The Mulu Caves in Sarawak
A chamber in the Mulu Caves. Photo by Robbie Shone.
Over 200 km. of cave passages have been discovered in the privately-owned Gunung Mulu National Park, but this is thought to be just 30-40% of the actual total. The Mulu Caves are one of the largest limestone cave systems in the world.
The main underground attractions of the Mulu Caves include: Deer Cave, once the largest known cave passage in the world; Sarawak Chamber, the world’s largest natural chamber; and Clearwater Cave, the longest cave in Southeast Asia.
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Caving in Mulu National Park
The Mulu Caves are rated for spelunking as either introduction, intermediate, or advanced. For caving, you need to be reasonably fit with the ability to be under the ground in small and dark places. Bring suitable clothes, non slippery shoes, back-up torch and a sense for adventure.
The bad news for backpackers visiting Gunung Mulu National Park is that visitors are not permitted to enter any of the caves within the park without a licensed park guide. The prices of the guides range from 20 RM per person to 225 RM per person.The park provides caving helmets with head lamps.
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Deer Cave is quite an extensive cave, over 2 km. long and never less than 90 metres high and wide. The main chamber is 174 metres wide and 122 metres high. The path leads to the “Garden of Eden” with spectacular views of the cave and Adam and Eve’s Showers pouring 30-metre columns of water to the river below.
Another famous site in Deer Cave is the profile of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln. A visit to Deer Cave is usually combined with the smallest of the show caves called Lang’s Cave, with walls decorated with long shawls, layers of rimstone pools on the floor and beautiful stalagmite and stalactite formations. As the cave is relatively small and well lit, it offers good opportunities to see some of the inhabitants such as bats, swiftlets and even cave-dwelling snakes.
Between 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. you might witness a so-called bat cloud of over a million free-tailed bats leaving the cave in search for food at the Bat Observatory – what a sight!
The whole guided trip takes around three hours and is priced at 20 RM per person.
Clearwater cave is over 100 km. long making it the longest cave in Southeast Asia and the seventh-longest in the world. There is a lot to explore within the main show cave normally presented to tourists, but you should not have a problem to find a local guide who will be happy to show you some of the side passages.
Be prepared to crawl and walk through the chest deep water, but the effort is worth it as you get to see some of the insects and other small creatures that can be only seen within the cave environment.
You can reach the Clearwater Cave by either trekking for four kilometres or by taking a longboat which normally stops at Wind Cave. The boat should not take more than 15 minutes, but when the water level is low the boatman has to get out and push the boat so plan more time.
The other way to reach Clearwater Cave is to hike for four kilometres which takes around 90 minutes.
Wind Cave is a part of Clearwater Cave system and it has earned its name thanks to the cool breeze you feel in some parts of the cave. To reach the Clearwater cave shouldn’t take you more than five minutes – if you can climb 200 steps in five minutes, of course! These steps bring you up to the mouth of the cave. An underground river, small floating bridges, beautiful scenery, await; it all makes this cave an unforgettable experience. Plus there is a small pool just outside of the cave where you can take a refreshing dip; bring your swimming clothes!
Sarawak Chamber is a huge chamber in Gua Nasib Bagus (Good Luck Cave) which is considered the largest underground chamber in the world. To get some idea of the scale, it takes an hour for even experienced cavers to get from one end to the other. Headlamps usually are not strong enough for them to see the walls!
Sarawak Chamber is quite a challenging trek even if you are fit and have some experience with caving. Exploring takes one full day and requires an early start at 6.30 a.m. The park HQ insists that anyone wishing to visit the chamber must have previous caving experience, however they do allow you to get that by doing a trip to the other Mulu Caves in the national park.
Be prepared to pay around 225 RM per person for your guide. When the level of water in the chamber is too high, the guide will refuse to bring you to the chamber. This might be quite disappointing, as there is no refund given once you start your trek.
Other Mulu Caves in Gunung Mulu National Park
- Lagangs Cave (3 hours, 95 RM per person)
- Racer Cave (3-4 hours, 95 RM per person)
- Turtle Cave (20 RM per person)