Spelunking, or the act of exploring a cave from within, has gained popularity as a recreational activity in the recent times. This was brought about by increasing awareness about the beauty of caves, particularly how caves were formed, the special rock and stone formations from within, and even the art works that prehistoric humans left in the caves.
There are different types of caves all around the world that you can explore. There are underground caves where streams or rivers run through. There are mountainous caves that may have possibly been human dwellings in the past. There are other types, both dry and wet. In these different instances, you might need different tools and equipment.
- Where to explore. The first thing to determine when caving is where exactly to go. The best places to start are caves near your vicinity, or even well known caving grounds. You can visit your local travel agency or the city tourism office for suggestions on where you can go spelunking. These days, you can even do a search on Google Maps for the best caving destinations nearby.
- Clothing and equipment. Depending on the type of cave you want to explore, you might want to dress for the occasion. Visiting caves in warm regions and climates might require you to wear athletic apparel in which your body can easily breathe. Some caves even feature underground streams and rivers, so you might want to bring along a swimsuit, or you may already wear clothes that easily dry out, in case you will be in for a splash. Caving in cooler regions would require you to wear heavy clothing like wool sweaters and jackets. Be sure to bring protective gear, too, like gloves, elbow and knee pads, and the like.
You would also need to bring equipment in your cave exploration. Hiking boots are a must, and you may need boots with spikes when you’re in high altitudes. A helmet with a built-in flashlight would also be beneficial, so you can have both hands free while exploring. You should also bring supplies like light food, water, and a trash bag. A safety rope is a must, especially when you expect to climb up and down slopes.
Don’t forget to bring extra batteries for your headlamp and even candles or a lamp and matches, in case of light failure. If you have handheld radios (FRS and GMRS radios would do well in this scenario), it might be a good idea to bring them along, just in case your exploring group will be separating into smaller teams. This is also good for communicating during emergencies.
- Buddy system. When exploring caves, it’s best to use a buddy system, so you can be sure of each other’s safety. Buddies should watch out for each other, and exploring teams should do a head count before and after entering a cave.
- Explore carefully. When you’re already inside a cave, be sure to explore carefully. There might be dangers lurking ahead, like loose rocks or even sharp, jagged rocks hanging from overhead. Some caves are also habitats of small animals like bats and snakes. And it’s not only animals that you should worry about, but also some plants, like poison ivy or thorny vines or bushes. You might also have to watch out if you’re feeling out of breath. Some caves might be air-locked, and you might find yourself running out of oxygen. If this is the case, then it’s best to find the exit as soon as possible.
Apart from watching out for yourself, you should also watch out not to disturb or damage plants and animals that might be living inside the caves. Caves can be natural habitats or hibernation places, and disturbing these might cause them to starve and die. Also, be wary of touching stones and rocks, as you might end up breaking these.
Cave exploring can be fun. But you should ensure your safety first. Be sure to bring the necessary equipment and safety gear, and observe the buddy system. Lastly, be sure not to disturb the cave-dwellers too much.