Holy Crap, Gunung Mulu National Park was fantastic. The Gunung Mulu rainforest came straight out of my second grade ‘Rainforest Unit’ dreams! I couldn’t recommend a visit to Gunung Mulu more: it was my favorite jungle experience in Borneo, and we did quite a few of them!
Gunung Mulu National park has a spectacular tropical karst limestone rainforest, with stunning pinnacles and impressive cave systems. The trees are ginormous, with strangler figs often slowly enveloping them, and lianas criss-crossing and connecting the canopy to the forest floor.
There’s a ton to do, from exploring humongous caves and trekking to the pinnacles, to night wildlife spotting and canopy walks. Just being there is honestly a magical experience: Mulu’s ancient jungle, the layers and layers of plants, the weird insects, the remoteness of it, and the friendly locals with their delicious rice wine. In this blog I’ll discuss what to do in Mulu and all the logistics and details for an epic Mulu trip!
What to do in Gunung Mulu National Park
There’s a lot of things to see and do in this remote jungle park, from gentle forest bathing to epic Borneo rainforest adventures! The show caves, night walk, and canopy walk are the gentler activities, while adventure caving, the Pinnacles trek, and trekking to Mulu Summit include the more hard core, challenging adventures.
All of the following activities require a guide, either through the national park or an outside service.
There are four ‘show caves’ in Gunung Mulu National Park, which just means that those are the ones that visitors can see. They are all pretty different.
The Deer and Lang Caves are combined into a ~3-4 hour tour, after which you watch the bat exodus from Deer Cave. I’ll have to admit, I’m not a ‘cave person’. They usually just make me go: ‘meh?’ But Deer Cave was seriously impressive, just from the sheer massive size of the thing. The bat exodus is mesmerizing and definitely something to see in your lifetime.
The Clearwater Cave and the Cave of the Winds are a bit farther upriver, and are combined into a trip that includes a boat ride and a visit to a Penan market. These two can be included in the Pinnacles tour, which is super convenient. The caves are beautiful, but I was getting ‘caved-out’ by the end.
I loved the Penan village market stop: the Penan are amazing basket weavers, and I got myself a gorgeous rattan bag. The men are expert blowpipe hunters, and we got to practice at a target (it felt awesome and powerful!) Our canopy walk guide was Penan, who told us that he likes to hunt for wild boar outside of the park. (I was very impressed!)
Booking Show Caves
For the show caves, you can book straight through the park, or get an outside guide for the same price.
We talked to some local Berawan people who would prefer that people book the caves with local private guides, since they offer the same price, but the money goes directly to them instead of an outside third party. (The park is managed by a private company.) You can ask at your homestay for recommendations.
We booked through the park before we talked to the locals: the tours were well run and most of the guides knowledgeable.
This is a 480m walkway suspended in the jungle canopy 25m above the forest floor. I loved it! It’s fascinating to observe the forest from high up, I found it wonderfully peaceful. We didn’t see many animals to be honest, but we saw insects and birds, and it was a gorgeous perspective of the jungle, so I didn’t mind. Try to stay quiet and move slowly!
It’s recommended to book in advance!
This is a guided wildlife spotting walk at night. The guide has a light and you see what you can find. We didn’t end up doing this one in Mulu, but we did them in other jungles in Borneo and it’s super fun, I’d recommend this! You can usually find sleeping birds, night critters like scorpions, and sometimes snakes and animals like pigmy deer. It’s a unique and interesting experience!
You can book directly through the park here.
This was such an adventure! The Pinnacles Trek takes 3 days/2 nights, and it was one of my favorite Borneo Adventures!
Day 1: We started by taking a boat upriver for 1-2 hours. On the way, we stopped at Clearwater Cave and the Cave of the Winds, as well as the Penan village market, (the caves and market can be included in the Pinnacles trek for extra cost: it’s worth it).
Next, we trekked 9 km to ‘Camp 5’. Camp 5 is a rustic building with mattresses and mosquito nets, a kitchen, and bathrooms with showers. Its location, on the banks of the river with surrounding limestone cliffs, is beautiful. We cooled off in the river after our trekking.
Day 2: The climb up to the Pinnacles! It was excruciating. It’s only 2.4km, but the elevation rises 1200m to the viewpoint. It’s more of a climb than a trek. My muscles screamed at me the whole way up, the whole way down, and for multiple days afterwards. Multiple people turned around. You should be very fit for this climb!
At the top, there are 17 ladders that go up little cliffs and rocks that are too hard to climb by themselves. I was terrified imagining precipices and plunging cliffs: It’s not like that. I felt moderately safe the entire time, although I was super vigilant about foot and hand placement. You can easily twist your ankle here, or break a bone if you fall, but I felt that death was unlikely.
On the way up, we saw carnivorous pitcher plants and wild orchid flowers. The Pinnacles, limestone formations on the slopes of Gunung Api, were mind-blowingly beautiful. All in all a marvelous adventure I still have the warm fuzzies about!
Day 3: Trek back the 9km to the river, then take a boat back to the park HQ.
Mulu Pinnacles Difficulty
This is a very challenging climb: you should be very fit, and decent at heights.
Booking the Pinnacles Trek
You can book directly through the park, get a local private guide, or go with an outside tour company. With an outside tour, you’ll be paying more, but meals are included. (They looked yummy).
It’s recommended to book the Pinnacles in advance!
What to Eat on the Pinnacles Trek
If you book this trek directly through the park, no food is provided. There are kitchens and cooking pots at Camp 5 though, so with a bit of planning, it’s easy to make your own food.
The gift shop in Mulu sells dried foods like rice, instant noodles, crackers, chips and cookies, as well as canned food. If you order the day before, you can buy veggies, bread, eggs, and meat from the cafe in the park and pick it up the morning of the hike. That is what we did.
For breakfast, we ate bread with kaya (canned coconut jam). We had sardines and crackers for lunch, and made rice and stir fries for dinner. It was delicious and satisfying. Bring some Milo for some hot coco in the evenings, and you’re set!
This is a 4 day/3 night adventure, and the most challenging guided experience in the park. You hike to the top of Gunung Mulu, the second highest mountain in Sarawak. We opted for the Pinnacles, so I don’t have any personal experience with this one, but it sounds amazing.
Adventure caving here has great reviews. You know who you are if exploring and swimming through underground chambers or squeezing through passageways and narrow canals (shudder) sounds like a blast to you. My boyfriend would have loved to do this if we had time.
Getting to Gunung Mulu National Park
The only way to get here is to fly. (Technically you can hike in, but that would include boats and jeeps and I wouldn’t recommend it. The good news is that flying is cheap! You can fly from Kuching, Miri, or Kota Kinabalu, so it’s easy to fit Mulu into your trip.
Having to fly here almost dissuaded me from coming here, and I’m so glad that it didn’t! It actually made it feel super special and remote, and most likely cut down on the number of people visiting the park.
The park, as well as most accommodations and food establishments, are walking distance to the airport! So once you get on a plane, getting anywhere is super easy.
There are a bunch of homestays walking distance from the airport and to the park! We stayed in Mulu Backpackers, which was great.
How Much Does Gunung Mulu Cost?
Below is a table with everything we spent on our 2019 Gunung Mulu National park adventure.
|Price MYR per person||USD|
|Deer/ Lang Caves||35|
|Pinnacles + Caves||463|
|Total per person||1279||$305|
For more information on my total Borneo budget breakdown, as well as tips for traveling in Borneo on a budget, read my post Borneo on a Budget!
Mulu National Park Itinerary
If you want to do one of the multi-day adventures, I’d recommend spending at least six days in Gunung Mulu National Park. Make sure to book all guided activities ahead of time. Here’s a sample itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive in Mulu, check into your accommodation and check in with the park to pay and pick up your entrance bracelet. Take a walk on the self-guided trails for a first glimpse, or do a night walk.
Day 2: In the morning, prepare for the Pinnacles Trek by shopping for food, gloves, and any extra gear you need in the park gift shop and cafe. In the afternoon, go see the Deer and Lang Caves, and then watch the bat exodus from Deer Cave.
Days 3-5: Pinnacles Trek adventure! Make sure to include The Clearwater Cave and the Cave of the Winds tour, as well as the Penan Market stop, in your tour.
Day 6: Experience the peaceful Canopy Walk before your flight!
Is Gunung Mulu National Park Worth It?
Yes, yes, yes!!! I’m so glad we decided to visit this remote jungle national park. It was truly a classic Borneo adventure, and the park make my wildest rainforest dreams come true!
The local people are so kind and friendly, make sure to get to know some and try some local rice wine. Every family has a different recipe, so you can really find one to your taste.
Gunung Mulu National Park was truly a highlight of Borneo for me, and I couldn’t recommend a visit more!