Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mulu - Borneo's charms from jungle wildlife to luxury spa hotels

The local guides call it the rhythm of the forest. The constant buzzing, clicking, chirping and occasional squawking, not to mention the rustle of leaves hinting at something larger lurking in the shrubbery.

I’m not sure why I expected silence in the middle of the jungle but the noise never stops.

Not all that surprising when you think about it. This is a land with 30 million people, and many, many more millions of animals, birds and, oh yes, insects.

Being so close to nature, even the creepy-crawly kind, is what makes the 13-hour flight to Malaysia so worth it.

The country is split into two parts, with the capital Kuala Lumpur in Peninsular Malaysia and the eastern part taking up a quarter of the island of Borneo.

After a two-night stopover in KL (as everyone calls the city), we swapped the traffic jams for the slow jungle lane.

The five-star Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa is surrounded on every side by the forests of the Gunung Mulu National Park, slap bang in the centre of Malaysian Borneo. The only way in and out of town is by a (very small) plane, and with only a few tourists, you really do feel like you’re experiencing unspoiled nature.

The adventurous can climb the famous Pinnacles, spectacular razor-sharp limestone spikes reaching 130-165ft out of the rainforest. Be prepared though, it can be done only on a three-day, two-night tour. If that seems a little too adventurous, just yards from the hotel entrance you can climb the hill to a viewpoint across the entire valley and mountain ranges. The views are spectacular.

If even that sounds too taxing, the pool has big beds where you can relax and enjoy the sunshine. A restaurant is only a few steps away, in case you get peckish after all that exercise.

At night you can enjoy a drink in the open-air bar as bats flap among the rafters above.

The bedrooms are large and beautiful, each with a huge bathroom and private balcony. It was the perfect place to watch one of the torrential downpours that come with temperatures that rarely dip below the mid-30s.

Early on our second morning we set off with our brilliant guide Maria to explore further into the jungle. Arriving at the Mulu Caves, well inside the national park, we walked over a wobbly rope-bridge to what felt like entering another world.

The show caves, part of the Mulu World Heritage Area, are rightly famous.

It can take around 90 minutes to get to the Deer and Lang Caves along a wooden walkway, but there’s plenty to see on the way – trees so wide they’re the size of a small house and lots of wildlife spotting opportunities.

While the greenery echoes with the sound of thousands of animals, you can’t help being slightly glad you don’t run into some of them – especially when you come across signs about, erm, bears!