Speleology or cave exploration is an adventure or extreme sport with more and more adherents around the world. While virtually the entire Earth or even the ocean has been explored, the underground caves on our planet are relatively virgin. In places from Laos to Brazil, the adventurer is looking for new ways to occupy his free time and extensive cavity systems are difficult to ignore. Although the number of people who are encouraged to explore the underground world is still small, especially compared to other sports such as mountain biking, we see how speleology is becoming more and more known and many travelers incorporate this activity in their escapes or trips around the world.
Speleology is simply the recreational sport of exploring caves. While many of the underground systems of the world have been explored thoroughly, especially in developed countries, the cavities’ virgins still exist in many places. In South America and Asia, we can find the largest and least explored caves, but there are speleology destinations on all continents. The systems of Virgin caves, those that have not yet been investigated, are the paradise of speleologists, the problem is that they are rare and only the best experts know how to find them.
Many caves are located in extremely remote places and the simple fact of reaching them is already a good challenge. We may have to hike for days to get to them, although some may be centrally located in a national park or near an important road. Once in the cave, especially in the least explored ones, we will have to climb or crawl between rocks and narrow steps, Dodge stalactites and stalagmites, cross puddles, mud or even walk in the water. If the cave requires diving to get from one place to another, then we would already be talking about spelunking, a more dangerous activity suitable only for experts. If you’re claustrophobic, you better forget about speleology.
Points to Consider in the Exploration
The more we settle in the underworld, the colder it will get. In some places, temperatures can reach extremes that may cause hypothermia. The water we can find will be very cold and the ice is not uncommon in the depths of the caves. Clothing that protects us from cold and water will be essential in these situations. If we intend to dive, a diving suit will be required. Of course, there are also dry caves and with a little coat, we will have enough.
Speleology can be an extremely dangerous sport and many people die every year. Flash floods that can completely fill the cave with water are one of the most dangerous aspects and the one that usually causes most deaths. We must know the time before entering the cave and consult with experts to know how often floods occur. Other dangers are the possibility of entering hypothermia due to the cold, falling rock on top or fainting due to lack of oxygen. There are some things we can do when it comes to having a safe speleology session. We must make sure that someone outside the cave knows that we are inside, wear helmets to protect our heads, wear proper clothes and check that we have enough batteries/batteries in our flashlights. We must be very careful because of rescue operations in the underground world can be complicated. Rescuers need special skills, training, and equipment, and they have to advance against the clock. Often, rescues put rescuers in as much danger as the person can have to rescue.
- National parks / restricted areas
Many countries have protected caves or have made them part of natural or geological reserves. We’ll need permission to enter the restricted caves, otherwise, we could get high fines. Normally these areas are well signposted, but we need to check a local map to make sure. Professional speleologists, who study Caves, are sometimes the only ones who can decide whether they allow access to the public or not or could limit our activities in a particular cave.
- Conservation of the underground world
Access to many caves is restricted because the environment inside is extremely fragile and many of the animals are rare. Some may suffer light damage and some small steps may be rendered useless by the inexperienced action of some Explorer. Many cavities contain significant amounts of water that are sent out through pipes for human consumption, thus ensuring that no one contaminates it.
- Animals disgusting
Many of the worst nightmares are about things we found inside the caves. Underground cavities are home to bats, snakes, spiders, rats, worms, ants, lizards and any other animal that likes darkness, has bright eyes and makes weird noises. If we have long hair, we should try not to keep it loose. You can buy a mask if you can’t stand the thought of these creatures touching your face. Killing these animals is something we should never do, as many are considered rare and protected by law.
Mysterious and deep, here are 10 caves that make you want to go back to the Stone Age. Real works of art sculpted by nature!
- Huanglong cave, China
Literally “the cave of the Yellow dragon”, this karst cave would enclose artifacts and fossils dating from the Pleistocene.
- The cave of the Reed Flute, China
Located in Guilin, China, it is one of the largest caves in the world. The stalactites and stalagmites are illuminated by artificial lighting which gives a psychedelic feel to the cave.
- The caves of Waitomo, Australia
This cave, located in Australia, has the particularity of sheltering glowworms. You will see thousands of small bright spots giving the impression of looking at the Milky Way!
- The optimistic cave, Ukraine
Located in the Ternopil Oblast in Ukraine, it is the largest Gypsum Cave in the world and the largest cave in Europe with a length of 207 kilometers.
- Ice caves, Antarctica
Ice caves are found on Mount Erebus in Antarctica. The hot air escaping from the volcano against the cold outside air allows the creation of huge cellars.
- The Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, Belize
In Belize, this 6 km long cave was used by the Maya for rituals and sacrifices. In particular, they believed that the gods resided there.
- Onondaga Cave, USA
Located in the U.S. State of Missouri in Onondaga Cave State Park. Near the park is the Meramec River, where there are many activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, etc.
- The cave of Majlis al Jinn, Oman
Located in Oman, more than 1.380 meters above the water level, this cave is the second largest in the world.
- The Ice Cave of Eisriesenwelt, Austria
Located in Austria near Salzburg, it is the largest ice cave in the world covering more than 42 kilometres.
- The Blue Cave, Croatia
This water cave is located on the island of Biševo in Croatia. Around 11 am and noon, the sunlight reflects on the white background of the sea and plunges the cave into blue light.