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An online magazine about investing, living, working and relocating to the Caribbean.
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Caribbean Property Magazine, Real Estate, jobs, relocation, living and working Journey To Belize
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HIDDEN GEMS: CARIBBEAN CAVES, Part 1
by Anjali Wilde


My introduction to caving came about a few years ago while playing the word game scrabble with three of my friends. One player, Paul, formed the word speleology. There was an immediate protest by my playing partner demanding to know if this was really a word and what was the word meaning! Paul shared with us the word meant the sport of exploring caves. A dictionary search proved it was spelled correctly, but that he had given us the wrong meaning. Actually, speleology is the scientific study of caves and cave environments. Spelunking, potholing or caving is the recreational sport of exploring caves. 

Paul related that he would soon be going on his first caving expedition with his brother,  an experienced caver, joining him for a weekend to explore some famous caves in Puerto Rico. Paul promised to send  photos and stories of his adventures. A few weeks later I received his email accompanied by breathtaking photos of the Rio Camuy Caves in Puerto Rico.  Although intrigued, my skin crawled at the thought of bats, which are not the top species on my wish to view list. And to me, caves mean cold, cramped, claustrophobic conditions.

With each new email I could tell that Paul had become absolutely enthralled with the caving experience. His stories sounded scary, yet exotic and intriguing, which motivated me to get over my intimidation by learning more about caving and caves. The subject itself proved to be fascinating, and I soon discovered that the Caribbean has more to offer than sun, sand and palm trees – the Caribbean has some of the most fantastic caves and cave systems on earth.
 
About Caves

A cave is a natural underground void large enough for a human to enter. Some people suggest that the term cave should only apply to cavities that have some part that does not receive daylight; however, in popular usage, the term includes smaller spaces like sea caves, rock shelters, and grottos.
Caribbean Caves
Caves are found throughout the world, but only a portion of them have been explored and documented by cavers.

The distribution of documented cave systems is widely skewed toward countries where caving has been popular for many years (such as France, Italy, Australia, the UK, the United States, etc.).

As a result, explored caves are found widely in Europe, Asia, North America, and Oceania but are sparse in South America, Africa, and Antarctica.


This is a great generalization, as large expanses of North America and Asia contain no documented caves, whereas areas such as the Madagascar dry deciduous forests and parts of Brazil contain many documented caves.

As the world’s expanses of soluble bedrock are researched by cavers, the distribution of documented caves is likely to shift. For example, China, despite containing around half the world's exposed limestone - more than 1,000,000 square kilometers (390,000 sq mi) - has relatively few documented caves.


Throughout history, primitive peoples have made use of caves for shelter, burial, or as religious sites. Since items placed in caves are protected from the climate and scavenging animals, this means caves are an archaeological treasure house for learning about these people. Cave paintings are of particular interest. One example is the Great Cave of Niah, in Malaysia, which contains evidence of human habitation dating back 40,000 years.

Caves are frequently used today as sites for recreation. Caving, for example, is the popular sport of cave exploration. For the less adventurous, a number of the world's prettier and more accessible caves have been converted into show caves, where artificial lighting, floors, and other aids allow the casual visitor to experience the cave with minimal inconvenience. Caves have also been used for BASE jumping and cave diving.

And, interestingly, caves are also used for the preservation or aging of wine and cheese. The constant, slightly chilly temperature and high humidity that most caves possess makes them ideal for such uses.

Many cave environments are very fragile. Many speleothems can be damaged by even the slightest touch and some by impacts as slight as a breath.

Pollution is also of concern. Since water that flows through a cave eventually comes out in streams and rivers, any pollution may ultimately end up in someone's drinking water, and can even seriously affect the surface environment, as well. Even minor pollution such as dropping organic material can have a dramatic effect on the cave biota.

Cave-dwelling species are also very fragile, and often, a particular species found in a cave may live within that cave alone, and be found nowhere else in the world. Cave-dwelling species are accustomed to a near-constant climate of temperature and humidity, and any disturbance can be disruptive to the species' life cycles. Though cave wildlife may not always be immediately visible, it is typically nonetheless present in most caves.

Bats are one such fragile species of cave-dwelling animal. Despite their often frightening reputation in fiction and in the movies, bats generally have more to fear from humans than vice-versa. Bats can be beneficial to humans in many ways, especially through their important ecological role in reducing insect pest populations, and pollination of plant species.

Some cave passages may be marked with flagging tape or other indicators to show biologically, aesthetically, or archaeologically sensitive areas. Marked paths may show ways around notably fragile areas such as a pristine floor of sand or silt which may be thousands of years old, dating from the last time water flowed through the cave. Such deposits may easily be spoiled forever by a single misplaced step. Active formations such as flowstone can be similarly marred with a muddy footprint or handprint, and ancient human artifacts, such as fiber products, may even crumble to dust under the touch of any but the most careful archaeologist.

Types of Caves

The formation and development of caves is known as speleogenesis. Caves are formed by various geologic processes. These may involve a combination of chemical processes, erosion from water, tectonic forces, microorganisms, pressure, atmospheric influences, and even digging. Most caves are formed in limestone by dissolution.

Solutional caves may form anywhere with rock that is soluble, and are most prevalent in limestone, but can also form in other material, including chalk, dolomite, marble, granite, salt, sandstone, fossilized coral and gypsum. The largest and most abundant solutional caves are located in limestone.

Some caves are formed at the same time as the surrounding rock. These are sometimes called primary caves. Lava tubes are formed through volcanic activity and are the most common 'primary' caves. The lava flows downhill and the surface cools and solidifies. The hotter lava continues to flow under that crust, and if most of the liquid lava beneath the crust flows out, a hollow tube remains, thus forming a cavity. Blister caves are also formed through volcanic activity.

Sea caves are found along coasts around the world. A special case is littoral caves, which are formed by wave action in zones of weakness in sea cliffs. Often these weaknesses are faults, but they may also be dykes or bedding-plane contacts. Some wave-cut caves are now above sea level because of later uplift.

Glacier caves occur in ice and under glaciers and are formed by melting. They are also influenced by the very slow flow of the ice, which tends to close the caves again. (These are sometimes called ice caves, though this term is properly reserved for caves that contain year-round ice formations).
 
Cave Species

Bats, such as the Gray bat and Mexican Free-tailed Bat, are trogloxenes and are often found in caves; they forage outside of the caves. Some species of cave crickets are classified as trogloxenes, because they roost in caves by day and forage above ground at night.

Because of the fragile nature of the cave ecosystem, and the fact that cave regions tend to be isolated from one another, caves harbor a number of endangered species, such as the Tooth cave spider, Liphistiidae Liphistius trapdoor spider, and the Gray bat. Caves are visited by many surface-living animals, including humans. These are usually relatively short-lived incursions, due to the lack of light and sustenance.

Caving

The challenges of the sport depend on the cave being visited, but often include the negotiation of pitches, squeezes, and water (though actual cave diving is a separate sub-specialty undertaken only by very few cavers). Climbing or crawling is often necessary, and ropes are used extensively for safety of the negotiation of particularly steep or slippery passages.

VIRGIN CAVE SYSTEMS COMPRISE SOME OF THE LAST UNEXPLORED REGIONS ON EARTH

Caving is often undertaken for the enjoyment of the activity or for physical exercise, as well as original exploration, similar to mountaineering or diving. Physical or biological science is also an important goal for some cavers. Virgin cave systems comprise some of the last unexplored regions on Earth and much effort is put into trying to locate and enter them. In well-explored regions (such as most first-world countries), the most accessible caves have already been explored, and gaining access to new caves often requires digging or diving.
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Grupo Mariana

Where is Seaside Mariana?

The resort is situated on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, near the town of San Rafael Del Sur and approximately one hour from the capitol city of Managua.

 How do I get to the resort?It is approximately an hour’s drive from Managua’s modern international airport to Seaside Mariana via state roads. The planned Coastal Highway, which will become the major highway in the region, will enhance access when completed. Currently, a number of major airlines–including Delta, American, Taca Airlines and Continental–offer 60 flights weekly to Managua, with an average flight time from the United States of three hours...

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Caves have been explored out of necessity (for shelter from the elements or from enemies), out of curiosity or for mystical reasons for thousands of years. However, only in the last century or two has the activity developed into a sophisticated, athletic pastime.

In recent decades caving has changed considerably due to the availability of modern protective wear and equipment. It has recently come to be known as an "extreme sport" by some (though not commonly considered as such by its practitioners, who may dislike the term for its perceived connotation of disregard for safety).Many of the skills of caving can also be used in the nature activities of mine exploration and urban exploration.
Caribbean caves
Hard hats are worn to protect the head from bumps and falling rocks. The caver's primary light source is usually mounted on the helmet in order to keep the hands free. Electric lights are most common, with halogen lamps being standard and white LEDs as the new competing technology.
 
The type of clothes worn underground varies according to the environment of the cave being explored, and the local culture.

In cold caves, the caver may wear a warm base layer that retains its insulating properties when wet, such as a fleece ("furry") suit and/or polypropylene underwear, and an over suit of hard-wearing and/or waterproof material.

Lighter clothing may be worn in warm caves, particularly if the cave is dry, and in tropical caves thin polypropylene clothing is used, to provide some abrasion protection whilst remaining as cool as possible.

Wetsuits may be worn if the cave is particularly wet or involves stream passages. On the feet boots are worn - hiking-style boots in drier caves, or rubber boots with neoprene socks in wetter caves. Knee-pads (and sometimes elbow-pads) are popular for protecting joints during crawls. Depending on the nature of the cave, gloves are sometimes worn to protect the hands against abrasion and/or cold. In pristine areas and for restoration, clean over suits and powder-free, non-latex surgical gloves are used to protect the cave itself from contaminants.


Ropes are used for descending or ascending pitches or for protection. Ropes are usually rigged using bolts, slings, and carabiners. In some cases cavers may choose to bring and use a flexible metal ladder. In addition to the equipment already described, cavers frequently carry packs containing first-aid kits, emergency equipment, and food. During very long trips, it may be necessary to camp in the cave. This necessitates the caver carrying sleeping and cooking equipment.

CAVES CAN BE DANGEROUS PLACES

Caves can be dangerous places; hypothermia, falling, flooding, and physical exhaustion are the main risks. Rescuing people from underground is difficult and time-consuming, and requires special skills, training, and equipment. This said, caving is not necessarily a high-risk sport (especially if it does not involve difficult climbs or diving). As in all physical sports, knowing one's limitations is the key. Caving in teams of four helps to minimize risks.
Caribbean caves
CARIBBEAN CAVES

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico also has some of the most important caves in the west hemisphere. There are only two other places in the world where you will find a cave system as massive or dramatic as the Río Camuy Cave Park – and neither of them has a tropical underground river running through it! 


Tucked away in the lush northwest corner of Puerto Rico, about 50 miles west of San Juan, is the Rio Camuy Caves, one of the island's best kept secrets; The cave system, which gets its name from the 13-mile-long Camuy River, forms the third-largest cave system in the world. The process that created the caves started almost 160 million years ago when a great limestone plateau was thrust up from the Caribbean Sea to form the western half of the island.
Caribbean caves
Over the centuries, the caves have been home to indigenous peoples and millions of bats, but because of its remote location and rugged terrain, the cave system remained mostly undiscovered until the late 1940s. In fact it was not until an overcast morning in October 1958 that any modern day explorers decided to descend into the system of caves. Spelunkers world -wide are attracted to this large system and keep exploring these area which are not accessible to the general public.

TO VISIT THIS PRISTINE SITE IS TO BE TRANSPORTED TO ANOTHER, HIDDEN WORLD

If you take only one sightseeing trip in Puerto Rico, this should be it -  go to the Río Camuy Cave Park. This incredible 268-acre park is the site of the great subterranean caverns carved out by the Camuy River over one million years ago. The impeccably maintained trails gently descend 200 feet through a fern filled ravine to the yawning, cathedral-like caverns. The caves are home to a unique species of fish that is totally blind. To visit this pristine site is to be transported to another, hidden world.

Today, over 10 miles of caverns, 220 caves and 17 entrances to the Camuy cave system have been mapped between the surrounding towns of Hatillo, Camuy and Lares. As well two other systems have been discovered: the Sistema del Río Encantada, a 10-mile system that runs between the towns of Ciales, Florida and Manatí, and the Río Tanamá system.

This, however, is only a fraction of the entire system which many experts believe still holds another 800 caves. The 300-acre Camuy site contains 16 large caverns including Cueva Clara de Empalme Cave, a massive 180-foot-high cavern decorated with huge stalagmites and stalactites, that is 695 feet in length.


Caribbean caves
The Río Camuy runs underground for part of its course, forming the third largest subterranean river in the world and it is responsible for creating one of the largest cave systems on earth.  When the Camuy River vanishes into the Blue Hole near the town of Lares, it begins a subterranean journey through one of the most massive cave networks in the world. The river runs through a network of caves, canyons and sinkholes that have been cut through the limestone karst base in this region over the course of millions of years.

The caves were probably known to the Pre-Colombian Taíno indians and later to the local farmers but only came to the attention of spelologists in the 1950's.The Puerto Rico Land Administration developed and opened the area in 1987. Visiting the caves is like being transported to other dimension... there are fine examples of stalactites, stalagmites and, of course, plenty of bats. Close by you can find the Cueva del Infierno, on which 2,000 caves have been discovered; in them live 13 species of bat, the coquí, crickets, an arachnid called the "guavá", and other species.


If you are not an actual caver, that is okay. This is one of the best sites and tours in the Caribbean.  Put on your lamped helmet, buckle your life jacket, don your harness and now you're ready for a once in a lifetime caving experience. Only a specific number of visitors are allowed into the park each day. Visitor numbers are regulated by limiting the seats on the trolleys and the number of daily tours.

Caribbean caves
Inside the cave you'll thrill to the adventure of exploring its large chambers, traveling its subterranean rivers and wondering, perhaps with a touch of uneasiness, what's around the next corner.

Only a small part of the complex is open to the public, three crater-like sinkholes and two caves. But what a spectacular part it is! 

Visitors ride a trolley that descends into a sinkhole lined with dense tropical vegetation while a guide describes the sights. After a walk across ramps and bridges and through the dramatically illuminated, 170-foot high Cueva Clara, lined with beautiful tropical vegetation.

Another tram shuttles you to a platform overlooking the 400 foot deep Tres Pueblos Sinkhole. The walls are covered with petroglyphs carved by the ancient Tainos. You'll be awed at the cave's huge stalagmites and stalactites, and other strange formations developed over eons of calcite water drippings. Other geological marvels you'll encounter are the sparkling crystal clear pools and the abundant fossils of sea creatures that lived millions of years ago.


You are experiencing an adventure of a lifetime...

AUTHOR: Anjali Wilde poet, artist, writer was born in Africa, schooled in Europe and America, spent her young adult years in the Caribbean and refers to herself as a global gypsy. Anjali divides her time between her homes in the Caribbean and Mexico where she produces art work and writes for publications worldwide.
  Email : Anjali Wilde
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Rarely in the world of real estate does a unique opportunity such as this present itself.
6,208 acres of freehold land on the Caribbean white sand beaches of Nicaragua.

This property has 7,500 metres of unbroken Caribbean beachfront and totals over 6000 acres of natural undisturbed wildlife habitat, much of which is bounded by lagoon waters.

It doesnt get better than that!

The pale sand Caribbean beach contrasts with the green of the wild natural interior which reaches miles back to the lagoon. In this part of the lagoon are some of the best fishing grounds in the whole lagoon region. The place is redolent with history and the sound of nature.


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August 2008
Our fellow guests at the hotel are here to enjoy the extremes of nature--either down under (scuba divers) or high above (hikers). No one comes to Saba for the beach as there is no beach. Saba rises straight out of the sea and there just isn`t room for more than an occasional, temporary splash of sand. Moving around the island means a lot of walking--walking up, up, up ---> Read More
 
 
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Everyone knows that Bermuda offers world-class sports, golf and upscale hotels and cuisine. Bermuda also abounds in stunning, colorful scenery as well as soft pink sand beaches and vivid turquoise seas. But best of all, Bermuda has its own unique atmosphere featuring the riveting and sensuous sounds of nature’s symphony and the sea. ---> Read More
 
 
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Saba was created in a volcanic eruption. Saba’s history is one that stems from the sea that created its tough, resolute people…the ones that existed in the real Saba, the one that existed before rum punches or T-shirt shops. Saba was born of the violence of the sea and settled even though living there should have been impossible. It was a Saba of struggle, of faith. Its population survived because of and in spite of the sea. ---> Read More
 
 
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Saba is volcanic rock sticking out and up in the calm Caribbean Sea. As we flew in we seemed about 20 feet from crashing in to the ragged mountain wall, when the pilot quickly pivoted left and down toward the runway. The first feeling that came to mind was my relief that he had avoided a crash, and the next thought that followed was the question - this is a runway? ---> Read More
 
 
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