underground pocket of air (Said to accomodate 40 Boeing 747 without overlapping their wings).
-Underground river system.
-Near the caves, you can find herbal plants you can't find anywhere else in the world.
-Admire the majestic rock formation and Stalactites and stalagmites in the 'King's Chamber' area.
-Cool breeze blowing within the cave.
- Unique rock formation, Stalagmites and Stalactites.
-Wet cave. Water in the cave is pure and drinkable.
-Dwelling of cave snakes and swiftlets.
People of the land and their Cultures
Penan is one of the most unique ethnic group in Sarawak. A few years back, some of them in this area still lived in the jungle in a group, more like a clan, they do not settle in one place but move from one area to another. Until the twentieth century, concerned over the safety and well fare of the Penans because they do not have access to any Health care departments and the future of their children who until then, has never attended school; the Sarawak government started to build wooden houses for them to settle down and call their own. It was built upstream along the Tutoh river, a short distance from Melinao river where Mulu National Park is situated.
In the beginning, many of them refused changes; since they are used to their way of living for generations. And they are very shy and private people who keep to themselves most of the time. But after much persuasion, they have accepted and adapt to living in a home and stopped moving around. And learn to become farmers and grow their own vegetables instead of hunting and picking jungle products for food as their ancestors in the past.
The Penans like the other native races in Sarawak are creative and skillful craftsmen, the women and elder men who are too old to work the farm would sit in front of their homes and produce beautiful and uniquely designed handicrafts such as bags, pouches, hat, thongs, necklaces, bangles, anklets, letter openers and key chains among the many choices of souvenirs to sell to the stream of tourists who visits their village. My favourite from my visit long ago, was bangle fashioned from rattan, some are young rattan and the colour are greenish and some are dark yellow, and even brown and black with beautiful tribal designs painted on it before the exteriors are varnished.