Hindsight is a wonderful thing… There are so many things we could have done differently on this amazing full-time travel adventure that we’re on right now! But then again, mistakes are part of the experience. And hey, on the plus side, you guys get to benefit from our experiences, mishaps and lightbulb moments!
Getting the most out of our limited time at Gunung Mulu National Park is one of those moments….
If we were to do it again, I would plan it differently. Well, I would actually just plan it at all! This was one of those side trips that was decided last-minute with little to no planning or research. And so we made some mistakes and probably didn’t quite make the most of our time at Mulu National Park.
Don’t get me wrong, it was still a stunning place and an amazing experience. But, if we did do it again, the below 3 day itinerary is how I would spend my time at Mulu National Park.
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Cost Of Visiting Mulu National Park
On arrival at Mulu National Park headquarters, you’ll need to register and pay for a 5 day entry pass. This costs RM30 per person. (RM10 for children aged 6-18, free for those under 5).
There is no discount or cheaper alternative even if you’re not staying for 5 days. If you stay longer than 5 days, you’ll need to purchase a new pass.
This fee covers entry into Mulu National Park only. For any tours or activities you’d like to do, there will be additional charges. (More details on this below)
Important Information About Mulu National Park
- Mulu National Park is remote and really only accessible by plane
- Although we didn’t experience this ourselves, the recommendation by Mulu National Park is that you allow flexibility in your travel to and from Mulu. The weather can change quickly and may either delay or cancel flights in and out of Mulu airport. Make sure you do allow for this in your onward travel and/or any activities you plan for at Mulu National Park
- There is no electricity other than from generators
- We had power in the evenings at our accommodation from 6pm only
- There are no ATMs (bring enough cash!)
- The National Park office accepts Visa and Mastercard for tour bookings, but you cannot get cash out
- We had no cellphone coverage so be prepared for a digital detox!
- Top Tip: If you get desperate, you can buy a 24 hour WiFi access pass at the Park office for RM5 per device.
- Drinking water is primarily only available by buying bottled water. There is a shop at the national park, and one about a half hour walk away towards the Marriott.
- Top Tip: Mulu Cafe will refill your drinking bottle with treated water which is safe to drink, free of charge. Just ask at the counter!
Weather & What To Wear At Mulu National Park
The day might start out beautiful with clear blue skies and comfortable temperatures, but this is the middle of the rainforest. So… expect rain! We also experienced some pretty epic thunderstorms at night!
Bring a waterproof jacket or poncho with you even if the day starts out fine. Yes, we did get drenched one day as we came out of one of the caves and it was absolutely bucketing down! It’s not cold but still…
Having said that, it can get chilly overnight.
Do wear good walking shoes as some of the caves can get slippery.
Most of the walks are actually on wooden boardwalks! Unless you head to Paku Waterfall, or do any of the overnight hikes, in which case you’ll be walking on the forest floor. Again, the boardwalks can get slippery in the rain.
Also make sure you bring a good torch! Some of the show caves are lit up but it’s more fun exploring some of the dark crooks and crannies with your own light.
Finally, bring plenty of insect repellant!
Where To Stay At Mulu National Park
There are a few accommodation options within Mulu National Park itself, ranging from a hostel to private bungalows.
You’ll also be able to find a range of accommodations on booking.com depending on your budget.
The Marriott is certainly the higher end option, with beautiful rooms and a swimming pool to cool off after a day of exploring the caves at Mulu National Park.
There are a multitude of homestays available in the area too. Buduk Ubong Homestay is about as close as you can get to the park entrance! It includes breakfast but it is pretty basic!
Where To Eat At Mulu National Park
Most likely, breakfast will be included in your stay. At least, I’d recommend going for an accommodation option that does include breakfast as there isn’t a lot of choice otherwise!
Having said that, Mulu Cafe at Park HQ is a great option for all your meals. It is open from 7.30am – 8.30pm, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. We ate lunch and dinner there most days. The food is good and prices very reasonable. There are both Western and Asian options although I’d recommend sticking to the Asian options. We saw people ordering the toasted sandwiches and, well…. Let’s just say you might be disappointed.
Top Tip: I highly recommend their Taste of Mulu Platter – it is delicious! The Indian Platter and the Beef Randang are very good too.
If you want to mix it up, the Good Luck Cave’fe (get it?!) just before the bridge into Mulu National Park serves ok meals too, although I personally preferred Mulu Cafe.
Mulu Itinerary – Day 1
Morning: Arrive in Mulu
You can fly in to Mulu Airport directly from Kota Kinabalu, Miri or Kuching, depending on where you’re coming from. If you’re following my ultimate 2 week Borneo itinerary, you’ll know my recommendation is to fly in from Kota Kinabalu. (Or, Kuching if you’re following it in the opposite direction).
Mulu is served by MASWings, a subsidiary of Malaysian Airlines, and direct flights (currently) arrive from Kota Kinabalu once a day, Miri twice a day and Kuching once a day.
Make sure you check the airline’s website for the most current flight schedules.
Depending on where you’re coming from, you will have the afternoon to begin exploring Mulu National Park. This is ideal as it makes the most of Day 1 at Mulu National Park.
Once you’ve checked in to your accommodation, head to Mulu Park headquarters to get signed in.
You’ll need to bring your passport for this, as they take copies and you need to jot down your passport number in the registration book.
You’ll get a coloured wrist band that you’ll need to wear for the duration of your time at Mulu National Park. This will indicate that you’ve paid the RM30 entry fee for the park.
If you haven’t already signed up for tours online, you can go to the information counter once you’re registered, to figure out the best itinerary for your time in Mulu National Park.
Afternoon: Deer & Lang Caves + Bat Exodus
Start Day 1 with an afternoon tour to Deer and Lang Caves followed by the Bat Exodus. This is where you’ll witness millions of small bats set off on their nightly forage for insects.
Quite a sight to behold!!
Tours to Deer and Lang caves depart from Park HQ at 2 and 2.30pm daily.
Deer Cave is one of the largest cave passages in the world, and is where literally millions of bats call home!
There’s also plenty of swiftlets here and if you’re lucky you might see some nesting in the cave.
At the end of the 800m walk into the cavern, you’ll look out toward the lush greenery of the Garden of Eden.
Lang Cave is slightly different, with lots of stalagmites and stalactites in stunning formations.
Once you’ve completed the tours of both caves, the guide will leave you at the bat observatory. You’ll make your own way back to Park HQ once you’re ready to do so following the bat exodus. So, sit back and relax, and prepare to be amazed!
The bats fly out of Deer Cave anywhere between 4.30pm – 6.30pm. We witnessed the bat exodus twice and both times it was closer to 5.30pm. The spiralling ribbons of bats pouring out of the cave lasts around an hour in total!
While the Bat Exodus happens almost every day, it can depend on the weather. If it’s raining, neither the bats nor you will likely want to be out in it! So, grab the chance while you can if the weather is clear!
Top Tip: Watch out for the hawks that start circling just before the bats emerge – it’s their dinner time too! 😬
Deer & Lang Cave Tour Cost: RM35 per person
Departure time: 2 and 2.30pm daily
Duration: 3 hours for the caves, followed by at least an additional hour for the bat exodus
This includes a 3km walk from Park HQ to the caves, which might take up to an hour depending on the size and fitness of your group, and whether or not you see something picture worthy on the way! You’ll spend about an hour each in Deer and Lang Caves.
Top Tip: There are toilets and a small kiosk selling a few drinks and snacks at the bat observation
Note: If you’re arriving from Kota Kinabalu, you’re unlikely to make this tour. Instead you can walk to the viewing area outside Deer Cave for the Bat Exodus.
Anyone can watch the Bat Exodus for free. You do not need to do a tour in order to see this. Simply follow the boardwalk towards Deer Cave and you’ll see the viewing area after about a 45min walk from HQ.
Mulu Itinerary – Day 2
Morning: Clearwater Cave
Tours to Clearwater Cave depart from Park HQ at 8.45 and 9.15am daily.
You’ll want to bring your togs with you for this tour as you’ll have the opportunity to take a refreshing dip in the crystal clear waters that flow out of Clearwater Cave once you’ve explored inside!
The Clearwater Cave tour includes a longboat trip up Melinau river to visit a local market, with a stop at Cave of the Winds along the way. The main event though, is a visit to one of the biggest cave systems in the world! The underground river of Clearwater Cave is simply stunning.
Clearwater Cave Tour Cost: RM67 per person
Departure time: 8.45 and 9.15am daily
Duration: 4 hours
Afternoon: Fastlane or Adventure Caving
Tours to Fastlane Cave depart from Park HQ at 2pm daily.
If you opt for the Fastlane tour, you’ll once again take a longboat up the Melinau followed by a short walk up to the cave entrance. Unlike the other caves you’ve visited so far, Fastlane is not lit up so make sure you bring a good torch! The stalactite and stalagmite formations here are pretty amazing!
In Fastlane Cave you’ll also have lots of opportunities to spot bats sleeping in little hidey holes, and plenty of insects including spiders and cave crickets.
Fastlane Cave Tour Cost: RM65 per person
Departure time: 2pm daily
Duration: 4 hours
Alternatively, you might want to consider something a little bit more adventurous this afternoon by joining an adventure caving tour!
If you’ve never done any adventure caving, that’s totally fine! There are two adventure caving tours that are suitable for beginners, available on alternate days.
Climb up and down the Racer Cave passages by rope! Helmets and head torches are provided. You’ll likely get muddy on this trip so wear some older clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Racer Adventure Caving Cost: RM165 per person
Departure time: 1pm
Duration: 3-4 hours (2 of which are underground)
Perhaps the slightly easier option as no climbing is involved in Lagang Cave, but you’ll still scramble over boulders in the dark! Again, helmets and head torches are provided.
Lagang Adventure Caving Cost: RM160 per person
Departure time: 1pm
Duration: 3-4 hours
Top Tip: Have a backup plan! Some trips may have a minimum number of participants and may not go ahead if not enough people sign up.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what we experienced…
We had hoped to do the Racer Cave adventure caving but we ended up being the only two signed up. Although we’d been told that we could still go ahead if we were willing to pay for a third person, in the end they didn’t allow it as they weren’t prepared with an additional guide.
Apparently, park policy states that adventure caving needs a minimum of 4 people, whether guides or tourists.
Our guide refused to go ahead with just the two of us. Either communicate clearly and early on that you want to go ahead regardless (and pay the extra), or have a Plan B in mind (such as Fastlane) in case no one else is feeling adventurous that day.
Mulu Itinerary – Day 3
Depending on when your flight out of Mulu is, you’ll either head straight to the airport after breakfast, or venture back to Mulu National Park one last time.
If you have time before your afternoon flight, you could opt to do a final walk;
Honestly, we weren’t blown away by the canopy walk. We’ve experienced nicer ones both at MacRitchie Reservoir Park in Singapore and at the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok, Malaysia. It felt a bit rushed and we didn’t get a lot of time to stop and look around. Still, it’s a different perspective and as always, the experience may depend on the tour guide you get as well.
On the other hand, we were lucky enough to see a bright green flying lizard take off from the canopy walk just ahead of us! Pretty cool!!
Canopy Walk Cost: 45RM per person
Departure time: 7am, 8.30am, 10am
Duration: 2 hours
Unlike most other options, there is no cost or time limit involved here! Head off at your leisure! Make sure you bring your togs if you’d like to go for a refreshing dip in the (ice-cold!!!) river. Depending on the amount of rain, it might not be very deep and the waterfall might be more of a trickle. But, it’s still a pretty walk and worth doing if you have the time. The water is crystal clear, and you’ll soon see lots of little fish coming to explore and perhaps nibble at your feet a little! 😅
Paku Waterfall Walk Cost: Free
Departure time: Anytime
Duration: Give yourself at least 2 hours
Keep An Eye Out For Wildlife!
While you’ll be coming to Mulu National Park primarily for the caves, there is definitely a variety of amazing wildlife to keep an eye out for here! Aside from the obvious bats in Deer Cave, we saw quite a few animals, and signs of others!
- Bats (of course!); wrinkle-lipped and horseshoe bats
- Plain pygmy squirrels
- Various lizards; skinks, angle-headed, green crested lizards and more
- Wild hogs
Alternative Options At Mulu National Park
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous there are a number of overnight treks which require a certain level of fitness. Of course the Pinnacles – the razor sharp limestone peaks soaring above the surrounding jungle – are perhaps what Mulu National Park is best known for.
The Pinnacles will require 3 days and 2 nights, and costs RM433 per person. This does not include food which you have to provide and cook yourself.
For more information, check out Mulu National Park’s official website.
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