07.03.2013 - 09.03.2013
Relieved that we had made it out of the danger zone we could start to look ahead and get excited about Mulu National Park, which would mean leaving Sabah and moving into Sarawak. In order to do this from Kota Kinabalu we needed to hop on a smaller flight with MAS wings and transfer to Miri before taking the short 30minute flight from Miri to Mulu airport. It was well organised as we had to get off the plane in Miri and have our passports checked before walking back to the same plane whilst being handed a second ticket that would be for Mulu.
Upon arrival in Mulu airport we realised we had landed at one of the smallest airports we have encountered so far. One single runway was all the airport had and a small area for the planes to unload surrounded by jungle.
It was also funny to see the that the baggage claim reflected the size of the airport.
This was it...
Mulu is Sarawak's largest national park made of 52,865 hectares and was established to help preserve natural features, like the caves, the forest and the wildlife. One of the caves up until recently was the largest in the world before another cave had been discovered in Vietnam. It had featured on one of David Attenborough's nature programmes which was studying the millions of bats that lived within the cave. A quick 10 min Taxi from the purpose built airport to the park and we were already registering for a trips to the caves. In order to stay at the park you needed to book in advance and we opted for the dormitory which for 41 ringgit, about £8 each per night which was good deal.
Having spoken to Adam and Mandi about Mulu we knew we wanted to do the Secret Garden tour but was only able to do the pools tour rather than go further into the area and see a waterfall due to it being booked up. We were able to fit in a canopy walk in the morning before the cave tour and we also booked a trip to the wind cave for a last day so we would be staying at the national park for only 2 nights.
Everything was set up for us to enjoy the park the next day but over night Sarah took a turn of the worst with a travel bug and the next morning she was struggling with fatigue and dehydration that meant she had to call off any attempts to join the tour. The only thing we could do was keep her hydrated with hydration sachets (don't leave home without them) , and plenty of sleep. Those of you who know Sarah would be proud she had the sachets even though they were orange flavoured!!
So for Sarah, Mulu only looked like this....
But she did manage to see a turtle with a little help from me.
Because she was only going to be sleeping we decided that I should go ahead with the booked trip which wasn't ideal. We were fortunate that the national park gave us a full refund for Sarah which made it a little easier for her. Having tied up all ends I was off with our tour guide and a very friendly Malaysian couple who actually had been living in London and decided to take time off from working and see more of their home country.
The parks set up is quite good I thought because they have well built walkways that make travelling through the forest much easier than some of the treks we have done before, however you are are more likely to see plant life and insects then any of the mammals that reside in the forest. As we made our way to the canopy walk our guide pointed out things along the way. The first was the ants that live within this plant and in order to scare off any threats, when the plant is moved they all hit themselves against it at the same time to create a rustling sound. I took a video of it which hopefully you can hear.
Some other cool stuff we saw was this millipede.
This colourful snail.
A huge stick insect
And a tiny lizard who was tucked under a fallen tree.
The walk to the canopy was only about 30minutes and as we veered off the main track we passed a huge tree.
Before entering the canopy I read up on some facts regarding the plant life amongst the canopy. Most of the tree species here will grow to the same height up to 25 to 30 metres spreading their leaves to form the dense interconnected layer and act like giant solar panel taking in all the nutrients from the sun. The other layers of species are the ground based vines and lianas which climb the trees. The name for plants that grow in this aerial habitat are called 'epiphytes'.
After my short lesson it was then our task to walk across the canopy, our guide had met up with another guide earlier and there a mention of a possible Viper snake hanging around the canopy, needless to say the guide went first.
Although Sarah had been forced to miss this I did for one second think she might of struggled with it only because she doesn't do so well with heights when you can see the bottom, and as I took my first step I even had a brief catch my breath moment.
It was fun being up higher and seeing the canopy layers but I think if you re not into your plant life this could get a little boring. It was a good timing then that we ended up seeing this chap!!!
This Viper Snake's menacing face I was able to catch with the zoom! (Definitely couldn't macro shot this one).
The colours I really liked looking at, first wild snake spotting! Awesome!
After that encounter we finished up and I decided to walk ahead and wait at the bat viewing area for my next tour into the caves. It wasn't a long wait and I was able to amuse myself learning about bats and taking some photos. Without Sarah, I had to remind myself to keep taking photos because I've been so used to her taking the reins. The first thing I learnt about bats is that they are mammals, and it is normally the assumption that because they can fly they are birds. It was also interesting to see that a bats bones in its wings are essentially the same makeup as humans arm and hand with the difference being that bats fingers are elongated to facilitate the wings. The term "blind as a bat" is actually incorrect and most bats have better eyesight than humans. The use of echolocation means they can navigate and determine where there is prey in the darkness. Because there are millions of bats in Mulu cave there are minimal Mosquitos as this is one insect they choose to feed on, which was good news for me.
Whilst I was chilling out after my mini lesson I was visited by a confident butterfly who plonked himself on my thumb and incredibly didn't flinch as I continued to get out the camera and adjust the macro shot to capture the Dutch colouring.
It wast long before my other tour guide and group showed up and we were on our way into the cave. They do not allow you to enter the cave without a guide and it wasn't till later when we went off-piste that I saw that it was for good reason. As we walked further towards the cave we began to see the sheer size of it appear in front of us as the cave opening towered above. The guide informed us that it was called Deer cave because it was deer that found it and led locals to it. The deer would venture to the cave looking for the salt that was in Guano (bat droppings) and locals would wait for the deer knowing that they needed salt.
As soon as you walked further into the cave you could smell the Guano and see it on the floor. You could also see high above what looked to be a big black smudge on the ceiling on the cave. This was the colony of bats that numbered in the millions.
The guide pointed out this funny silhouette formed on the rock as you looked out of the cave which was name Abraham Lincoln.
We continued further into the cave and I was amazed just how big it was . With a maximum height of 125m you could easily fit Big Ben in here and still have room to fit a few houses. I don't know whether my picture really shows this but if you follow the rope line there is a small white light in the distance and that is from someone's headtorch!
As I mentioned before we had to go off-piste in order to reach the garden of eden pools and this required traversing over rocks and streams in pitch black with only our head torches to guide us. It was great fun although was a little slow as we had a big guy with us who found it a little tricky. But to his credit he made it and the reward we all got was a fun dip in the cool water.
I helped out a couple who were on their honeymoon with a few couple shots before we had to head back the way we came. I wanted to get more photos to try and put across the size of the cave and I think this one almost does it.
On the way back we encountered a huntsman spider!! Creepy!
When we got back to the path we continued along it and walked up to get an aerial shot of what we had trekked through. It was also an opportunity to learn about the Garden of Eden which was formed years ago when the cave collapsed in on itself (also known as a doline). Had it not collapsed the size of this cave would have been far greater. Walking back out of the cave I was able to grab another shot of the Guano that covers a large surface area in this cave and makes your realise just how many bats there must be to make this sort of pile.
I even managed to capture a small birds nest that was in a small nook of the cave.
After the Deer cave we moved on to Lang cave which was a lot smaller cave and named after the local who found it. For me it wasn't that exciting because I had seen so many before but it was still good enough for some photos.
I decided not to hang around for the bats to do their daily exit out of the cave because I had seen this in Cambodia and knew that it would be quite similar. I was also aware that Sarah had been on her own for the whole day so it made sense to head back and make sure she was doing better. On the way I catched up with our guide and he pointed out a small leaf insect which had excellent camouflage.
Sarah was on the mend but certainly couldn't do any tours the next day so we decided to cancel a visit to the wind cave and we chilled out in the cafe in the morning with the butterflies (and a huge moth bigger than your hand!) before making our way to the airport and taking a flight to Kuching. We decided that we needed time to allow Sarah to properly recover before doing anymore trips or treks so we booked a nice hotel in Kuching and planned to rest/blog and make plans for revisiting the Peninsular.
Stay tuned for more tales.