Jungle Trekking in Mulu National Park

Photo from the Road: Kota Kinabalu Night Market
May 17, 2011
Eating your way around Southeast Asia
May 26, 2011

Jungle Trekking in Mulu National Park

By Stephen Bugno

The highlight of many visitors trip to Borneo, and the reason for coming at all, is Gunung Mulu National Park. Mulu holds the largest cave chamber in the world, lush primary rainforest, and the spectacular Pinnacles rock formation. I visited for five days and the experience was well worth the effort getting to the hard-to-reach park.

The Pinnacles of Mulu National Park, in Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.

There are over 300km of mapped cave passages in Mulu National Park including the world’s biggest chamber, the Sarawak chamber. Most of the caves are open to visitors—some only to caver’s with experience and the proper equipment. It’s also popular to do jungle trekking and hike the grueling path up to the impressive Pinnacles.

Jungle trekking to the Pinnacles

Trekking to the pinnacles offers a real jungle experience and the chance to see some outstanding limestone formations. It’s a three day-two night affair that must be organized and booked through the national park (or an independent tour operator).

This is me climbing down from the Pinnacles.

Day 1

Leave from park Headquarters in  a long boat at 9am. On the way, stop at a handicraft market in an indigenous village. The Penan are nomadic hunter-gathers. Now some of them live in this village that was recently built. Continue in the boat up to Clearwater and Cave of the Winds for a guided tour. After the caves you have a chance to take a dip in the refreshing stream. Eat lunch in the shade before getting back into the boat for a 45-minute trip upriver. Then your boat driver will drop you off on the riverbank to start in on the 9 km hike through the jungle to get to Camp 5. This part of the journey is un-guided but the trail is clearly marked. Watch out for leeches! Spend the night in dormitory-style accommodation at Camp 5.

Day 2

Get up at dawn and start hiking to the Pinnacles. It’s basically three to four hours straight up the mountain. Imagine 2.4 km of trail rising 1,200 m in elevation. The hike is challenging. The day I climbed 50% of the hikers turned around before the half-way point. If you are fit and determined, you will make it to the Pinnacles viewpoint. The last 400 m is ropes and ladders, extremely steep, and can be dangerous if it’s wet. If weather conditions are favorable and you are able to make it to the top, your reward is a view of the spectacular and surreal formations of jagged limestone. For me, the way down was even more difficult because my legs were tired and the trail was wet and mostly made up of jagged rocks. If you still have enough energy, you can cook yourself a warm dinner at the kitchen facilities at camp 5.

Our group in the entrance to Sarawak Chamber, the largest in the world.

Day 3

The third day you will probably be sore. Wake up leisurely, have breakfast and then hike back out the 9km trail to meet your boat which will be waiting to take you quickly downstream back to park headquarters. The trip to the Pinnacles is complete. Spend the next four days or so recovering from the hike.

 

Our guide on the canopy walk in Mulu National Park, in Borneo, Malaysia.

 

Alternatives

An alternative to the Pinnacles is the Headhunters trail. You can hike the Pinnacles and then continue an extra two days towards Limbang. The headhunters trail gives you the opportunity to stay the night in a traditional longhouse, an experience that shouldn’t be missed. Even another alternative is to start in Limbang and hike into Mulu National Park.

Other activities at Mulu

There are also opportunities to do adventure caving in small groups with guide. I didn’t do any, but it’s a great way to see Racer, Lagang, and Clearwater Caves, among others . The park also offers a night hike to see the fauna that are active (or inactive but visible) after the sun sets. There is also a canopy tour that leads you across 480-meters of elevated walkway. Many of the animals live high in the canopy, so this allows you a close up chance to see them. We saw a viper high on our walk along the suspension-bridge walkways that hang 15-25 meters above the forest floor.

See more photos of Mulu National Park.

A gecko seen on our night hike in Mulu National Park, Borneo, Malaysia.

Details if you go

Given Mulu’s popularity, it’s a good idea to call ahead to reserve a spot in one of the park’s dorm beds or other accommodation. Tel 085-792300, enquires@mulupark.com, www.mulupark.com If you are stuck, there is a guesthouse steps outside the park called Riverside Lodge.

The Pinnacles trek costs 325 RM ($110 US), which includes a guide, accommodation, and boat transport. If continuing on the Headhunters Trail it will be 500 RM total. You need to buy and carry all your own food. No meals are provided. A kitchen is available to use at Camp 5. Park admission is 10 RM.

There are no roads to Mulu. It is possible to take a combination of bus and express boat and long-boat taking at least a full day or by trekking in on the Headhunters trail in the opposite direction from Limbang. Most people arrive by plane. Check for tickets on MASwings (www.maswings.com) from Miri or Kota Kinabalu.

 

This post was brought to you by SpaBreaks.com, the premier online spa booking service. They offer the best selection of UK, European and Worldwide health spas for you to choose your ideal detox and pampering experience. From couples to groups, from spa days to  spa holidays, Spa Breaks can help you find exactly what you are looking for. Create the perfect spa package for yourself or someone special today.

 

Spread the love
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 15 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Google +, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

3 Comments

  1. Bryan Norman says:

    Thanks for promoting the awesome sport of trekking and hiking, guys.

    Trekking and hiking may look like it’s arduous at times, but I tell listeners that it’s really just a matter of pushing through whilst enjoying nature’s treasures. If you slip and fall, which occasionally does happen, just get right back up and stride on, onwards and upwards.

    The feeling of victory, elation, fulfillment and utter satisfaction when you reach the summit will make it all worth it. And then some!

    Once you’ve scored your first peak and you bask in the stunning panorama that unveils itself around you, you’re absolutely hooked for life.

    Next ascent in line: Gunung Arong. I dare you 🙂

  2. […] with my friend whom I’d just traveled the last two months through southeast Asia with. We had hiked through jungles in Borneo, re-charged while working remotely in Chiang Mai, and ridden long boats through the north of Laos […]

  3. Lluc says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I am travelling there on January and I also wanted to do the Pinnacle hike. Do you know if the park arranges groups? I am travelling solo and they ask for three people per group…

    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *