Gunung Mulu National Park Sarawak
Gunung Mulu Gunung National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia is a stunning World Heritage site inscribed for both the enormity and magnificence of its limestone caves and for its enormous biodiversity. At 52,865 hectares Mulu is about a third the size of Fraser Island yet it has tremendous biodiversity. It has daunting biodiversity of both plants andanimals. It list 3,500 vascular plants alone. That is at least five times as many plant species as found on Fraser Island). I was surprised to see Angiopteris evecta growing right outside the HQ offices. The stunning and enormous limestone caves (Deer Cave has a roof 300 metres above the floor and you could fly a 747 into it) hold an inestimable number of bats (several million).
However it wasn’t the World Heritage values that made such an impression on me but the superb and sustainable management that the Malaysian authorities have established there.
- There we no cars allowed in Mulu. People have to walk although they can take a longboat ride on a river to visit some sites up-river. The only motor vehicles I saw in the park were small motorcycles for staff to take their children to school.
- The walkways are wide and substantial. I estimate that this Borneo park must have had at least 5 or 6 kms of boardwalk or proper paths that I walked on to get to the great World Heritage caves. In fact we didn’t walk anywhere in Mulu that wasn’t on a substantial boardwalk or concrete path.
- We stayed in accommodation provided by the Park. We did three tours — Two cave tours and the 500 metre long tree tops walk. All required a guide accredited by the park. All were local indigenous Penans and they we very good
- Although the park currently is reported to attract only 35,000 visitors annually. That accords with what we saw, about 100 per day with most visitors spending 2-3 days there as we did. Yet this developing country, Malaysia, has installed an infrastructure that shames the paltry or non-existent Queensland efforts to protect the integrity of Fraser Island.
Having visited more than 50 World Heritage sites I was most impressed to observe just how this country was able to manage and present a great National Park so sustainably and in a way that makes the management of Fraser Island, the World Heritage site I am most familiar with shameful. A comparison of the photos of the two sites shows just what a contrast there is and yet the Queensland Government refuses to explore the options for people movers and has failed to develop adequate boardwalks on Fraser Island that would make visitation more sustainable.
How can Malaysia do so much so well for 35,000 visitors annually and Queensland that reaps the financial rewards and kudos for 350,000 visitors to Fraser Island fail to do enough to stop the degradation there? Worse, why are the Queensland and Australian Governments so indifferent to the degradation occurring on Fraser Island?