Where to find the world's best caves.
Ok, so Kazumura Cavern is technically a lava tube and not a cave. But it's close enough for us, and the spelunkers that love this massive subterranean complex that honeycombs Hawaii's Big Island don't seem to quibble about definitions either. Lava flows created most of the caves hundreds of years ago while moving under the surface on the way out to sea. When the flows dried up and the tubes emptied, a fantastic system of lava caves remained. Underground, Kazumura spans more than 50 miles along the eastern flank of Kilauea, an active volcano to this day.
These caves are fragile in many places and the lava rock is extremely jagged. (In other words, watch where you step.) Spectacular hardened lava waterfalls in a rainbow of brown and orange are the hallmark of the caves. Skylights open up to the outside in many places and the tubes themselves rarely dip more than 60 feet below the surface. Though 50 miles of the passages have been mapped, that's only a fraction of the total subterranean acreage. A great way to see this natural wonder is with Kiluaea Caverns of Fire, a soft adventure outfit whose knowledgeable guides run tours through the caverns.
The Waitomo Glow Worm Caves offer folks one of the most unique cave adventures in the world. First, you abseil down a dark tiny hole. Next, you jump on a tube for a three hour black water rafting expedition through the dark rapids. Finally, you stare up at the cave ceiling and check out the star like glo worms. No not the Glo Wroms made in Pawtucket, Rhode Island back in the eighties, we are talking about the other glo worms of the larvae variety.
In any event, tramping through the Waitomo Caves is an extremely cool way to spend your day on New Zealand's North Island. Who knows, maybe sometime soon the dudes from Flight of the Concord's will sing about it--hope so. Until then, check out the map video of a Kiwi doing the cave dance with a splash.
Maybe this grotto doesn't come filled with women whose breasts double as flotation devices (a la the Playboy Mansion hideaway), but Lebanon's Jeita Grotto gives us something to worship other than impossible standards of beauty. Visitors who paddle through the water, under the soaring ceilings and beside the intricate rock formations of the limestone cave say they can feel God's presence. For centuries, humans have tried to recreate this kind of natural grandeur by building gothic cathedrals.
The site is located about 11 miles from Beirut, in the valley of Dog River, or Keserwan. It's a full-fledged tourist site, complete with an old-fashioned train, a petting zoo, an overpriced snack shack, and a theater continuously showing a 20-minute documentary about the formation of stalactites.
Despite the cheesiness outside, the caves maintain their beauty. The grotto consists of two sections. The Lower Gallery is submerged in water and accessible only by boat. It was discovered in 1836 and opened to the public in 1958. Visitors take cable cars up the mountain to the entrance to the Upper Gallery. Inside the cave is a crystallized structure resembling a castle. The whole place sounds very Middle-earth. We half expect Frodo and Gandalf to guide the tours.
Ok, so it's not exactly a hidden treasure. Since the time we visited when we were 15, Imax decided to make a movie that included Cenotes Park in Mexico. Why watch the film "Journey Into Amazing Caves" in HD on an enormous screen, when you can fly to the Yucatan and swim them yourself. Deep inside the park lie Dos Ojos (Two Eyes), twin caves filled with all the clear, fresh water, stalactites, and stalagmites for which one snorkeler could hope.
After diving deep into the underground waters, dodging bats and prehistoric fish, you can take to the air and be one with the tropical birds. The park now offers the Jungle Skycycle Adventure, where tourists pedal along zip lines from tree to tree.
[Photo Credit: Vivanatura]
What's a perfect way to spend a searing summer afternoon? In the cool bliss of a cave, of course. One of the best to check out is The Blue Grotto, in Capri, just off the southern coast of Italy.
Sunlight passes through an underwater cavity here and shines up (instead of down on) the seawater, illuminating it from below to a stunning blue hue. It actually looks electrified, trust us. Physically getting into the cave is an adventure in itself that requires a hike down a slope of slippery rock steps, and then hopping (just 2-3 peeps at a time) into rowboats. All passengers then lie down to slip into the cave's natural entrance. If you're lucky, you'll get a song-happy Italian boat rower who'll belt out tunes which echo throughout the cave for all the wince at, er, enjoy.
Keep in mind that visiting during adverse weather conditions is near to impossible, and appreciate the fact that the Blue Grotto remains clean and minimally banged up since being discovered in August 1826. Tip: If you head back after 5 PM when the boats depart you can swim for free!
· Blue Grotto Info [Wikipedia]