Indiana Jones meets Golum
Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
85Trip End Ongoing
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Gunung Mulu National Park is yet another UNESCO world heritage site and I am looking forward to exploring these caves. These were made famous some years ago on the Wildlife Channels of TV showing millions of bats flying out of the caves at dusk. These bats consume 9 tons of insects in a nights feeding. The main attraction at this park are the network of caves of which about 300 km have been surveyed and mapped which is estimated as only half of the subterranean network
After checking in I plan and organise all my walks.Most of the walks require guides and by the time I have booked and paid for all my trips my wallet has taken a severe pounding. These are not cheap but I guess this is the only chance I will have of exploring this area. Some of the overnight walks are ridiculously expensive so I have left these out.My first trip is 6 km round trip to the Deer and and Lang caves followed by watching the bat exodus in the evening. Its a great walk through the jungle and my guide is very good at spotting the extremely well camouflaged insects and lizards.Some of them are almost impossible to see until they move. There is a constant background symphony of frogs and cicadas and other jungle creatures. Once again I am surprised by the lack of birds. Butterflies of different sizes and colours flap past and the array of insects is extraordinary.
The first cave we explore is the Lang cave which has spectacular stalagmites and stalactites with all sorts of limestone formations. From here we then enter Deer Cave
After a quiet morning around camp I head off to my next caves called the Fastlane caves. After a short trip up river we are dropped at a small jetty and after a short hike we enter these caves. There are no lights in this cave and all the exploring is done by torch light. This is like Indiana Jones meet the Hobbit. I expect Golum to come creeping out his 'My Precious' . Once again I am in awe as to the size of these caves. It is very difficult to describe them without repeating words like awesome, majestic, amazing etc. But this words still do not do justice to these caves. I really felt like an explorer going through the 1.5 km of these caves. Once again my guide was excellent in finding all the cave creatures. Crickets with extremely long antennae, Blind catfish, shrimps and crabs. An assortment of spiders and centipedes that have all adapted to the darkness. At one stage we switched of our torches and just stood there in the blackest of blackness and listened to the sounds. Bats and Swiftlets flapping above you, echo clicks and noises of dripping water. Scuttling 'things' all around. A fantastic experience. Add this to all the chambers, tunnels and cave features I am in total awe of nature. In one section a thin stream of water flows down the rock and then totally defies gravity by running 'upside down' horizontally under a overhang and then continues vertically into a pool at the base
In the evening I head out on a night walk. Once again the jungle is a cacophony of noise. We are lucky to see various frogs, a pit viper, bats, stick and leaf insects and all sorts of other creatures. Our guide explains that if you hold you torch up to eye level it helps in spotting creatures as their eyes reflect the light. Once you get the hang of it you realise that you are surrounded by spiders big and small. The jungle has many unusual insects each with its own way of surviving.
Today I am exploring the Clearwater and Wind caves. On the way up river we stop at a little riverside settlement. These are Penang people of Borneo which were traditionally nomads of the jungle. The Government has re housed them all along the banks of the river and only about 300 still live in the jungle. There is a small craft market set but it is rather depressing as most of the crafts are bead work items proclaiming 'Love Jesus'. I understand that this was an initiative set up by the government to help but these nomadic people look very sad and disgruntled as they try to eke out a living in a world that is totally alien to their jungle ways.
Our little boat turns up a tributary and the water changes from coffee brown to crystal clear water that is green due to the reflection of the treetop canopy
In the afternoon I venture 30 m up into the treetops. Apparently this is the longest tree based canopy walk of 480 meters. It is great fun being up on this swaying walkway and the experience is great. Once again I am surprised by the lack of birds. I always imagined jungles to be full of birds. Even the famed Hornbills that live here are elusive. Once back on the ground I decide to head off to see if i can see the bat exodus this evening. All the signs are good - it is clear - the Swiftlets are out and there are a few Bat Hawks circling in anticipation of an evening meal. I sit there patiently waiting and am deeply dissapointed when by 6.30 it is getting dark and they have not made an appearance
Overall my experience in Borneo has left me with mixed emotions. When I was a kid, Borneo was the wildest darkest jungle in my imagination. All the stories were about impenetrable jungles with wild animals and fierce Head hunting tribes. This was the place of legends. Sadly today this is no longer the case. The jungles have been severely decimated due to logging. The fierce tribes have been resettled and re housed in concrete block houses and the traditional way of life doesn't appeal to the young generation. The Jungle is depleted of any large wildlife and the leopard, pygmy elephant, bears and apes are fighting a losing battle as their jungle is chopped down and hunters still have to eat. It has also been a fantastic experience as I have thoroughly enjoyed my adventures along the rivers and through the jungles and caves. I have meet some great people who have explained how it was in the old days and as always have eaten some great local food like Fried Forest fern. Unfortunately no one could source any Forest Pig which is apparently very tasty over the braai (BBQ). The world is changing and mans footprint is for ever widening. So I suggest that if you want to see and experience this wild Borneo jungle - get here quick before it has all gone.
Unfortunately I do not have many photos of the caves. As I mentioned these are just too large to photograph.