Sunday, July 15, 2012


Kip a half mile deep in Deer Cave in Mulu National Park. 
Borneo is a land of extremes--towering, jagged limestone peaks, some of the most lethal plants and animals alive, not to mention the island's history of cannibalism, which may or may not have ended as recently as the 1990s, depending on who you talk to.

Another extreme here--caves. Carved from porous limestone underneath acres and acres of dense jungle lives one of the world's largest cave systems. Among all that empty underground space sits the Earth's largest cave, or at least what used to be called that.

Until recently, Gunung Mulu World Heritage Area in the north central part of the island boasted that its Deer Cave was the planet's biggest. However, explorers recently uncovered a larger one in Vietnam...but since no one is allowed to visit the "new" one yet, we'll bask in the glory of our visit to one unbelievably massive hole in the ground.

Mulu, as folks call it here, is an isolated area unreachable by road. Visitors either travel by foot and boat for three days along the "Headhunter Trail" (yes, headhunting parties used this path) or they can fly in on a small propeller plane where you practically sit with the pilot, which is the option we went with due to time constraints.

Grabbing our packs at the Mulu airport baggage claim, we were greeted by a man holding a sign with Liz's name on it. This was a first for the trip. Since lodging is limited around the park, we had booked ahead to be sure we had a room to sleep in, but we didn't expect this kind of service, even if the place was called the Mulu River Lodge. Reality set in quickly, however.

After a short, dusty ride with our bags in the back of a 4x4 pickup, we arrived at the "lodge," only to find that our reservation at what sounded like a really nice jungle hotel was actually for three nights in two single beds in a dorm with 25 of our new closest friends. Regretfully, we have no photo of this room, but the beds were close enough for your neighbor's breath to fog up your eyelids, and the scent of all the hiking boots and sweaty clothes could torch nose hairs.

While the sleeping arrangements were lacking, the beauty of our one-room hotel was its location--just 50 feet away was a rickety wood and cable suspension bridge that led across a rushing river to Mulu's entrance.

Kip was also excited because the place was surrounded by countless species of Borneo's colorful butterflies, including Brooke's Birdwing, one of the world's largest (photo at left), which flew past our breakfast table every morning we were there
In the days that followed, we crisscrossed the nearby bridge morning and night checking out the park's highlights, which included the aforementioned Deer Cave, Langs Cave, miles of nature trails, waterfalls, morning treks, night hikes, and our favorite, the park's world famous "Bat Exodus," which features some three million bats soaring from Deer Cave every evening to start their nightly hunt.

From lethal animals to massive caves to smelly dorms, the land of extremes delivered all we could imagine and then some. It's going to be hard to leave this place.

Liz explores Langs Cave in Mulu National Park. 
Caving with Abe Lincoln?
The bat exodus begins. 
That's one big tree.
Doing the "Sky Walk" canopy tour.
Another species of the deadly Bornean Pit Viper we saw on a walk through the park.


  1. Great eye spotting Abe Lincoln and that b&w cave shot of Kip is absolutely amazing. You both are terrific photographers to boot!

    I'll say it again -- thank you for being inspirations and allowing me to live vicariously through you both. You really are some of the coolest people I know!

  2. Thanks Cara, glad you like the pics and site!

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