The most spectacular caves on earth
Borneo, deep in Sarawak’s Gunung Mulu National Park, lie the most
spectacular caves on earth. Over millennia the flow of water draining
from the slopes of G.Mulu towards the sea has cut deep gorges through
the Park’s limestone mountains and, within the rock itself, a complex
network of vast caves has been formed.
Since 1978 these caves have been the
focus for a succession of expeditions and this website holds a record of
the discoveries made during that period.
As we move into the 21st Century,
humanity appears to have explored to the limits of our environment.
Using technology we can photograph the surface of distant planets, probe
the immensity of space, scan the beds of the deepest oceans, image the
inside of living bodies and picture the surface of structures to
microscopic detail. In such a world, it might be imagined that there is
no true exploration left to be done. But this would be untrue.
Under the surface of our planet lies a
parallel world, a world of great beauty and mystery formed over
thousands of years by the most elemental of forces, the passage of water
through rock. This world, the domain of caves, remains largely
Gunung Mulu National Park is famous for its limestone karst formations.
Features include enormous caves, vast cave networks, rock pinnacles, cliffs and
Gunung Mulu National Park has the largest known natural chamber or room -
Sarawak Chamber, found in
Gua Nasib Bagus. It is 2,300 feet (700 m) long, 1,300 feet (396 m) wide and
at least 230 feet (70 m) high. It has been said that the chamber is so big that
it could accommodate about 40 Boeing 747s, without overlapping their wings. The
nearby Deer Cave was, for many years, considered the largest single cave passage
in the world.
Api Chamber in Whiterock Cave,
Other notable caves in this area are
Benarat Cavern, Wind Cave, and
Clearwater Cave; which contains parts one of the world's largest underground
river systems and is believed to be the largest cave in the world by volume at
Mulu's limestones belong to the Melinau Formation and their age is between 17
and 40 million years (Late Eocene to Early Miocene).
Stratigraphically below the limestones, and forming the highest peaks in the
south east sector of the Park including Gunung Mulu, lies the Mulu Formation (shales
and sandstones). The age of these rocks is between 40 and 90 million years (Late
Cretaceous to Late Eocene).
Eight species of hornbill have been spotted in Mulu including the
Rhinoceros Hornbill Buceros rhinoceros which features on Sarawak
state emblem, the
White-crowned Hornbill Berenicornis/Aceros comatus and the
Helmeted Hornbill Buceros vigil with its large solid casque (bill).
Twenty seven species of
bat have been
recorded in Mulu. Deer Cave in the southern limestone hills of the park is home
to an enormous colony of Wrinkle-lipped bats (Tadarida
plicata). The bats exit the cave almost every evening in search of food
in a spectacular exodus. A huge mound of
guano in the cave
is evidence of the size of the bat colony that roosts in the cave's high
Mulu's mammals also include the Bearded pig
Sus barbatus, the moonrat
Echinosorex gymnurus, shrews, the Bornean Tarsier
Tarsius bancanus, the long-tailed Macaque
Macaca fascicularis, gibbons, squirrels, and three types of deer
including the small barking deer and mouse deer. The small Malaysian sun bear
Helarctos malayanus, which is the only bear known in South-East Asia,
has also been identified in Gunung Mulu National Park.
An upper pitcher of
Mount Api. This species is endemic to Gunung Mulu National Park.
Gunung Mulu National Park contains a large number of plant species, including
flowering plants, trees, and fungi. Geology, soil types and topography have
given rise to a rich tapestry of plant zones and types. On Gunung Mulu itself
these include lowland mixed dipterocarp forest, lower montane forest,
mossy or upper montane forest and summit zone vegetation on the highest
peaks. On the
limestones there is lowland limestone forest as well as lower and upper
montane limestone forest. Other plant communities dominate the alluvial plains,
including kerangas (tropical heath forest) and peatswamp forest.
Mulu is a very inaccessible area; the only practical way of getting to and
from it is by air, mainly from Mulu airport, and
which is 100 km away. It is possible to travel to the area by riverboat, but it
requires a chartered long boat for the last part - and the whole trip by river
would take around 12 hours to complete from Miri, while the flight takes only 30
minutes. Prior to the opening of the airport, and the opening of a helipad in
1991, this was the only way to reach the national park.
Excursions to Mulu continues to retain the sense of adventure associated with
its original exploration through the provision of adventure caving and other
adventure activities. The primary focus however has shifted to the promotion of
an awareness of the significance of the park and its
environment through the provision of
activities that foster understanding and appreciation of the parks values.
Accommodation is available onsite at Gunung Mulu National Park HQ, as well as
Royal Mulu Resort, and the tropical-style boutique hotel The Matumau Lodge.
Homestays offered by locals, and other typically cheaper lodging are available
across the river.