Sunday, December 18, 2011

TAJUK 172: TAMAN NEGARA MULU

TAMAN NEGARA GUNUNG MULU
SARAWAK
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The Gunung Mulu National Park bears the most famous tropical karst (pinnacle karst) in the world. The park is dominated by Gunung Mulu mountain, a 2,376m high limestone ridge, which is heavily karstified. The area has at least 310km of explored caves and the largest chamber of the world, Sarawak Chamber, which measures 600m x 415m x 80m high. The area is said to be the most cavernous mountain in the world.

The discoveries in the park are very recent, and still ongoing. The area was a white spot on the map until the Britain Royal Geographic Society started to explore it in the seventies. And Sarawak Chamber is also a very recent discovery some years ago.

Beneath the karst features, the high biodiversity makes the karst an important place for scientific research. The park covers 17 vegetation zones, exhibiting some 3,500 species of vascular plants. 109 palm species in 20 genera are noted. And of course, the caves are providing a major wildlife spectacle in terms of millions of cave swiftlets and bats.







Gunung Mulu National Park near Miri, Sarawak, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses incredible caves and karst formations in a mountainuos equatorial rainforest setting. The park is famous for its caves and the expeditions that have been mounted to explore them and their surrounding rainforest, most notably the Royal Geographical Society Expedition of 1977–1978, which saw over 100 scientists in the field for 15 months. This initiated a series of over 20 expeditions now drawn together as the Mulu Caves Project. The national park is named after Gunung Mulu, the second highest mountain in Sarawak.

Geology and Landforms

Gunung Mulu National Park is famous for its limestone karst formations. Features include enormous caves, vast cave networks, rock pinnacles, cliffs and gorges. Gunung Mulu National Park has the largest known natural chamber or room - Sarawak Chamber, found in Gua Nasib Bagus. It is 2,300 feet (700 m) long, 1,300 feet (396 m) wide and at least 230 feet (70 m) high. It has been said that the chamber is so big that it could accommodate about 40 Boeing 747s, without overlapping their wings. The nearby Deer Cave was, for many years, considered the largest single cave passage in the world.

Other notable caves in this area are Benarat Cavern, Wind Cave, and Clearwater Cave: which contains parts one of the world's largest underground river systems and is believed to be the largest cave in the world by volume at 30,347,540 m³.

Mulu's limestones belong to the Melinau Formation and their age is between 17 and 40 million years (Late Eocene to Early Miocene).
Stratigraphically below the limestones, and forming the highest peaks in the south east sector of the Park including Gunung Mulu, lies the Mulu Formation (shales and sandstones). The age of these rocks is between 40 and 90 million years (Late Cretaceous to Late Eocene).

Fauna
Eight species of hornbill have been spotted in Mulu including the Rhinoceros Hornbill Buceros rhinoceros which features on Sarawak state emblem, the White-crowned Hornbill Berenicornis/Aceros comatus and the Helmeted Hornbill Buceros vigil with its large solid casque (bill).
Twenty seven species of bat have been recorded in Mulu. Deer Cave in the southern limestone hills of the park is home to an enormous colony of Wrinkle-lipped bats (Tadarida plicata). The bats exit the cave almost every evening in search of food in a spectacular exodus. A huge mound of guano in the cave is evidence of the size of the bat colony that roosts in the cave's high ceilings.
Mulu's mammals also include the Bearded pig Sus barbatus, the moonrat Echinosorex gymnurus, shrews, the Bornean Tarsier Tarsius bancanus, the long-tailed Macaque Macaca fasciculuc, gibbons, squirrels, and three types of deer including the small barking deer and mouse deer. The small Malaysian sun bear Helarctos malayanus , which is the only bear known in South-East Asia, has also been identified in Gunung Mulu National Park.




Gunung Mulu National Park contains a large number of plant species, including flowering plants,  trees, and fungi. Geology, soil types and topography have given rise to a rich tapestry of plant zones and types. On Gunung Mulu itself these include lowland mixed dipterocarp forest, lower montane forest,  mossy or upper montane forest and summit zone vegetation on the highest peaks. On the limestones there is lowland limestone forest as well as lower and upper montane limestone forest. Other plant communities dominate the alluvial plains, including kerangas (tropical heath forest) and peatswamp forest. 
Mulu National Park is a very hard to access area; the only practical way of getting to and from it is by air, mainly fromMulu airport and, alternatively, Miri, which is 100 km away. It is possible to travel to the area by riverboat, but it requires a chartered long boat for the last part - and the whole trip by river takes around 12 hours from Miri, while the flight takes only 30 minutes. Before the opening of the airport and the opening of a helipad in 1991, this was the only way to reach the national park.
Excursions to Mulu continues to retain the sense of adventure associated with its original exploration through the provision of adventure caving and other adventure activities. The primary focus, however, has shifted to the promotion of an awareness of the significance of the park and its environment through the provision of ecotourism activities that foster understanding and appreciation of the parks values. Accommodation is available onsite at Gunung Mulu National Park headquarters, as well as at the Royal Mulu Resort and Benarat Inn. Homestays offered by locals, and other typically cheaper lodging are available across the river

Borneo - Gunung Mulu National Park

It's all about them Pinnacles!
(an adventurous story by Gregory)


Gunung Mulu National Park - UNESCO World Heritage Site



Sarawak's largest National Park, Gunung Mulu is a sprawling 529 sq km's of unspoiled wilderness and home to rugged mountain ranges, deep gorges, massive caves, clear rivers and diverse wildlife. Our sights however were set firmly on The Pinnacles an incredible stone forest of razor sharp limestone towering 45m high located half way up Gunung Api.


The accommodation we settled on in Miri just happened to be run by an absolute angel called Joanne who within 30 mins of us telling her of our plan to hike The Pinnacles she has arranged flights for us to Gunung Mulu (the only way to reach the National Park is by flying in) sorted all our accommodation requirements at Mulu and booked us a guide so we had nothing better to do than treat her a few Tiger beers to show our appreciation.


The following morning we are escorted to the airport and 30 mins later land in Gunung Mulu all via a plane called, rather amusingly a Fokker 50. Our hike to The Pinnacles isn't due to start until the following morning so we spent our first day at Mulu exploring the some of the many caves on site. It's during dinner that two familiar figures come hobbling over, it's Rachel & Sarah who I had previously spent three days with on the Iban Longhouse visit. Their inability to walk was due to them just having finished the Pinnacles hike so they spent the next few hours enlightening us to what lay ahead which they described as "a bloody hard slog but well worth it".

DEER CAVE

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Our time has come, we meet two fellow hikers at the park HQ - Jay and Soo-Ann both from KL and jump aboard our boat which would will take us an hour up river to the starting point of the trail. Today's hiking is a steady 8.9km amble through the forest to Camp 5 where we would spend our first night before we tackled "the big one" tomorrow. And yes it was pleasant enough, not too taxing and a nice warm up, all is going swimmingly until I got attacked by the leeches. Now I'm not one of those people who gets unnecessarily freaked out by creepy crawlies I'm generally not bothered in the slightest but leeches are my "thing". I just hate the concept that you have no idea you have been bitten until you look down and there they are, locked on casually sucking you dry. They must be able to smell my fear or maybe I have particularly sweet blood cos I appear to attract them in droves. So I was relieved to reach camp 5 de-leech my legs and feet and settle down for the evening.

CAMP 5

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Camp 5 is really nice, it is set on the banks of the Sungai Melinau river facing the spectacular Benarat cliffs. It is a hive of activity with a group of cavers on a month long research program and fellow hikers using it as their base before or after tackling the trails. Then the horror stories began, the camp was full of people who had just finished The Pinnacles and are all too glad to tell us of the treacherous feat which lay ahead. Some find it just too hard and are forced to give up or if you don't make a certain point by 11am you have to turn back otherwise you will be lost in jungle for ever to be leech fodder.


A little smiley guy heads over to our table and introduces himself, he goes under the name of Undi and he will be our guide for tomorrow. He's a really nice guy and I immediately like him, naturally we bombard him with questions to satisfy our curiosity. He assures us we will be fine, it's a hard, unrelenting slog to the top but if get an early night and lay off the beers tonight we will be dandy. Following his advice and I am in bed by 8pm frantically trying to force myself to sleep.


I hardly sleep a wink, I am paranoid that if I shut both my eyes at the same time all the leeches in the whole of Gunung Mulu are going to make a B-Line for me so I'm feeling abit jaded when Undi comes to wake us at 6am. It's noodles and chocolate for breakfast and we leave Camp 5 by 7am.


Here's the weird thing, the hike up to view The Pinnacles is only 2.5km long which on the face of it is hardly far at all but non of us are prepared for the gradient. During the 2.5km distance we cover we climb 1.2km high. We are all taken by surprised by steepness, it is more like rock climbing than hiking as we scramble over rocks and tree roots, my body is wondering what the f**k is going on. Despite the lack of sleep I soon find my pace and spend the initial 2 hour ascent bantering with Undi, he's a top guy with an awesome sense of humour so time flies. We reach the last portion of the trail by 9.15am, Undi is surprised at our efficiency despite all three of us being completely soaked in sweat and thoroughly knackered. We are relieved to see that Undi has also had the decency to break a sweat also.

A WORDS WARNING

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The last portion of the trail is a near vertical climb through a network of ladders and ropes to help you reach the top. It's not dissimilar aN enormous adventure playground apart from one slip on the slippery rock could result in a long and painful fall.


All is rewarded when we reach the top. The sun is shining as we turn the last corner but Undi stops dead in his tracks "Ohh no - what's happened here" he says "what, what's up..?" we reply, "they've gone" and then he absolutely pisses himself laughing - told you he was a joker! We are greeted by a magical view as the fruits of our labour are realised. We've been blessed with a clear view so I get some decent photo's just before the morning fogs rolls in and cruelly covers them from view for the people arriving not 10 mins after us.

PINNACLES

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The decent is definitely harder than getting up there, my feet have turned to concrete blocks and my legs to big jelly snakes but we make it down in 4 hours and I only sustain one injury when I fall down a hole. Arriving back in camp 5 it's a relief to get out of the sweaty clothes and sit in the river for an hour to cool off. The following morning I feel like I've been hit by a truck, my legs, back and arms all ache from hauling myself up using the ropes. We bid our farewells to Undi and plod the 8.9km back to Park HQ feeling satisfied that we made it - afterall failure was never an option!

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