It's the Summer of Adventure and it's time to go exploring! We've compiled some incredible cave facts to make your mouth water for cave exploring fun! There are crystal caves, salt caves, ice caves, treasure caves - it's more than just a hole in the ground!
Want to go Spelunking?
You heard me! Spelunking is the word for cave exploring! Caves are deep, underground spaces that have formed natrually in the ground. To explore a cave, you'll need several essentials, including: torch, raincoat, sturdy boots, a snack, your phone, gloves, notebook and camera. Good luck!
The largest cave in the world
Son Doong in Vietnam is thought to be the largest cave in the world - at least by volume. It has an internal river flowing through it, waterfalls, bats, and even another cave inside it! Remember to bring your canoe!
The deepest cave in the world
The deepest cave in the world is thought to be Veryovkina Cave in Georgia, a country between Europe and Asia. It's 2,212 metres deep, and people have died exploring it! So maybe give this one a miss?
Caves have often been amazing places to find ancient art, such as the Lascaux paintings in France, which show Palaeolithic images of animals and people, or the Magura cave paintings in Bulgaria, which show lots of figures that may have been painted as far back as 10,000 years ago! Some important rules to remember when looking at cave paintings: don't use the flash on your camera, as it can damage them, and definitely don't touch!
Stalactites or stalagmites?
It's sometimes confusing - which is which? Well, stalagmites are upwards pointing mound of mineral deposits, while a stalactite is a hanging formation created by drips of mineralised water. Just look out for them and make sure they don't hit you. This might help: stalaCtites hold TIGHT to the CEILING, stalaGmites stay GROUNDED. Helpful? No? Look, just watch out, ok?!
Cool cave crabs
Caves arent just cool to look at, they're also home to some amazing animals. In caves in the Canary Islands, for example, there is a special species of white crab that doesn't live anywhere else! The reason they're white is because they've never been exposed to sunlight! To be fair, you'd be pretty pale too if you'd never seen the sun! Don't frighten them when you visit, just look and make a note of how cool they are!
By far the most dangerous type of cave is an underwater cave - not only are they deep underground, they're also deep underwater, meaning if you get stuck, it's hard to get out! If you MUST insist on cave diving, make sure to bring a big oxygen tank and a buddy!
Man made caves
Man made caves are sometimes called grottos - in georgian and victorian Britain, rich people would often build these caves in their gardens to make them look a bit more interesting - they would sometimes even pay an old man to live in them, like a hermit! Bet you couldn't get your parents to pay you to live in the garden! Some grottos you can visit in the UK include the Shell Grotto in Margate, the Grotto in Pontypool, Wales, and The Hermitage at Carshalton House in London
Some of the most spectacular caves are crystal caves - caves filled with sparkling precoius and semi-precious stones, jewels, and even sometimes gold! They can take millions of years to form, and some of them are HUGE! Some of the most famous crystal caves include Cave of the Crystals in Mexico, which contains giant crystals three times as big as a man! Bring a gemstone guide so you can identify the crystals you see!
It's no surprise that on exploring a cave you might find some treasure. One such cave is the Old Spanish Treasure Cave in Arkansas, USA. Legend has it that Spanish explorers left treasure in the cave hundreds of years ago, and although nothing has been found yet, people still visit it every year to have a look! If you're going to look for treasure, remember to bring a metal detector, a camera and a trowel for digging. Good luck!
If you want a really magical experience, you can't go wrong with the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland. These salt mines have been transformed into rooms, caves, grottos and even a chapel all made entirely from salt! The mines have been operating for 100s of years, and it that time statues, rooms and even chandeliers have been created just from the salt mined there! Just don't lick it if you're there...it probably won't taste very nice.
Caves have been part of stories and legends for centuries, and it's no wonder that some religions regard them as holy places of miracles and wonder. Some of the most famous holy caves include St. Paul’s Grotto in Malta, St Michael's shrine in Italy, and Dambulla Cave in Sri Lanka. If you explore a holy cave, remember to be respectful!
The good news is you don't have to go far to find a cool cave! In the UK there are dozens of great caves to explore, including Wooky Hole in Somerset, Fingal's Cave in Scotland (Which inspired composer Mendelsohn) and the caves at Cheddar Gorge. Remember to bring a torch, a notebook, sturdy shoes and a raincoat - it can get a bit drippy down there!
Not all caves are made of rock - in fact some are made completely of ice! Ice caves can look really beautiful because they reflect light instead of swallowing it, creating cool patterns. Some of the most amazing ice caves include Dobšinská Ice Cave, Dobšiná, Slovakia, and Big Four Ice Caves, Mount Rainier, USA. But be careful! Ice caves are prone to avalanches and other snow dangers!
The good news for any explorers out there is that there are still thousands of undiscovered caves all over the world! Who knows, you could be the one to discover the next cool cave! Good luck!