July 9, 2016
Caving (also traditionally known as spelunking in the United States and Canada and potholing in the United Kingdom and Ireland) is not for everyone especially if you are afraid of tight spaces, heights, darkness, creepy crawlies and the occasional bat. It is without doubt an exhilarating pastime for adventurers of all ages and done correctly it can be as safe as any other extreme sport. The best and safest route to getting the most out of caving and to ensure your safety and those that travel with you is to go with experienced cavers and pay close attention to what they do.
Listed here is a brief guide line of the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’of caving.
- Go with a group.Even if you’re experienced, you should alwaysgo caving with at least two other people. In an emergency, if someone were to become injured, one person could stay with the injured person while the other goes for help.
- It is advisable to go with a professional who’s been in that cave before, for both their knowledge of the cave and the local rules on trespass and ownership.
- Equip yourself.Being unprepared will make caving a miserable experience and in some cases, could mean the difference between life and death. Do remember guides and specialist tour groups will provide some of the items here and it is always worth checking in advance what they actually will provide.
- Wear a helmet with a headlamp. Use fresh batteries in it, and bring two extra water proof sources of light (also with fresh batteries). Cell phone backlights don’t count!
- Wear pants and long sleeves. (Do ensure these do not restrict your movements). Most caves are quite cool and Thailand’s caves are no different. This is more important if you’re going into a tight restrictive caves, study clothing will help keep your skin on you and not onto the cave walls and floors. Be aware that caves often have a lot of mud and “cave mud” doesn’t come out of clothes very well.
- If you’re going to be in tight spots (i.e., where you’ll need to do some squeezing, crawling, squirming, etc.) wear kneepads, elbow pads, and gloves as well.
- Wear non-slip, close-toed shoes
- Bring water, energy bars and a small first aid kit. When caving carry the minimum essentials and wear a streamlined waterproof bag.
- Look back.Caves often look very different in the opposite direction, so many inexperienced cavers get lost even if they’re very close to the entrance because they can’t recognize the passage from which they came. Periodically look behind you and take a mental snapshot of the environment so that you don’t get lost on your way back. If you need to mark your path, use brightly coloured flagging tape small pieces of reflective tape and take them with you when you leave the cave.
- Arrows that are scratched or painted on the walls should not be heeded – they’re usually wrong, and moreover, it’s considered vandalism.
- Don’t bring string, assuming it can guide you back to the opening. If the cave’s long enough to get lost in, then it will be far too much string to carry.
- Explore at your own risk.If you want to discover parts of the cave that haven’t been documented, make sure you know what you’re doing. New tunnels can lead to a slippery 100 foot drop and orloose rocks can cause you to be trapped. While one of the biggest thrills in caving is finding new routes, finding your-self stuck in an area no one else has explored may mean you become someone else’s big find.
- Leave the cave the way you found it.Don’t leave any permanent indications that you were there. In some cave’s, touching the natural structures can halt their development. This is part of the reason that wearing gloves is a good idea. Something to always remember “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories.”
All the pictures here are from John Spires – an Australian based here in Thailand. He has 30 years’ experience in cave exploration and has visited 85 caves, discovered incredible formations, documented prehistoric cave are, ancient underworld burial grounds, Buddhist temples and strange eyeless forms of life. See more of his pictures http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthpicturegalleries/9489825/Amazing-photographs-of-huge-cave-systems-in-Thailand.html?frame=2315904 John Spies / Barcroft Media
For more information on Caving in Thailand visit Martin Ellis brilliant web site: http://www.thailandcaves.shepton.org.uk/welcome and see his section on Caving Tours and Caving Guides in Thailand and the section ‘Thailand’s top 20’