Holding hands, soaking wet and singing songs from the Pitch Perfect soundtrack as we ran through the remote Bornean rainforest in a tropical downpour, five 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 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 poured down. Of course I’d left our fancy rain jackets - bought for this very hike - in our room so we were saturated, 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 helping scientists understand the earth’s history. In 2000, Mulu was recognised as an UNESCO World Heritage site and is at the top of the list for cavers, researchers, scientists and adventurers – and, in our case, a mum and her five 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, a perfectly private spot for relaxing, listening to the sounds of the rainforest and watching fireflies glow as the sun goes down.
For us, the adventurous hikes through the beautiful steamy rainforest, enormous, dark underground caverns and the luxury of our accommodation was the perfect combination. Mulu is bursting with wildlife – from deer, monkeys and hornbills to lizards and 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 few of the animals who call the rainforest home.
Early morning canopy walks across woven ladders high above the rainforest in steamy heat, insect spotting along the park’s timber pathways, 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 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, 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 during 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 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. The Bornean people have beautiful natures 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.
We stayed: Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa.
Getting there: From Singapore fly to Kota Kinabalu or Kuching and connect to Mulu. Flight time 3.5 hours.
Tips: Make sure to take rain jackets in case of showers and torches for night tours.