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  • Writer's pictureKirk

Mulu, Borneo Bat Caves in Gunung National Park

My first trip to the island of Borneo I flew into this very remote region on the Malaysian side of the island called Mulu. Borneo, the 3rd largest island in the world, consists of regions in 3 countries, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. Mulu is in the Malaysian region.

Mulu is unique in that is inaccessible by car. You must fly into it, or perhaps a boat up the river may be possible but not practical. I flew into Malaysia landing first at the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. From there I flew to the large island, landing in Miri. The last leg was on a small plane to the remote area of Mulu.

The area is known for Gunung Mulu National Park. The park consists of a large rainforest and cave formations. Many come for the cave exploring. But more interesting to me were the bats. Millions of them! Darkening the skies when they came from the caves as the sun set.

I deeply regret I've lost nearly all my pictures of this visit. They were located on a hard drive that crashed. I took the hard drive to a computer recovery guy who extracted the photos he could, but many could not be retrieved. I still have the hard drive if anyone has suggestions how all the data may be extracted. But, as it stands, I only have two photos from the bat experience which are not that impressive. They were taken inside the cave and not outside in the evening when it was so impressive.

Mulu is more than the bat caves, but the caves were the most impressive to me. Perhaps I'll do a more comprehensive post on the entire visit, but unfortunately it would be almost exclusively a word post as the pictures are mostly gone.

To access the caves it was a small hike. From my place of stay to the path to the caves was about a mile. A further uphill mile or so up the path takes you to the viewing site of the bats as they exit the caves at night. I do not have the actual footage of this bat cave exit, but I'll include a video I took of a bat exit in Thailand to give a flavor. But, the bats here at Mulu were much more impressive than this video:

The park itself is a UNSECO World Heritage site. The caves within the park is the largest network of caves known to man in the world. They were only recently discovered. In 1961 the Malaysian Geographical Society began exploring the caves, and in 2011, eighteen new miles of caves were found

Entry into the caves can only be done with the guide of a park ranger. Guided tours are offered throughout the day. The cost to visit the park is incredibly reasonable at only 40 Malaysian Ringgit or about $6.50 USD! That's for a 5 day pass.

If you go, I would suggest a minimum of 3 days but recommend the full 5 to get to explore all its offer. This is an incredibly peaceful and special place without the noise of traffic. Although there is a road and a few vehicles for local transportation, it's barely noticeable. I walked everywhere I wanted to go.

The tour of the caves takes about 2 hours. There are a number of caves that can be explored: Dear Cave, Lang Cave, Clearwater Cave, and Cave of Winds. Dear cave is the biggest show cave and the largest cave passage in the world. Years ago a large river cut the passage through this limestone formation.

Inside it is possible, of course, to view bats. The guide will shine his light on them to expose. Unfortunately I do not have access to my best pictures, only one photo and one video was retrieved from my crashed hard drive

This photo was of a small grouping. There were much larger groups of which I no longer have the pictures. What's more, is the large piles of bat feces on the cave floors. It was incredibly pungent, smelling of ammonia.

Bat poop, known as guano, is the excrement left from the inedible parts of their insect diet. Since I lost my pictures I'll describe it. It's elongated pellets but after dried it easily crumbles and becomes a dust. There is a significant demand for this crap though. It is an excellent fertilizer.

Here is the one video salvaged from my hard drive:

I don't think they liked being awoken.

This is the first of two visits I made to Borneo, but this park is the most memorable of all my explorations of this huge island. This is among my favorite of all travel memories for two reasons: it was one of my first truly remote area trips, and it is an all natural and unique setting.

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Mike Wells
Mike Wells
Apr 22
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Bats in that region must always have a full belly. The areahas a lot jungle area must have lots of insects for the bats to consume. I wonder why the bats decided to converge on this particular area.

Apr 22
Replying to

Because of the caves. They have a lot of huge caves to live in. Plus, the fact that you already mentioned, because there’s a jungle here there are many insects for them to feast upon. This is a perfect environment.

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