A Beginners Guide to Caving

There are many adventures you can take to make travelling more exciting. You can sample the exotic local cuisine, you can dive to explore a shipwreck, you can climb a mountain, or try activities that will get your heart pumping like skydiving, ziplining, or parasailing. There is another kind of adventure that is often overlooked by tourists, but exciting nevertheless and that is caving or spelunking. There is something thrilling about exploring in dark caverns to see stalactites and stalagmites. But just like other outdoor activities, caving is strenuous and at times perilous, hence you should observe safety measures to make it work. Are you interested to try caving for the first time? Here's a beginner's guide to guarantee a fun and secure exploration into the hallowed grounds.

Choose a Cave for Beginners

There are 4 types of caves: Solution Caves, Talus Caves, Ice Caves and Volcanic or Lava Caves. If you are doing this for the first time, choose Solution Caves, which is the most common type of cave. Its characteristics—wide variety of rock formations, spacious passages—make it fairly easy to navigate. Another clue is to find  caves that are frequented by tourists because they tend to be the ones that are simple to explore. These caves usually take no more than 2 hours to navigate and because they are popular with visitors, guided tours are often available. A good example of this is the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky USA. 

There are caves with unsophisticated tours, like those in Southeast Asia. It doesn't mean though that they are not ideal for the caving novice. The important thing is that you research about the cave before going and the Internet is a rich source of information.  You can also ask the local tourism office so you can make a more informed decision.

Wear Proper Attire

Caving is an outdoor activity that involves a lot of walking, climbing, sometimes even rappelling. Most caves are cool and draughty and oftentimes wet so it's best to wear clothes that provide insulation and/or are water resistant. Normally,  it's advised that you wear pants and long-sleeve shirts, or clothes made for active and wet conditions. Avoid wearing shorts or any type of clothing that exposes too much skin to avoid getting cut or scratched by jagged rocks. For footwear, wear non-slip closed shoes. Keep in mind that caves are usually muddy and rocky so plan your attire accordingly.

Wear a Helmet

Especially if you are going on a tour that provide equipment, protect your head from sharp and solid rocks and the low overhead of passageways by wearing a helmet or a hard hat. If you can get a helmet with a headlamp, all the better. Not only will you be able to protect your head, you will also have your own source of light inside the cave.

Bring a Flashlight

Sometimes you have to go with a group and you'd be lucky if you can get 2 or more guides. Caves are generally dark, so it's wise to bring your own flashlight instead of relying on the guide. You will find that it will be easier and much more enjoyable to explore if you don't have to always wait for someone to light your path.

Carry a First-Aid Kit

Sometimes, accidents happen no matter how careful you are. For safety measures,  bring a first-aid kit, one that is small enough to carry.  

Do not Cave Alone

No matter how adventurous you are, do not try caving alone. You can get lost even in caves that are deemed easy to explore. It is recommended that you go with at least two other people and make sure that one of them is an authorized guide or an experienced caver who knows exactly how to go in and out of that cave.

Know your Physical Limits

It is okay to challenge yourself, but if you think there is a hole you cannot enter, a rock formation that you cannot climb, or any physical activity that you cannot do, then do not force yourself. You want your caving experience to be fun, not life-threatening; make a conscious effort to ensure that you will complete the adventure without an accident or hurting yourself.

Do not touch the stalactites or the stalagmites

There is a standard caving protocol that forbids cavers to touch the stalagmites and stalactites. These formations took centuries to take shape, hence, people who are helping in their preservation are serious about the no-touch policy. Be a responsible caver and abide by the rules.

Lastly, Enjoy the Exploration

Caving can be such an enjoyable experience so take your time, listen to your guide, look around, and appreciate the beauty of nature.

About the Author

Marjorie Gavan is a writer by profession and by passion. She has a degree in B.S. Journalism and now has 15 years of writing and editing experience under her belt. She currently works as a knowledge specialist in an IT company in Quezon City, Philippines. She chronicles her travel adventures in her blog, Coffeehan.

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