Caves, Mulu National Park, Malaysia

Visiting Mulu National Park – The Essential Guide for 2023

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Mulu National park is one of the largest in Malaysia and Sarawak. Being in the heart of Borneo, it is known for the abundance of wildlife, some species found nowhere else on the planet. 

It’s also know as the site of potentially the largest cave in the world, a cave so big that it has been featured in a David Attenborough documentary. Home to over 3 million bats that leave the cave each night, it is a spectacle that isn’t seen anywhere else on earth.

And for those reasons, Mulu National park was on my must see list on my travels to Sarawak. 

If you’re wondering the best way to get there and what to see in Mulu National Park, I’ll take you through everything in this guide.

What to see in Mulu National Park

Deer cave

Deer cave could lay claim to be the largest in the world. The enormity of it doesn’t really hit until you realise you’ve been walking for nearly 10 minutes and you can still see light. It’s only when you look back and see some small specks of movement and realise that they are humans wandering through the massive expanse.

It can take 10-15 minutes walking from the entrance to as far in as is possible. At this point you are in “The Garden of Eden”, a collapsed bowl with light shimmering down onto an emerald patch below. With the roof of the cave 100m above you it is an awe inspiring site of being inside a cave that is just so big. Photos really cannot do Deer Cave justice.

Deer cave, Mulu National Park, Malaysia
Can you spot the size of the people in Deer Cave?

The bat exodus at sunset

Every evening, just before sunset, up to 3 million bats leave deer cave in an extraordinary display.

The bats, which dwell upside down in the cave during the day, leave in the evening to hunt and scavenge for food. There are thought to be 12 species of bat living in the cave, more than any other cave in the world.

The bats tend to leave around 5.30pm but sometimes later. In wet weather, it is likely you will see fewer bats leave. It is an easy walk to the view point from the park entrance and can be done without a guide.

Bats, Mulu National Park, Malaysia
Be quick to get the picture of the bats!

Lang cave

Some of the largest stalagmites and stalactites in the world are in this massive cave not far from the entrance to Deer Cave. Being smaller than Deer Cave, it is easier to see some of the bats in the roof of the cave and thread worm larvae.

Lang Cave, Mulu National Park, Malaysia
Lang Cave

Wind cave

A short boat ride away, Wind Cave received its name from the sounds of the winds you can hear as you walk through. The wind comes from an unknown source as this cave hasn’t been fully mapped out yet, like many of the caves in this area.

Up some steps from where you get off the boat, this cave is smaller and narrower than others and give a real sense of exploration.

Clearwater Cave

The Clearwater Cave contains plants that are found nowhere else in the world, EXCEPT IN THIS CAVE! It is also the entrance to one of the largest cave systems in the world, with over 220km of caves having been mapped out from this point.

Clearwater map, Mulu National Park, Malaysia
Map of the cave system

Boat Trip

Taking a boat trip along the river that forms the boundary of the park gives a totally different perspective.

Slightly cooler than the intense humidity of the jungle, the river has been the highway for the tribes that live here for centuries. As you get taken up and down the river in a motorised longboat, watch out for tropical birds as well as the villages on the banks going about their daily lives.

Melinau river, Mulu National Park, Malaysia
Sites of the Melinau river

Bath Bangan Village

Once you’ve taken a boat down the Melinau, stop off at one of the many villages along the banks. When the area of Mulu was given National Park status, many of the tribes were moved out of the park and into these villages by the Malaysian government.

Their way of life continued in a similar fashion with long houses still the norm. They now sell traditional items and handicrafts as well as explaining their way of life to those that stop by.

Canopy Walk

The Canopy Walk needs to be planned with Park HQ to collect a key but will take you high up into the trees to see the rainforest of the park from a whole new perspective.

Discovery Centre

This is the museum part of the park with information on how the caves formed over millions of years, exhibits of the local wildlife and the tribal peoples that have been calling the area around Mulu National Park their homes for generations.

Next to the Park HQ, its the perfect way to get an overview of everything you will see (or have already seen!) in the park and should take no more than 30-45 minutes to work your way through everything.

Pinnacles

The pinnacles is only suitable for those with hiking experience, a good level of fitness and the correct equipment. Staying at Camp 5 and a 6am start, there are stops on the way which must be cleared by certain points. This needs to be booked in advance and only for those used to extreme activities.

Monophilia Pendula, Mulu National Park, Malaysia
Monophilia Pendula, the plant endemic to Mulu

The best way to travel to Mulu National park.

Tours

There are many companies that offer tours to Mulu National Park. Most of them require you to make your own way there by flying in. Other more comprehensive tours booked as part of a larger package may have flights included.

Having a guide to take you to all of the caves and point out nature that you wouldn’t normally spot (camouflaged frogs are on example) makes this well worth it. Rarely do I recommend tours, but the ease with which everything was organised on my tour with Borneo Adventure would allow me to recommend this company or to do a tour in Mulu due to its remote location.

Tours are the easiest way to see Mulu National Park but it is possible to travel yourself.

Mulu National Park, Malaysia, Dan

Independent travel

It is possible to travel independently in Mulu National park. Flights can be booked on Malaysia Airlines website as there is no road access to the park.

Accommodation can be booked using the park website or via independent operators that are around the park.

Unlike with tour packages, a 5 Day Pass is needed before you can enter the park. These cost RM30 for foreign adults and can be purchased at the Park HQ. Some of the attractions and hikes, such as to see the bats, can be done by yourself. A lot of the pathways are signposted and have information regarding the flora and fauna in the area.

It is possible to visit some of the caves with a guide from the park to get a better understanding of the nature around. More information can be found at the Park HQ.

To see caves that are further away or to head up river to any attractions, a boatman and guide will need to be negotiated independently or organised through the Park HQ office.

Signage, Mulu National Park, Malaysia

Where to stay in Mulu National Park

Inside the park there are plenty of options run by the park management with a hostel bed starting at RM66 per night, up to a deluxe bungalow from RM270 per night. These can be booked in advance on the park website or they can be arranged if you do book through a tour.

All rooms have air conditioning and are pleasant for a short stay in the wilderness.

Close to the park is the Mulu Marriot Hotel, a 5 star international standard hotel that gives a little slice of luxury. Prices start at RM650 per night and include pick up and drop off at the airport. The resort is 5 minutes from the park entrance so factor this in when deciding where to stay.

There are also a variety of homestays and lodges around the entrance to the park, many of which you will go past on your way from the airport to the park entrance.

Some can be found on booking.com with prices starting at RM60 and sometimes including breakfast. Expect basic accommodation with a fan only, however this may be a more local experience.

Longhouse, Mulu National Park, Malaysia
One of the loungehouse options at sunset

Eating and drinking at the park

As you would expect when all food and drink has to be shipped up river to the park, the costs of food and drink are more expensive that you would expect to pay elsewhere in Malaysia, although still affordable by western prices.

The main restaurant in the park is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and remains open all day for snacks with last orders at 8.30pm.

Across the river, just outside the park boundary is a small family owned restaurant serving basic local fare such as fried noodles and fried rice considerably cheaper than inside the park.

Restaurant, Mulu National Park, Malaysia
The on-site cafe in the park

How to get to Mulu National Park

Flying to Mulu airport is the only way to get to Mulu National Park. Flights operate once daily from Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and twice daily from Miri. Flights can be booked on Malaysiaairlines.com and are operated by their subsidiary MASWings.

There are no roads leading to Mulu and a boat carrying goods to the park is the only other transport option although no open to tourists. 

Frog, Mulu National Park, Malaysia
A well camouflaged frog

FAQs for visiting Mulu National Park

The best time to visit Mulu National Park

Mulu National Park is open year round and can be experienced at any time. June to September are the peak times to visit and booking ahead is essential during these months.

It is wetter from November to April but being in a rainforest, it rains all year round. Expect temperatures to be 30+ degrees and 90%+ humidity at almost all times.

Is there phone reception or wifi in the park

There is a limited phone reception close to the entrance of the park. I was able to have a very short video call and some basic scrolling on 3G, but don’t expect drastic speeds. Elsewhere in the park there is zero phone signal or wifi.

What to take with you

Being in a rainforest, a rain jacket is essential for a trip to Mulu. Good walking shoes are also advisable for any of the shorter hikes that you will be doing to the caves. Suncream and insect repellent as well as a hat and torch (as there is limited lighting to get you to your accommodation) are also recommended.

Check out my other posts for travelling around Malaysia:

Sarawak

Kuala Lumpur

Penang

Langkawi

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