If you love adventure travel, photography or simply being “wowed” by nature, add this rainforest getaway to your travel planner! Close to Singapore, Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, is home to the green wilderness of “Mulu”. The Gunung Mulu National Park World Heritage Area – to give it its full name – is easily accessible, while also boasting a remote vibe that many of us are seeking in travel today. And, aside from being a fascinating holiday destination, Mulu’s an ideal location for hosting corporate meetings, team-building sessions or CSR programmes involving the local Penan community.
What to do in Mulu, Sarawak
# Visit the caves
Mulu is a place of superlatives. For one thing, there are cave systems here that are virtually unparalleled for size. Deer Cave is said to be the world’s largest cave passage open to the public, while the Sarawak Chamber is among the biggest known enclosed spaces on the planet; it could hold up to 40 Boeings 747s! Clearwater Cave, with a spectacular subterranean river running through it, is the seventh longest cave system in the world.
Four caves in Mulu can be visited on half-day outings. The Clearwater & Wind Cave trip leaves the Park HQ in the morning and requires some general fitness; there are 200 stairs to reach the entrance, and also more inside. The Deer & Lang Cave trip is an afternoon excursion, including the bat ”exodus” at dusk (usually between 4.30pm and 6.30pm). You’ll need a decent level of fitness here; it’s a 3km walk (one way) to the bat observatory, and then another kilometre to explore the enormous cave passage.
# Trek to the Pinnacles
Another option is to see Mulu’s iconic karst formations known as the Pinnacles – this one is for adventurous travellers and takes more planning. From the Park, it’s an hour or so by boat, followed by a 9km trek to get to Camp 5, a rustic jungle camp. From here, you start a 2.4km perpendicular climb very early the next morning. This trip generally takes a minimum of two nights and three days.
Aside from visiting these two iconic sights, there’s plenty more at Mulu, including a canopy skywalk, various botanical trails, night walks and river trips. This isn’t a whirlwind destination, but a place to linger in and really absorb.
More about Mulu
HEIN and ANDIA GERSTNER from Mulu World Heritage tell us more about this spectacular pocket of Sarawak.
Does Mulu mean something in the local language?
Mulu was presumably a localised name formed by the Orang Ulu (“upriver people”) of the interiors of Sarawak. It’s thought the Mulu reference might relate to the Melinau River, which passes through the Park.
What is distinctive about the Mulu World Heritage area?
It’s a fly-in only destination – a last outpost deep in the jungles of Borneo. And it ticks all the boxes to qualify as a World Heritage Centre: natural beauty; biological and geological diversity; natural processes in action; and exemplary displays of the earth’s history.
What kind of travellers would enjoy visiting Mulu?
Anyone adventurous, nature-loving, culture-loving, physically active or with an interest in photography will love the jungle trekking, cave adventures, seeing the “Pinnacles” and other amazing opportunities at Mulu.
What about the wildlife highlights?
The dipterocarp forests can’t sustain large animals – orangutans, for example – due to the irregular fruiting seasons, but there’s a super high biodiversity in terms of small reptiles, mammals and plants. Mulu’s most famous wildlife spectacle is when more than three million bats fly out from Deer Cave at dusk to feed. These little guys can travel more than 50km in one night and collectively consume tons of mosquitoes and other insects!
What kind of accommodation is available?
Along with the Marriott (read on for more on this hotel), the Park has conveniently air-conditioned private bungalows, rainforest rooms and longhouse-style accommodation, as well as an all-day café.
Once travel opens up, what’s the easiest way for our readers to get to Mulu?
From Singapore, you can reach Mulu by taking a direct flight via Kuching or Miri, both in Sarawak. Kuching is a wonderful city, with enough attractions to spend a minimum of two to three nights. These include the Sarawak Cultural Village, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and also Bako National Park, home to the proboscis monkeys. Miri, meanwhile, is a pretty resort city, famous for the Niah National Park and various dive sites. Alternatively, you can fly to Mulu via Kota Kinabalu.
Find out more at mulupark.com.
Where to stay
Opened in 2015 on the outskirts of the Gunung Mulu National Park, Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa is the hotel brand’s first rainforest resort in Asia Pacific.
The 101-room property echoes the region’s famed long houses. Groups of rooms are connected by wooden walkways, so you feel part as much a part of the rainforest as the native Berawan people. The signature Greatroom and the resort’s River Bar are an open and flexible space for lounging, business chats, and also enjoying drinks and food surrounded by nature.
The newly enhanced resort has spacious rooms and suites with all the modern facilities and services you might need, from private balconies that showcase scenic Melinau River and the rainforest, to bathrooms accessorised with Thann amenities.
After all those adventures in the great outdoors, indulging in the wellness options at Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa will be a treat. There’s a 15-metre swimming pool, a state-of-the-art gym overlooking the rainforest, together with a well-known five-star Mandara Spa and an activities centre.
The M-Cafe offers local and international dining with alfresco options on a terrace by the pool, while the spacious River Bar overlooks the Melinau River and serves locally inspired cocktails and specialty drinks.
Find out more at mulumarriott.com.
Readers in Singapore who’d like more information on Sarawak tourism, trade and investment opportunities, can visit the Sarawak Trade & Tourism Office (STATOS Gallery) at #01-02A at 80 Robinson Road (open weekdays, 9.30am to 5pm). There’s also Retail@Gallery, a new initiative by STATOS, showcasing authentic Sarawak handicrafts including unique Penan handwoven bags and foods. fb.com/statossg
Read about more interesting destinations in our Travel section.