Crazy about caves

Tuesday, 8 April 2014 - 7:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

These beautiful structures make for an adventure that every traveller will love to experience

They make for one hell of an adventure and they are every photographer's delight. These faraway caves should definitely be on every traveller's wishlist.

Limestone Caves, Baratang Island Andaman

The limestone caves, full of splendid stalagmites, stalactites and pillar rocks, remain one of the favourite tourist destinations. The trek to reach the caves is adventurous. The limestone caves remain largely unexplored and it is a unique experience. These ancient caves are located about 50 minutes (by sea) away from Baratang Jetty. The boat journey through the heart of dense mangrove forest is breathtaking.

Hang Son Doong Cave, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam
Already existing for million years, it was only in 1991 when it was found by a local man in Vietnam. Son Doong is a Vietnamese word which means "Mountain River cave" since the cave also has a large, fast flowing underground river. The underground cave is poured with sunlight that pours through two huge entrances, allowing trees up to 50 meters tall to grow. It is currently the biggest cave in the world and located near the Vietnam-Laos border. The special thing about this cave is that, since it was discovered, only few people were able to navigate inside of it.

Mendenhall Ice Caves of Juneau, Alaska, United States

Mendenhall Glacier, which stretches 12 miles, is located in Mendenhall Valley, approximately another 12 miles from Juneau in the southeast area of the US state of Alaska. The mammoth glacier and its immediate landscape area is protected as the 5,815-acre Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, a federally-designated unit of the Tongass National Forest. The 19 kilometer long Mendenhall Glacier is an extraordinary delight for both adventurous seekers as well as photographers.

Marble Caves at General Carrera Lake, Patagonia (Argentina and Chile)

Carved into the Patagonian Andes, the Cuevas de Mármol are located on a peninsula of solid marble bordering Lake General Carrera, a remote glacial lake that spans the Chile-Argentina border. Formed by 6,000-plus years of waves washing up against calcium carbonate, the smooth, swirling blues of the cavern walls are a reflection of the lake's azure waters, which change in intensity and hue, depending on water levels and time of year. Located far from any road, the caves are accessible only by boat. Thirty minute tours are operated by a local company, weather and water as per the weather conditions.

Glowworm Caves, Waitomo, New Zealand

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves attraction is a cave at Waitomo on the North Island of New Zealand, known for its population of glowworms, Arachnocampa luminosa. This species is found exclusively in New Zealand. They are around the size of an average mosquito. This cave is part of the Waitomo Caves system that includes the Ruakuri Cave and the . The guided tour through the Waitomo Glowworm Caves brings the visitor through three different levels and begiAranui Cavens at the top level of the cave and the Catacombs. The second level is called the Banquet Chamber. The third and final level goes down into the Cathedral, demonstration platform, and the jetty. The tour concludes with a boat ride through the Glowworm Grotto. The boat takes the visitor onto the underground Waitomo River where the only light comes from the tiny glowworms creating a sky of living lights.

Fingal's Cave on the island of Staffa in Scotland

Fingal's Cave is a sea cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, part of a National Nature Reserve owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It became known as Fingal's Cave after the eponymous hero of an epic poem by 18th-century Scots poet-historian James Macpherson. It is formed entirely from hexagonally jointed basalt columns within a Paleocene lava flow, similar in structure to the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland and those of nearby Ulva. In all these cases, cooling on the upper and lower surfaces of the solidified lava resulted in contraction and fracturing, starting in a blocky tetragonal pattern and transitioning to a regular hexagonal fracture pattern with fractures perpendicular to the cooling surfaces. As cooling continued these cracks gradually extended toward the centre of the flow, forming the long hexagonal columns we see in the wave-eroded cross-section today. Similar hexagonal fracture patterns are found in desiccation cracks in mud where contraction is due to loss of water instead of cooling

Alaskan ice cave

Photographer Ron Gile, 55 knew he was walking on thin ice when he took stunning photographs inside an Alaskan ice cave that could collapse at any moment. With its dazzling turquoise walls and huge open spaces, it's hard to imagine that this incredible frozen cavern was only formed at the beginning of 2012. But despite its seemingly mystical allure, the fascinating natural phenomena is at risk of collapsing in on itself without warning. Photographed by Ron the adventurer has known many caves collapse and disappear in his eight years exploring the local area. After trekking across a two mile long frozen lake, Ron and a few friends descended into the underground chamber and used a red road flare to highlight the ethereal blue of their surroundings. Amazingly, the cavern is over 400 feet deep and at the back of the cave resides a moulon, a hole that leads straight up to the surface and is created by melting water pouring down to floor of the glacier. The intense colours are created by pure ice that is free of air, as the ice absorbs all colours of the light spectrum except for blue, the cave is lit up in a spectacular fashion.

Reed Flute Cave, China

The Reed Flute Cave is a landmark and tourist attraction in Guilin, Guangxi, China. It is a natural limestone cave with multicolored lighting and has been one of Guilin's most interesting attractions for over 1200 years. It is over 180 million years old. The cave got its name from the type of reed growing outside, which can be made into melodious flutes. Reed Flute Cave is filled with a large number of stalactites, stalagmites and rock formations in weird and wonderful shapes. Inside, there are more than 70 inscriptions written in ink, which can be dated back as far as 792 AD in the Tang Dynasty.

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