Travel Journal

Gunung Mulu and the Pinnacles (Malaysia)

(Tuesday 21 February 2012) by Lynda
One of the episodes of BBC's Planet Earth documentary was filmed in the caves of Gunung Mulu. These caves are the biggest in the world and are inhabited by millions of bats. At dusk you can see the bats leaving the caves in big corkscrews to hunt out in the jungle. Walking inside the caves and especially Deer cave is amazing, so enormous and the constant clicking of the bats above you and of course the fresh smell of guano...

But Mulu's most famous attractions, however, are the Pinnacles, a forest of razor-sharp limestone peaks clustered 45m above the rainforest. Like bristles on a craggy toothbrush, the Pinnacles are an uncanny collection of sharp limestone spikes that is undoubtedly the world's worst parachute drop zone. These incredible stone towers protrude from the cloud-swathed forest on the flanks of mysterious Gunung Api, or "Fire Mountain".

Lizard with great camouflage
Lizard with great camouflage
To see the Pinnacles, we took a boot upriver to the beginning of the trail, next 8km of jungle trekking before reaching camp 5. No restaurant in camp 5 so you have to bring and cook your own food, so the 8 km jungle trekking is already quite demanding. The next morning we started climbing around 7pm. The trip is only 2.4km one way, but the climb up is unrelentingly steep and taxing and you have to climb the entire distance to see the Pinnacles, there is no easy way out. You have to reach a certain point before 11pm otherwise the guide will not allow you to continue to the top. I started the trip with plenty of water, candy bars for instant energy and tons of determination, I had to reach the top! Our team was EU all over (Slovenia, UK, Belgium, Denmark and Holland) and quite fit and we made good progress and reached the signposted point at 9.30pm so we could continue. The final climb to the top consisted of ladders and ropes and my experience with rock climbing gave me a big advantage.....I was the first to reach the top and had my first glance of the Pinnacles. What an amazing site and really hard to describe, you can't really compare it to something else, it's just too unique. But the Pinnacles is more than just the view, it's the entire experience of walking through the jungle, the cooking and camping in camp 5 and the early morning climb.

After a 3,5h climb, finally the Pinnacles
After a 3,5h climb, finally the Pinnacles
After a great photo shoot and lunch we descended and going down proved to be much harder than going up. I slipped badly and ended up with bruises on my arm and legs and some deep cuts on my elbow, the limestone is indeed razorsharp. So the rest of the descend I did ass-first instead of head-first....much safer!!!!

The roundtrip took us around 8-9 hours and we went for a refreshing swim in the river next to camp 5. After another night of cooking and dining by candle light we left the next morning for our return trip, again the 8 km of jungle and the boot trip back to the HQ.

The trip to Gunung Mulu was great, and the climb to the Pinnacles one of the highlights of my trip to Borneo, I loved it.

Time to leave Sarawak and enter Sabah, still so much more of Borneo to discover......only halfway the island now.


  • geniet van je vrijheid by Gérard
    • Leunstoelreiziger by Lynda

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