In a country with such a rich history and deep cultural heritage, we know caves to be either of historical significance (Ajanta and Ellora, Elephanta) or religious significance (Amarnath). But caving or spelunking takes on a different character as it involves simply exploring the caves and their networks. While it may not yet happen on a large scale, caving in India is certainly picking up and an increasing number of people are looking to it as a distraction from the everyday blues.
India has several great cave networks for people interested in caving, and many are yet to be discovered in their entirety. In terms of caving potential, Meghalaya takes the first place without question. There are over 1000 caves in Meghalaya, most of which are unexplored. The Jaintia Hills take precedence, as it is home to the longest cave in all of Asia. This is the Krem Kotsati-Umlawan cave, 21 km long. Adventurers with the stamina to go will love the Shnong Rim section of the hills, where you need to navigate through waist-deep water in some parts, and swim through others.
The Belum and Borra Caves in Andhra Pradesh are also fun to explore, as is the Kailash Cave in Chhattisgarh. Mizoram is another state with great caving potential, and Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri has its own marvelous caves to explore. These are the basalt stone caves that lie beneath the Ratnadurg Fort, and these caves are often frequented by tourists looking for adventure. Overall, there are a handful of options for you to explore, and the list will only get longer in the coming years.
However, keep in mind that we are still very much in the middle of a global pandemic. Travel to the closest state, and preferably within your own state if you have the option. Try to organize your trip such that you avoid public transportation as much as possible. Also ensure you check that the caving site you have in mind is open and functional, since some states may not allow adventure sports or activities just yet.
Caving is an activity that requires company, as it is usually done in groups. Crouching under walls, scaling steep slopes and navigating muddy paths isn’t something to be done alone. More so, caves are exciting, but can also be unpredictable and dangerous - you can easily lose track of your bearings and get lost in a maze of tunnels. Often, you’ll be connected to the rest of the groups by sturdy ropes for additional weight support should one of you suddenly slip and fall. Also, organizers will only take groups, which is why you should go with company.
Just like with scuba diving or trekking, going caving is best done when you have a group of professionals to lead you. This ensures that you won’t get lost, and that immediate help will be right there in the event of an emergency.
Unlike trekking, caving always requires some equipment or the other, no matter how easy the path. Ropes, harnesses, helmets, climbing gear and headlamps are just a handful of these. But unless you’re a seasoned caver, you won’t just have these things lying around the house. Call the organizers to ask them about their sanitization process for their equipment, and if possible, rent your own equipment so you can properly sanitize it all yourself before heading out.
Just like treks, caving has a range of difficulty, and can be attempted by both beginners and seasoned cavers alike. However, even the most basic caving requires certain health parameters to be met. You must have good stamina and be physically fit, since you will be walking, crawling, climbing and squeezing your way through narrow passages. People with physical disabilities or problems will have to check with the organizers whether they can go caving; some caves may be more easily accessible than others when combined with the right help and equipment.
Which Is The Largest Cave In India?
Meghalaya is home to the largest cave in India, which is the 31 km long Liat Prah cave system. The caves are predominantly limestone, and attract people from all over the world.
What Is Adventure Caving?
While caving sites attract cavers, locals and tourists alike, adventure caving is only left to seasoned cavers. These caves are rarely frequented by tourists, and usually have a much higher level of difficulty. Adventure caving often involves rappelling, swimming, and other physically demanding activities to navigate through the caves.
How Dangerous Is Caving?
When done carelessly, caving can be quite dangerous. You run several risks of illness, injury and accidents, like hypothermia, rockfall, exhaustion and drowning. This is why it is important to use the right gear and cave with someone experienced, so you can have fun while staying safe.
Which Is The Longest Cave In The World?
The Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, USA preserves the world’s longest cave. Mammoth Cave measures 652 km in length.
How Do I Start Caving?
As a beginner, it is important to go with a group, and with experienced cavers. Carry sources of light, food and water, and dress appropriately. Get in some light exercise to improve your fitness in the weeks leading up to the trip. Most importantly, protect the cave, and don’t get overexcited, as this can cause harm or injury to you or others.
What To Do If You Get Lost In A Cave?
Preparation before you enter is key; inform people of which cave you’ll be in and which entrance you will take. Try your hardest to stay calm, and start to ration out your food and water. Follow drafts of wind or natural light, and look out for signs of humans (crumbs of food, markings on the walls etc).
Is Spelunking Safe?
When done with the right people and the right gear, spelunking or caving is quite safe. Ensure you pick the right time of year as well, as caves can have high levels of water depending on the month, making them dangerous.
How Many Caves Are There In Meghalaya?
There are 1,580 caves and cave locations in Meghalaya as of March 2015, of which 980 caves have been fully or partially explored.
Are There Caving Organizers In India?
Yes, there are a few caving organizers in India, though not too many. Two prominent organizations that deal with caving are The Meghalaya Adventurers Association and Ratnadurga Mountaineers.