Sunday, February 18, 2018

Caving in Bonaire

"Is everyone comfortable entering here" Hans asked, showing us a very small hole in the ground and getting out his climbing rope. Hans is the founder of Outdoor Bonaire and was our guide for the morning.
We all looked at each other, and said "OK" at which point Hans stopped joking and showed us the true entrance to the cave just beyond where we were.

Bonaire is built on a limestone base and is riddled with caves below it. We were fortunate to be able to explore two of those caves, one of which was a wet cave, and one was dry. The caves form a very important part of the ecosystem here, in part because they house the only bats that pollinate some of the cacti, which in turn provides the water for the parakeets and parrots. 

It was a short rappel down into the cave, but it was the first time I had rappeled without being clipped in (or wearing a helmet). It took an adjustment to figure it out, and I think I made Hans a little nervous about my ability to do it because I was pausing to make sure I had my hands were positioned correctly and I would not go crashing to the cave floor. Once I had it figured out everything went smoothly and was over in an instant.

This spot of green exactly matched the shaft of light that entered the cave here and was the only algae in the cave.

We were joined on our tour by three people from Upstate New York who were vacationing on Bonaire for a week. They were very experienced cavers and were excited to experience what Bonaire had to offer.

Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. After everyone had rappelled into the cave we paused to strip down to our bathing suits and get out our masks and snorkels. We would not actually be swimming in the caves, but the masks were to see the beautiful formations underwater.

The water was crystal clear and we were given instructions as to how to place our feet so that we would not disturb the silt at the bottom of the cave. On our toes, no sliding of feet, feet directly up and then down. Hans warned us that if we clouded up the pools he would turn around and take us right back out. With these instructions we dutifully and carefully placed our feet and entered the next room.

The water was pleasantly cool and refreshing. 

In the third room we were told to sit with our backs by the wall. We were not allowed to swim through the caves due to the chances of stirring up the bottom or making contact with the delicate cave formations. We put on our masks and snorkels and watched underwater as Hans swam into the next room and illuminated the cave for us to see.

The water was a beautiful blue in the lights.

Hans then returned to where we were sitting. "We are now going to turn off our lights, " he said, "and the shrimp may come and clean our skin"

No sooner than he said that I felt a nibble on my hand. I have had my fingers cleaned by tiny cleaner shrimp while diving, and this was obviously a shrimp with a little more oomph to its bite. I could feel several shrimp on my hands, and then my back, and some of the bites were bordering on painful. I think Bob felt it the most when one of them chomped down on his nipple! It was hard to remain quiet and still with all the pin pick bites happening.

The next cave was a dry cave and unfortunately my camera was not cooperating so I have no pictures of it. This cave was a walk through cave, meaning that we entered in one opening and exited through another. Beautiful formations including brand new baby stalactites that would have crumbled at the slightest touch.

We thoroughly enjoyed getting to explore a different part of Bonaire. 

We love to hear your comments.

Jane said...

Had I been with you when the leader showed you that little hole in the ground, I would have run for the hills. Remember the caving in Nevada when the person at the desk asked us to crawl through the cinder block before we decided to go on the trip? That was the beginning and ending of my caving. You and Dad loved it as I recall. xxx Mom

Sarah said...

I have fond memories of crawling in that cave with Dad!