Sunday, October 9, 2011

Caving in Samar

At the entrance to Lobo Cave, contemplating the impending doom that must lay inside.

Samar is home to the Philippines best caves. Although, because of popular Filipino superstitions and folklore, many of them still lay unexplored, locals fearing what unknown may be found inside. In Catbalogan on the west coast is a man named Joni Bonifacio who has been exploring the islands most remote and "mysterious" caves for most of his life. We meet with him at his shop, Trexplore, and we learn about one of the caves in the area named Lobo cave. The cave had only recently been explored in 2005, by Joni himself. Every few years Italian spelunkologists (cave scientist) visit Samar island to explore and map newly found caves. Joni is the man they come to, guiding them to the caves , Lobo being a more recent one, and assisting them in the mapping of the cave system.Visiting one of these "virgin" caves sounds entirely too tempting to resist so we make plans to meet the next morning to set off for Lobo cave.

Cozette searching for a route up the waterfall

One of several sections completely flooded.
We meet Joni at the shop where breakfast is waiting. After a short Jeepney ride and an hour long hike through a small village and past hillsides filled with pineapple, we arrive at the toothy entrance to the cave. We suit up in special brightly colored caving suits, donned our helmets and headlamps and enter. The cave is considered a "virgin cave" because it is still 100% natural. No mining, guano harvesting or tourism development has been done. It's my first time in such an untouched sanctuary. There are places we have to rock climb through small holes in the cave celing and floor, no ladders here or foot paths like the caves found back in the states. It isn't long before he makes us put on life vests and we we're wading, and then swimming, through narrow passages filled with water.We pause for lunch by an underground waterfall and enjoy a home cooked meal prepared by his wife. After lunch there is  more water and mud to crawl through. Parts of the cave wall and formations are covered in white sparkling calcite that glisten like diamonds in the rarely shown light. We spend some quality time with the resident cave dwellers; bats, blind crabs, and cave spiders. Eventually, after exploring the extent of the subterranean labyrinth, Joni leads us out of a secondary exit. We swim down a long tunnel, so perfectly shaped that it could be a set in an Indiana Jones film. Ducking under some stalactites, we finally see the blinding light pouring in from the cave's exit. We rise to the outer world and the warm, welcoming sunlight.
A blind cave spider, harmless, but ugly.
We ride in the canoe down river back to the road.

After changing and walking another short distance, we all get into a canoe and we are down river at the road shortly. The entire day Joni did an excellent job of photographing our experience and at the end of the day he gave us a CD with all of the pictures he took. We spent a total of 6 hours in the cave and as we say goodbye, Joni assures us that if we ever come back to Samar that there are many more caves to explore and adventure to be had.

All Photos by Joni Bonofacio. Learn more about his company, Trexplore - Click Here 

1 comment:

beverley said...

a spider on your face unbelievable
I cant believe that is you guys doing all that amazing stuff