Friday, August 18, 2006

School of Nature

Ketapang Tree - one of the Canopy Skywalk tree base

Mount Mulu National Park was opened to the public in year 1974 and was inscribed as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO in November 2000. This National Park is famous for its beauty in geographical and biological diversity. From limestone hills to rivers and trees and animals, everything in Mulu is simply amazing.

Look at the tree for instance… it’s called Tualang or Tapang Tree (Koompassia excelsa). It grows majestically in any tropical rainforest easy to recognise with its outstandingly smooth white-coloured trunk which makes it even prominent. Tualang usually grows in solitary with no other similar species nearby. It attracts honey bees because of its smooth trunk forbids the sun bear from climbing the tree easily hence forbid it to reach the honeycomb. Adding up to that, Tualang only branches out after 100 feet heights which makes it even more difficult for anybody to climb except for human being who sometimes climb the Tualang for the honey. Interesting, isn't it? Honeys from Tualang tree is highly priced in Malaysia.

God is Great! You see it all in the nature. There's always reasons and explanation of existance. We all have reasons to live. No one is spared in this universe. Back again to Tualang Tree, for the poets, it has significant meanings and values. It symbolises pride, achievement, one's standing, strong believe, royalty, perseverance and many more highly aclaimed traits. Just to add to this, Tualang is protected under Sarawak's Wildlife Protection Bill of 1990.

Canopy Skywalk - the longest in the world!

Now my trip this time takes me to explore the Canopy Skywalk, the longest tree based canopy walk in the world. It is 480 metre walk from tree base to tree base suspended 20 metres above the ground level. It will take about 2 hours to complete the whole exploration including the trekking to get there from the National Park Headquarters. In order to get the most of this walk, try to conquer your fear. One needs to be alert of one's surrounding. Look into the trees from base to base, look down under where the stream running clear, the crawlers and the climbers. Never miss to read the signboards that explain the flora and fauna of Gunung Mulu National Park. Lastly but not least, take a deep breath and try to feel the spirit of the jungle itself. If not, it only be a waste of time.

Stick Insect that camouflage like the dry stick

Mulu has many of this stick insect. I've seen them many times and everytime I mistakenly thought that they were dry twigs. In Mulu, Stick Insect there are recorded to be among the biggest in the world. This insect eats leaves. When I did reseach on them, suprisingly some people keep Stick Insect as their pet. They even have a club for this group of people.

Lantern Bug - how beautiful they are

Now this is my favourite. Aren't they beautiful? I was lucky to detect them at the bark of a tree, so beautiful and proud. They just sit there for hours without moving. I saw them on my way to the canopy and I saw them again on my way out from the canopy. This couple is called the Lantern Bugs or True Bugs. . It is called Lantern Bugs because of its horn like feature that once upon a time ago was mistakenly taken as glowing, but of course it’s not but the name stays. Lantern Bugs or True Bugs (order Hemiptera) have many shapes and all comes with vibrant colours as you can see in the photo above. It makes me so overly excited when I found them. If you are wondering, these insect is herbivores, they ate flowers and fruits by sucking the plant juices through a straw like mouth part called a proboscis.

Giant Tree

Hmm... that's it for now. I will share with you some other stuff in my next postings... Hope you enjoy this one as much as I enjoy writing it. Cheers!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Reclusive Excursion

This is my space

Making a decision that will change the course of my life. This is what I choose. Everyday is like a dream that I am no longer living where I used to be. I missed my past but the future is what matters. Everything around me is life that fascinates my curiosity. I see God’s creations everywhere, from the smallest of trees, to the giant timbers, from the smallest of ants to the biggest of cicadas, from limestone hills to the mountains and from the river to the caves. These invigorate my spirit to stay in Mulu.

I promised to share with you all some of the famous caves in Mulu. The ones that I have visited, i.e. the four Show Cave are some kind of introductory caves for all who is into caving. They are the Lang and Deer Caves (4 – 5 hours) and Wind and Clearwater Caves (4-5 hours). Visitors will have to spend at least two days to complete the tour to these four Show Caves.

Deer Cave – get its name from the deer of course. Deer used to shelter in the cave licking on the salt water drippings so the local Penan and Berawan people named the cave Gua Payau or Gua Rusa (Deer Cave). Deer Cave is a very huge cave, one of the world’s largest known cave passages. It is about 2 km long and passes right through a 460 metres high limestone mountain. The main chamber is 174 metres wide and 122 metres high. It’s just so amazing. I can’t imagine how big Sarawak Chamber and Niah Caves could be after seeing Deer Cave. Interesting features in the cave is the “Garden of Eden” where a hole in the cave roof lets in a shaft of light which allows the rich green vegetation to thrive and the famous profile of Abraham Lincoln which guards the southern entrance of the cave.

Deer Cave where 3 - 5 million over bats live

Garden of Eden in Deer Cave

Abraham Lincoln in Deer Cave

Another fact not to be missed about Deer Cave is the creatures living in it. There’s about 3-5 million of Wrinkle-lipped bats (Tadarida plicata) roost during the day. Also sharing the cave is the Mossy-nest swiflets (Collocalia salagama). You can see it flying in and out of the cave’s mouth even during the day. As for the bats, around 5.00 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on a good weather you may see them coming out of the cave in a long spiralling formation as shown in the photo. It’s just amazing. Each bat eats at an average of about 5 gram of insects a night. This means these 5 million bats would consume about 25 tons of insects in just one night! Wow! Then you know the importance of us human being to leave the nature as it is. All is created with certain purpose and function. The lesson here is you learn to understand God’s creation by observation of your surroundings.

Bats formation coming our of Deer Cave

Lang Caves –
the smallest among the four caves. The cave is named after a local guide who showed it to the cave explorers of the 1977/1978 expedition. However it is the most spectacularly beautiful of the four with many interesting features of stalactites and stalagmites. However, visitors are cautioned not to touch the limestone formation as it is very delicate. The experienced park rangers will tell you facts and stories related to the lime stone formation and its history million years ago. At the same time you may see some bats, swiftlets and even cave-dwelling snakes around the corners or even on the cave roof.

Lang Cave interesting formation

Wind Cave –
from its name, the first thing that you will realise when entering is the cool gentle draft, hence the name derived. This is another beautiful cave to explore with stalactite and stalagmite formations. Again, nobody should touch them delicate limestone formations because it takes million of years to be as it is today. Interesting fact of the cave is that one of the entrances used to be a burial place for the local community some 1,500 to 3,000 years ago. Most of the bones are kept in a muzium in Kuching but some are still kept underneath the entrance flooring covered with zinks and you see it through the wooden planked walk.

Verticle shaft in Wind Cave bringing in lights into the cave

Clearwater Cave –
It gets its name from the Clearwater river that runs through the underground passage in the cave. And yes, the water is crystal clear. You can see fish swimming in it down to the bottom. Clearwater Cave is Asia's longest cave, measuring some 107 km. It has a subterranean river, part of which is navigable by boat. Interestingly, you have to climb 200 steps staircases to enter the Clearwater Cave mouth. It reminds me of Batu Caves really. And once you are inside, there’s lots of interesting features to be seen. Also the once upon a time, million years ago used to be water passages. Once you are done with the cave tour, there’s a picnic site down the stairs near the Clearwater River. Visitors are encouraged to take a dip into the small kind of a lagoon. They say it’s a youthful lagoon because of the minerals content.

Clearwater Lagoon

There you go, some of the facts and photos of the four Show Caves of Mulu. For those who are keen of the nature and the jungle, do come over for a visit. You might find me there :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Simple Life

Children playing

Life in Mulu is very simple. All goes down to the basic. Money is not the most important thing but it will bring you around to places. I have not spent a single RM for the past two weeks. All my meals are free at the resort and they give me big room the same standard as the guest here. So basically I am living in comfort although it is deep in the jungle.

As you can see, life revolves around the river in Mulu. During the long boat ride, I saw mother and child taking a bath, children swimming and playing. So much life can be seen. For a city folks we feel the sense of blessing that we have lived in a modern society with all the infrastructures and state of the art facilities. We feel pity for them. But at the same time we envy them for living life so simple. No hustle and bustle of the city and pollution.

Penan longboat handler to Clearwater Cave

However, these people seemed so content with their way of life. You can see it in their faces. Life is so simple. You see them smiling all the time. The locals are very courteous and friendly. They will say hi to you in regardless. They wave to you when they see you on the longboat. When I was sick with diarrhea, I went to the local clinic. There, I got the chance to speak to the locals, orang Ulu. They all are beautiful people of Sarawak.

One of the most fascinating things about Sarawak that attracts me in the first place is their famous hospitality. I have experienced this many times during my visit to Kuching, Miri and now Mulu. They really spoiled me to tears. From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful. No one could have given you the warmest smile and the sincerest generousity. I have many Sarawakian friends whom I am indebted to for life. They are one of the kindest people I’ve ever met in my life and they inspired me to come to my temporary home in Mulu.

It is a normal scene in many parts of Sarawak using river as their means of transportation. Being the biggest state in Malaysia, development in Sarawak is very complicated given the geographical situation. It has hilly features and very dense forest areas. Road can not simply be built to link all the places due to high costs of constructions. May be one day they will exist but who knows when. Places as remote as Bario (famous highland tourism destination of the Kelabit people) and Mulu (World Heritage Site) are difficult to access. Air and river are main means of transportation to the locals and the tourists. These are the things that make the place so unique and interesting.

In my next posting, I will share with you the caves in Mulu. Till then… keep on checking :)


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