Two Borneo highlights
First published 21st July, 2009
Borneo - the name alone conjures up images of uncharted wilderness and mysteries hidden deep within the jungle. Unlike most of mainland Southeast Asia which was colonised, populated, and developed over the last couple centuries, Borneo proved impenetrable to all but the hardiest tribes people and the most brazen explorers. Much of modern-day Borneo remains largely untouched and unpopulated, making it one of the world's few remaining truly "exotic" destinations. Nature-lovers flock to Borneo for its biodiversity, but the island's physical geography also offers plenty of physical challenges. Read on to get just a taste of what Borneo has to offer to the adventurous traveller.
Kinabalu National Park is home to hundreds of bird species, orangutans, carnivorous plants, and the largest flowers in the world (the stinky Rafflesia), but its crowning glory is Mt. Kinabalu -- the highest mountain in Malaysia. At only 4,093 metres it is less than half the height of Everest, but that doesn't stop tens of thousands of altitude junkies from ascending it each year. A large part of its popularity is its accessibility -- climbing Mt. Kinabalu is basically a long, long walk ... uphill ... and the only equipment needed to climb this mountain is a good pair of hiking boots and some warm clothes.
The ascent is usually done as a leisurely two day expedition -- most climbers depart in the morning, reaching the camp at Laban Rata (3,270 m) before it gets dark. There are resthouses here as well as free drinking water, hot showers, cooking facilities, and a restaurant. Most climbers wake up early the next day to scale the final 800 metres and reach the summit for sunrise. The descent can be made the same day.
Climbing Mt. Kinabalu has become a very popular attraction in recent years, driving up the prices and overcrowding the mountain. While it's not technically necessary to book a package if you want to climb the mountain, it's recommended to avoid disappointments due to shortage of accommodations.
How much does it cost?
Climbing any formidable mountain is not a budget travel activity. Shop around in Kota Kinabalu city for a budget climbing package -- paying separately for meals and a room on the mountain can really add up.
Park Entry Fee: 15 ringgit (adults), 10 ringgit (children)
Climbing Permit: 100 ringgit (adults), 40 ringgit (children)
Climbing Insurance: 7 ringgit
Guide: 40 to 120 ringgit (depending on the trail and group size)
Accommodation: Accommodation on the mountain is expensive and fills up fast. A spot in a six-bed heated dormitory costs 300 – 360 ringgit (depending on the time of year) inclusive of packaged meals. The unheated Laban Rata Resthouse has dorm beds starting from 70 ringgit per person and sleeping bags can be hired.
Home of the world's largest cave, Gunung Mulu is Borneo's most hyped national park as well as a UNESCO world heritage site. The park's spectacular caves, pinnacles and gorges are the result of rainwater seeping through the area's limestone mountains over millions of years. The landscape is other-worldly and an unforgettable example of the awesome power of nature.
Whether you're a caving newbie or an experienced spelunker, Gunung Mulu has caves suited for all experience levels. Collectively referred to as the "show caves", Clearwater, Deer, Lang, and Wind Caves are easily accessible (i.e. less than a three kilometre hike on a well-maintained trail) from the Park HQ and can be visited with a guide or on the official park tour.
Clearwater Cave is the longest underground passage (51 kilometres -- the longest in Southeast Asia), Lang Cave has the most bizarre stalactites and stalagmites, while Deer Cave is the hugest chamber and home to an equally huge colony of bats. Other than a flashlight and a pair of comfy shoes with good grip (the mixture of condensation and bat droppings make the cave floors pretty slippery) you won't need any equipment to explore these caves.
More adventurous travellers can sign up for a multi-day expedition to caves deeper within the park like the Sarawak Chamber which, at roughly 700m long, 400m wide, and 70m tall, holds the world record for size.
Somewhat fittingly, this amazing place is not easy to get to. Most visitors arrive at Mulu via a short flight from Miri or Kota Kinabalu while the less popular overland option involves a series of boats and buses and requires a full day.
How much is this going to cost me?
Park fee: 10 ringgit for adults, 5 ringgit for children
Accommodations: Budget accommodation can be booked through the Visitors Centre and range from 110 ringgit for a fan room with bathroom to 40 ringgit for a dorm bed (breakfast included). It's possible to camp in a tent or forest hut for 10 – 30 ringgit per night, per person. It's advisable to book in advance: http://www.mulupark.com/
Transport: MASWings flies to Mulu twice each day from Miri (30 min., starting at 100 ringgit one way) and a daily flight from Kota Kinabalu (1 hr 50 min, from 150 RM one way). Attempting the bus/boat combination will cost just as much as the flight due to the high price of chartering a boat.
Guides: A guide is required to enter any of the caves. The park offers group guided tours to the show caves for a very reasonable 10 ringgit/person. Hiring a guide for an expedition deeper into the park ranges from 200 ringgit to 500 ringgit (Sarawak Chamber -- advanced spelunkers only). The guide price is the same for one to five people, so it's worthwhile to try to find a group.
Read 1 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (4)
- Burma (3)
- Cambodia (19)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (13)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (14)
- All stories
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Malaysia (6)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (58)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (29)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (18)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (14)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (14)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.