Out Come The Bats

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
Trip End Oct 22, 2012

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Where I stayed
Edwards Homestay

Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Monday, September 26, 2011

Our last stop in Borneo was exploring the cave network at Gunung Mulu National Park. You can only access Mulu by plane as it is one of the few areas of Malaysian Borneo that is still home to dense primary rainforest and flying in it was nice to see rainforest as far as we could see and no sight of a single palm oil plantation.  Being a site of huge significance for geographers and tourists alike,Mulu  books up fast and so we stayed at a home-stay just outside the entrance, on the bank of the river. 

While if you're feeling energetic and have the time, you can do the headhunters trail here which leads up to the pinnacles, huge shards of limestone rock jutting out from the jungle creating a mystical landscape which is quite unique and was created, just like the rest of Mulu’s star attractions, by centuries of slow erosion of the limestone by water.  We didn’t have time for this though (honest!) and so settled for a photo in front of a giant photo of the pinnacles J.   We were there only to see the four show caves and the bat exodus. 

The show caves include the Winds Cave (so called due to the wind that can be felt in the narrower channels of the cave system); the Clearwater Cave (yep you guessed it, named so due the huge clear water river the runs through it), off to the side of this is the Lady cave (there is a limestone formation that casts the shadow which resembles the Virgin Mary); the Langs Cave (the smallest of the show caves and full of breathtakingly beautiful limestone formations, stalagmites (the ones that hang from the ceiling) and stalactites (the ones that form on the ground)); and last but by far from least the Deer cave which has the largest cave passage in the world.  The show caves are amazing and unfortunately you’ll just have to take my word for it or look up some professional pictures of inside the caves on the net yourselves as the pictures just don’t do them justice.  I have been in caves before but these are truely outstanding.  Each being totally different from the last. 

The star of the show is by far the Deer cave, home to over 12 species of bats (the most found in one place anywhere in the world).  The reason its called Deer Cave and not bat cave is that it was once home to many deer but the deer were hunted and also moved on due to the footfall of visitors once the caves became popular.  The cave is home to 3 million bats and so you can imagine the amount of guano that covers the ground.  There are metal walkways that have been built over the moving hills of poop, crawling with parasitic bugs.  The cave has an aroma of ammonia but isn’t as unpleasant as you’d think, you just wouldn’t want to touch the hand rails or look up for too long!  At around about 5pm each evening, just as dusk falls, all of the bats leave the Deer Cave en mass, circling around the huge gaping cavern entrance before forming a continual ribbon of bats bending and curving their way in formation out of the cave off for their night of hunting.  The bats come back individually just before dawn.  We sat and watched the bats for around 45 mins and left them to it so we could head back to base camp before dark.  I have honestly never seen anything like it – watch the video clip – totally amazing!

While at Mulu we also went on the longest tree based walkway in the world, sat in a bird watching tower for 2 hours and saw zero birds and went on another night walk albeit this one far more successful than the last and we spotted tonnes of jungle creepy crawlies.

On our last day our flight was early afternoon so we chilled out, used the last of our cash (no ATM in Mulu) to buy water and a cheap lunch (having run out of pot noodles by now – our staple budget busting food to counterbalance Borneo’s overspend).  We checked in and waited in departures (its only a tiny airport) and waited and waited and waited.  Until eventually we were told that the plane wasnt coming today!!  Fine for most but we (and one other couple from London who were on a 2 week holiday) had a connecting flight on a different airline to catch to get us back to KL for 2 days before heading on to Indo.  Alas after much discussion and investigation we had to suck it up and buy a new flight at inflated prices with no hope of recovering the additional 120 cost through the airlines, insurance or anywhere.... lesson learnt!  We did however get put up for the night at the Royal Mulu Resort with pool and fancy pants everything.  But no drinks provided with dinner and as we had no cash left to buy any we resorted to boiling the tap water in our room and filled our boots with as much buffet food and all the toiletries the hotel had to offer to get somewhere near being worth the loss of 120!  The biggest bummer is that we had arranged to meet a friend from home for a drink in KL before he flew home from a business trip and so we missed out on catching up with a friendly face.

We were left with only one day in KL so chilled out before our flight to Bali.
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