Getting to the Clearwater Caves (Gua Air Jernih in Malay) at the Mulu National Park in Sarawak would mean you are most probably staying at the Royal Mulu Resort or at the National Park lodging. There are two methods of getting to the caves. Longboat ride or trekking by foot. Well, I took the longboat from the Resort as everything was booked via there. The longboat journey is about 30 minutes.
If you are staying at the Mulu National Park lodging, you would have to buy your tickets from the park headquarters. Visitors are not allowed to visit any of the caves without a park ranger or guide. Price for the tickets are RM10.00 (US$ 2.85) per person and the long boat ticket both ways are RM30.00 (US$ 8.60) per person. Usually the trips to the cave and back will take about 3-4 hours.
Most adventurous people would stop at the Wind Caves first and then make their way by foot via a wooden walkway along the river to the Clearwater Caves which is off the Melinau River. If you decide, it will take you about 5 to 10 minutes to walk to the next cave. Others would just go the the caves one by one using the boat.
The longboat will bring you off the Melinau river and into the Clearwater Cave area where you actually see the water really clear. There is a small wooden jetty where you get off. A shaded area is also provided with chairs and tables. More like a little picnic area. I have seen people swimming at the pool in front of the jetty. There are also toilets and changing rooms there too.
Once everyone is ready, the park ranger or park guide will lead you up a flight of 200 steps to the Clearwater Cave entrance. It is quite a nice climb so just be prepared with some good walking or trekking shoes. Funny thing was I saw a Chinese couple, most likely from China or Taiwan where the woman was wearing heels! Oh well.
On reaching the entrance to the Clearwater Cave, you will see from the outside that it is well lit inside and there are wooden walkways with rails for safety and conservation reasons. There will be a few groups so follow your guide as he will be explaining the history and all about the caves. If you stay behind, you will not hear him. They will also inform the guest not to go off the walkways.
Before going in, take a look up and you would see some single leaf plants growing on the rocks. I forgot what my guide told me but these leaves have some sort of medicinal values as in herbs. From my research, they are only found in Mulu, Sarawak. To record, there are about 23 species of this Monophyllaea which is a genus of the limestone. Some cave flora lovers would love to see this.
On going in to the Clearwater Cave, the platform keeps descending lower as you get deeper into the caves. For serious photographers, this would be a wonderland to test out your camera skills. For the general photographers, just do not bother because the pictures will not turn out. Even with your flash, you will only see the subject posing and everything behind black.
As you get in deeper, lights will reflect against the walls making the caves look really beautiful.
The exploration goes up and down in the Clearwater Cave and you will see lots of stalagmites and stalactites formed thousands of years ago. Please do not touch them.
You will also encounter cave-dwelling critters such as spiders, bats, cockroaches, centipedes, even swallows who make their homes in the caves. I was lucky enough to encounter a large cave spider. If you just walked without looking down, you would miss a lot of these critters.
For more info on this cave and other caves, you can visit the official website of Mulu Park
For those who like caves a little more than the tourist, visit The Mulu Caves Project
For the families, this would be an excellent place to bring your kids and teach them about nature, flora and fauna and experiencing the Borneo Rainforest. Seriously, I hardly saw any kids here on most of my trips. As for the tourist crowd there, I would ratio it at 90% foreigners and 10% locals (South East Asians).
Again, after 3 trips here I never get tired of exploring these caves. Not that I get down on all fours and crawl, but just being there walking around was excellent for me. I just found out that the Clearwater Cave system is also the 8th longest cave in the world and is the longest in South East Asia. Neat.