Archaeological evidence from excavations in Cave of the Winds indicate that the cave was used for burial between 1500 and 3000 years ago. In 1977-78 the Royal Geographical Society/Sarawak Government organized a major expedition and survey of the area. An account of the expedition results, environment and biota was published in July 1982 in The Sarawak Museum Journal.
In 2000 UNESCO inscribed Gunung Mulu National Park on the World Heritage List. Today it is one of Sarawak's most popular travel destinations.
Named after the 2,377m Mount Mulu (Gunung Mulu), the park is famed for its limestone karst formations both above ground and underground. The massive cave systems, which contain the 12 million cubic meter Sarawak Chamber (the world's largest), are still in the process of being mapped. Clearwater Cave at 151 km (Feb 2007) is the 10th longest cave in the world.
The limestones belong to the Melinau Limestone Formation and are estimated to be 4000 to 5000m thick. In the south-east of Mulu Park sandstones are dominant. The hightest relief in the region (Gunung Mulu) is located in these sandstones.
Mulu's landforms are outstanding examples of erosional processes on both of these rock types (limestones and sandstones).
Among the most remarkable karst features are the world's finest example of a karst collapse (The Garden of Eden) and the sharp pointed bladed limestone Pinnacles, some of which are 45m high on the northern end of Gunung Api. There are also numerous examples of cone karst and tower karst. Another interesting feature of the landscape is the drainage through deeply incised gorges (Sungai Melinau at Melinau Gorge and Sungai Medalam to the north) in the limestones.
Flora and fauna
Gunung Mulu National Park has a small airport MZV IATA just outside the national park boundary. Most tour operators pick up passengers from the airport and bring them to their respective accommodations. Independent travellers can either thumb a lift from these operators or take a boat ride to Park Headquarters.
MASWings provides the rural air services links, which includes flights in and out of Mulu.
- To/from Miri: Twice daily flights, leaving Miri at 09:20 and 14:35 and leaving Mulu at 10:10 and 15:25. Flights cost RM84 one way before taxes and surcharges and journey time is about 30 minutes. No advance purchase discount. There are also two Twin Otter flights per week between Miri and Mulu, leaving on Wednesdays and Sundays. Fare is RM69 one way before taxes and surcharges and journey time is 35 minutes.
- To/from Kota Kinabalu: MASWings runs one flight daily between Kota Kinabalu and Mulu via Miri and direct.
- To/from Kuching: MASWings runs one flight daily between Kuching and Mulu direct.
Flights in and out of Mulu are often delayed or cancelled because visibility is often affected by the weather. Plan connections to and from Mulu accordingly.
From Airport to Mulu Park HQ, either take minivan (cost RM 5-6 per person each way) or walk for 1.5 km. Directions are signposted.
This option is for the adventurous. In fact, by land is a bit of a misnomer because this option usually requires a combination of going by road, boats and maybe even some hiking.
- To/From Miri: You need to go by road to Kuala Baram along the Miri-Brunei border road (see Miri page for bus connections), then taking a boat up the Baram River to Marudi. Here, you have to take a series of boats up the Tutoh River to reach Gunung Mulu National Park. The Miri-Marudi leg can also be cover by plane. See Miri page for flight details.
- To/from Limbang: This option basically requires you to hike the Headhunter's Trail. See details of the trek under the "Do" section below. There are no longer flights between Mulu and Limbang.
If you are staying at any homestays or within the park, do not take the RM5 taxi ride: it is under one kilometer away. You can walk to the park junction road in 5 minutes and then it is another 500 m to the park entrance. Only take the ride if you are staying at Mulu Resort as it is another 1.5 km down the road.
It is possible to reach Mulu by river. From Miri travel by road to Kuala Baram. From there take scheduled river ferry to Marudi. From Marudi take river ferry to Long Terawan (does not operate daily). From Long Terawan charter a long boat to travel up the Tutoh river to Mulu. The whole journey can take from one to several days depending on the connections.
Fees and permits
To get into the park you must register at the Park HQ office and buy the five-day-pass for RM30 per person (they will give you a bracelet to wear during your stay). A new five-day pass must be bought after the previous one expires. There are no single-day passes. To enter any caves you must have a Licensed Park Guide or join a guided group (fees starting from RM20 per person).
There is only one road in Mulu. It runs from Royal Mulu Resort to the settlement of Batu Bungan, passing Mulu airport (approx 5 km). There are very few vehicles.
To get around you can travel by longboat on the Melinau river which runs along the northern boundary of the park, and on the Tutoh river into which the Melinau flows.
The park maintains a network of trails to the key sites. The most frequently used trails are plankwalks. Other trails are cemented, or improved with gravels. Some trails (Mulu summit trail) are wild and a guide is needed just to find them.
It is common to hire a guide during your stay in the park. Guides will take care of transportation, accommodation, food and guide you through the jungle. It's strongly recommended to use only Licensed Park Guides. It's for your safety and security. Upon payment you shall receive invoice from the guide all included listing the services.
Most visitors come to Mulu for the caves, but there are also good jungle and mountain trekking options in the area. Guides are obligatory for all cave visits and most treks.
- 3 Paku Waterfall (a 2-hour trail from the park's headquarters). The waterfall emerges from dense jungle, cascading down a sloped cliff. The natural pool formed below the falls offers much-needed relief from the humidity during the trek.
The national park has three climbing treks:
- The Pinnacles Summit Trek. A 3 days/2 nights trek leading to the view of the Gunung Mulu Pinnacles. The trek is usually starts with a one or two hours boat ride from Melinau river to Kuala Berar (Berar delta). The Base Camp 5 is a 7.8 km walk from Kuala Berar. Camp 5 is located near the Melinau Gorge which separates Mount Benarat from Mount Api. After Camp 5, there is a 1.2 km trek rising 1,200 metres; passing from dipterocarp forest to moss forest. The last section requires ropes and ladders to help with the climb.
- The Headhunter's Trails. This trek is the route taken to enter or leave the Gunung Mulu National Park. The trail follows the route taken by the Kayan from Melinau river to Melinau Gorge. The trail starts with a boat ride to Kuala Berar, then trek for two to three hours to reach Camp 5. From Camp 5, there is an 11.2 km trail leading to Kuala Terikan which could last for four to five hours. The climbers can either choose to stay at a ranger station Nanga Metawai (15 minutes from Kuala Terikan) or a longhouse named Rumah Bala Lesong (three to four hours by longboat). After that, a boat ride further downriver would reach Nanga Medamit where there is a road leading to Limbang.
- The Gunung Mulu Summit trek. A challenging 4-day, 3-night climb to the top of Mt. Mulu itself. The summit is located at 24 km away from the park headquarters. The trek starts from the national park headquarters to reach Camp 3. It is a 12 km hike through the primary forests with an elevation of 1,200 metres. The mossy forest starts from Camp 3. It will be a few hours to climb to reach Camp 4. After Camp 4, there are a few vertical climbs which requires knotted ropes which eventually leads to the summit. Camp 1 is located along the descending trek from the summit of Mount Mulu. There is another 3-hour hike to reach the park headquarters from Camp 1.
- Turtle Cave (Beginner; Swimming required)
- Lagang Cave (Beginner)
- The Garden of Eden (Beginner; Swimming optional)
- Racer Cave (Intermediate)
- Stone Horse Cave (Intermediate)
- Clearwater Connection (Advanced; Swimming required)
- Sarawak Chamber (Advanced)
Book adventure caving plans at least 3-4 weeks in advance due to the limited availability of guides. There are no cancellation fees trips canceled more than one day in advance.
Advanced caves require prior caving experience of more than 3 hours in a wild cave, or require completing one of the Intermediate caves.
With its 480 m of elevated walkway, Mulu's Canopy Skywalk is the world's longest tree based canopy walk.
- Walk from Clearwater Cave to Park HQ via Moonmilk trail
- Trekking to the Pinnacles
- Trekking the Headhunters' Trail
- Trekking the Summit
- Viewpoint (best at sunset) at Bukit Pala (there is a track just behind where it parks the Marriot bus before that hotel), you can walk 2 km from the park entrance or ask a boatman to take you the Marriot pier and walk from there 50 m.
- See millions of bats leaving at the same time the Deer and Langs Caves everyday from 17:00. Free.
Carry enough cash. There are no ATMs anywhere in Mulu. While Park HQ accepts cards, the Park Cafe and most other places do not accept card. Park HQ offers cash-back with a 2% service fee, but it is limited to a small amount (approx. RM100). The Royal Mulu Resort offers cash-back for higher amounts, but charges 5% service fee for Resort guests, and 10% service fee for outsiders.
The Penan community of Batu Bungan sell handicrafts (beads, rottan and basketware) some of which (but not all) they make themselves.
Lunch or dinner meals at the Park Cafe run around RM20 per person (without alcohol), and RM49 with alcohol. Breakfast is typically included if you are staying at Park HQ.
Tap water is potable, however it is a good idea to boil it if possible.
- Cafe Mulu, Park HQ. Basic but a little pricy local eats.
It is so easy to stay outside the park at Mulu. All guesthouses and homestays are within 500 m walking distance and offer camping from RM5 and dorms from RM15.
Mulu Backpacker Homestay is the first dormitory you will find (when you get out of the airport turn right and walk for 150 m). Bed + great breakfast for RM20 a night.
D'Caves Homestay and store was a wonderful choice (after Mulu Backpacker). They provide water for boiling to avoid stacking up plastic bottles. They were very helpful and the husband is head of security for the park, you feel very safe and at home here. Camping on their property is permitted for RM5 a night.
At the Park HQ  there is lodging for visitors in several categories:
- Garden Bunglow, with air-conditioner, en-suite bathroom, and patio, from RM232 twin share.
- Longhouse Rooms, with air-conditioner and en-suite bathroom, from RM180 twin share.
- Dormitory, 21 beds with fan and shared bathroom, RM50 per night.
All options include a breakfast coupon (RM16 value) for a choice of one of 5 set breakfast options at the Park Cafe.
A short distance downstream of Park HQ there is:
- Royal Mulu Resort, [dead link] offers upclass lodging for visitors with many of the basic amenities one would need.
Opposite Royal Mulu Resort across the river is:
- Mulu Village, 4-bed and 2-bed rooms with attached toilet.
Amenities like mini mart, cafeteria, hot spring and plenty to explore around the area for picturesque. Personalize package to suit individual needs - ranging from relaxing 4 show caves to walk to Limbang Head Hunter trail which experience is valueless and priceless.
- Benarat Lodge, Stay at Benarat Lodge or Benarat Inn as the lodge provides you with full board and lodging for RM150 per night. This includes your meals at Sungai Pala Cafe or packed lunch according to your itinerary. Benarat Lodge/Benarat Inn RM180 per night (room + breakfast for 2).
Just outside the Park, near the Park HQ, the third group of houses along the river has beds for only RM20 per night. Very basic but if you are on a tight budget it is much cheaper than the resort.
Laundry services in Park HQ are around RM2-3 per article of clothing, and take 24 hr. There is no coin-operated laundry service, or by-weight laundry service near the park. If you choose to wash your clothes, expect them to take at least 2 days to dry outside due to high humidity and frequent afternoon/evening showers. Dry-fit clothes are an excellent idea since they dry quickly and are well suited for the sweltering (and often wet) caves.
There is (spotty) cellphone coverage for MAXIS/Hotlink customers near Park HQ. Cellular data connections are extremely slow and unreliable. Cellular data is much more reliable near the airport. There is almost no cellular coverage deeper inside the park. Prepaid Hotlink top-up cards can be purchased at the airport cafe for a 20% mark-up.
Internet wifi (RM5 = 1 day password) can be bought at the Park Reception.
In April 2016 a female tourist was hassled when walking alone around 19:00 outside the park. Be careful and don't accept offers from strangers.