Looking for a new travel destination besides same old Phuket & Bali? Adventurous mama Evie and her daughter Emmie find wondrous nature and a luxurious resort in Malaysia’s Mulu National Park
Holding hands, soaking wet and singing songs from the Pitch Perfect soundtrack as we ran through the remote Bornean rainforest in a tropical downpour, 5-year-old Emmie and I were knee-deep in adventure, although not the one we had planned. After five kilometres and many renditions we finally burst out of the forest and were whisked back to our room at the Mulu Marriot Resort and Spa for a warm bath and a well-deserved dose of luxury.
We’d just been on a hike to two incredible limestone caves in Gunung Mulu National Park, and were waiting for the world famous bat exodus – three million erupt from Deer Cave daily at dusk – when the rain came down. Of course I’d left our fancy rain jackets – bought for this very hike – in our room, but after hot chocolate and a delicious room service dinner we were warmed up and preparing for the next day’s adventures.
Gunung Mulu National Park, in the Bornean state of Sarawak, is spectacularly beautiful and one of the natural highlights of South East Asia. It is home to old growth tropical rainforest, richly diverse flora and fauna, underground waterways, the magnificent limestone shards of the Pinnacles and some of the world’s biggest caves and chambers whose geology is contributing to our understanding of the earth’s history. In 2000, Mulu was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is at the top of the list for cavers, researchers, scientists and adventurers. Or, in our case, a mum and her 5-year-old daughter who found every inch of it fascinating.
We stayed for four days after arriving by light plane from Kuching, soaring around the ominous storm clouds that later drenched us, spotting the Mulu Marriott nestled in the rainforest as we descended into Mulu Airport. A 10 minute ride on the resort shuttle had us checking into our guest room – a beautiful oasis with a huge comfy bed, the most delicious spa toiletries I’ve ever found in a hotel and a balcony overlooking the jungle. It was a perfectly private spot for relaxing, listening to the sounds of the rainforest and watching fireflies glow as the sun went down.
For us, the adventurous hikes through the beautiful steamy rainforest and enormous, dark underground caverns and the luxury of our accommodation was the perfect combination. Mulu is bursting with wildlife – deer, monkeys, hornbills, lizards, snakes and bugs of fascinating shapes and sizes, butterflies, dragonflies and of course, bats (who eat all the mosquitos so no need for repellent) are just a smattering of the animals who call the rainforest home.
Early morning canopy walks across woven ladders high above the rainforest in sticky heat, insect spotting along the timber pathways of the park and the hotel, riding longboats up the Melinau River to distant caves and meeting local villagers along the way, and sharing this once-in-a-lifetime adventure in remote and untouched wilderness is another luxury we will never forget. It’s the perfect spot to awaken little minds with incredible experiences and challenging activities.
After each adventure we returned to the Marriott for a few hours of relaxation on the beautiful open-air gallery as the rainforest and its creatures hummed around us. The gallery overlooks the Melinau River, with huge fans stirring the air, birds swooping past through the rainforest, and secluded lounges, overstuffed reading chairs, hard wood long tables and colourful scatterings of strategically placed cushions.
A wide timber walkway connects the guest rooms with the gallery and public areas of the resort. This walkway attracts insects, lizards and other wildlife and it is a wonderful adventure just walking from pool and restaurant to your room. Emmie and I discovered the most amazing creatures along the walkway including a huge rhinoceros beetle clinging to the handrail. You never know what you will find, especially in the early morning before the little creatures have been disturbed.
The resort’s swimming pool is absolutely essential in the 40 degree heat, especially if you’re with children. The pool is surrounded by daybeds and deckchairs with umbrellas for shade, and is perfect in the afternoon after arduous treks and rainforest adventures.
It’s just a five minute ride on the Marriott shuttle to Gunung Mulu National Park headquarters. The shuttle runs scheduled departures to the airport and park, but will leave whenever you are ready and pick you up when you have finished exploring.
Calm, sophisticated luxury in the middle of a remote and wild rainforest, with beautiful staff willing to do everything in their power to help you have the holiday you will always remember. Yup, all in all it was pretty amazing! The Bornean people have a beautiful nature, and it’s reflected in the lovely, helpful way they work with guests to ensure their stay at the Marriott is fabulous. And ours truly was.
Where we stayed: Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa
Getting there: From Singapore fly to Kota Kinabalu or Kuching and connect to Mulu on MASwings. Flight time 3.5 hours in total.
Tips: Make sure to take rain jackets in case of showers, and flashlights for night tours.