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Photography by Zodebala/iStock

Gunung Mulu


Puzzle us this: Gunung Mulu has raging rivers, yawning canyons, dazzling waterfalls, jagged limestone pinnacles rising like crocodile teeth from a 60-million-year-old rainforest, and the largest cave chamber in the world. And yet this Malaysian national park has been hashtagged fewer than 3,000 times on Instagram. Why isn’t this place crawling with influencers? Because it’s too hard to reach. (Also: no Wi-Fi.) The 210,000-acre park is only accessible via light aircraft as no roads or waterways lead here. Once inside, the transportation options are longboat and hiking on foot. 

Intrepid souls who make the journey usually stay awhile to partake in adventure caving, scaling the stone needles known as the Pinnacles, and summiting Gunung Mulu, a 7,799-foot mountain that trekkers say is more challenging than Kilimanjaro due to its high humidity and slippery conditions. The path to the top covers 15 miles and takes at least four days to traverse. Other highlights include the canopy skywalk (the world’s longest tree-based walkway) and Deer Cave (the planet’s largest cave passage and home to millions of free-tailed bats and swiftlets). At sunset, the winged creatures zoom en masse from the cave’s gaping maw in search of dinner — a sight and sound you’ll never forget. 

What To Pack

Seeing as this is a tropical climate, you’d be wise to bring a raincoat, sturdy trekking boots, a headlamp, insect repellent, a mosquito net (rentable from the park office), plentiful water and PPE. (The park rangers are strict about this: No mask, no tour.)

How To Get There

Kuala Lumpur is the international entry hub for Malaysia. From there, fly to the island of Borneo then onward to Mulu. MASwings, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, offers regular flights. Heavy rains can cause flight cancellations, so be flexible with your bookings.

Outfitter To Tap

Audley Travel has three Borneo specialists, all of whom have visited Mulu. “The entire experience will blow you away,” says expert Mary Cropper, “from the majesty of a rainforest that’s home to species like the carnivorous pitcher plant to the impressive underworld of vast cave systems to the great bat migration.”

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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