25.4670° N, 91.3662° E
Beyond Cherrapunji and Mawsynram, the wettest places on Earth, ahead of the breathtaking waterfalls, and past the mighty living root bridges along the southern part of the Shillong Plateau, lies a majestic world of caves offering unparalleled adventures to seekers. Meghalaya is home to over 1100 caves, of which many are still unexplored, and at least one cave visit is surely pinned on the itineraries of tourists who travel hither.
If you are on the lookout for a new form of outdoor activity, a trek-like trail with a sense of mystery thrown in for good measure (you never know what the next turn holds), or simply looking to test your fitness levels through an extreme sport, a Caving holiday is what you should consider. With the monsoon waning, it is time to gather your adventure robes, pack your bags, and get set for the experience of a lifetime. From the most-visited and beautifully illuminated Mawsmai Caves, to the longest natural caves of Krem Liat Prah and from the water filled Siju caves, home to many species of bats to the colourful chambers of Krem Umthloo, here’s what some of the best caving experiences in Meghalaya offer.
The awe-inspiring natural limestone caves near Cherrapunji are popular with nature lovers. Only a portion of this long cave remains accessible to tourists. Get past the gigantic entrance and embark upon an adventure which requires you to squeeze through at places, in order to move further into the darker depths of the cave. Besides the sun beams forcing their way through the narrow openings, the artificial lighting in the caves enables a better glimpse of the stalactite and stalagmite formations which take years to form as the water constantly drips through the roof of the cave. The glittering limestone inside the caves showcases another aspect of nature’s ethereal beauty altogether.
#DSSCTopTip: Wear a raincoat, carry energy bars, and bare minimum essentials as you will have to manoeuvre your way through the cave carrying these.
The magnificent natural wonder, Siju Caves proudly occupies a position among the longest caving systems in India. Located near the Napak Lake and Simsang River Game Reserve, it is sometimes called Dobbakol (meaning ‘bat’ in local language), owing to the presence of several bat species here. The 1 km long cave is rich in biodiversity and no human being has yet recorded having traversed to the end of the cave, which is full of complex paths and natural mazes. The remarkable stalactites and stalagmites stand above river passages of the tributaries of the Simsang River which forms the cave bed. Get ready for some gadget-free time as errant mobile networks may not let your phone buzz here.
#DSSCTopTip: Basic caving gear such as a torch, a head lamp, a change of clothes, and waterproof shoes or gum boots will prepare you better for the visit to Siju if you’re unassisted. It is, however, advisable to go with a guide if you don’t have prior experience in caving.
Krem Liat Prah
The longest natural cave in India stands at the Shnongrim Ridge in the Jaintia Hills with its length running a whopping 31 kms. When on an expedition to this cave, do take a moment to marvel at the enormous trunk passage referred to as The Aircraft Hangar, a unique feature of Krem Liat Prah. While navigating your way through the silence of the cave, a certain level of fitness and flexibility is essential as you’d be squeezing, wading, and crawling through the low ceilings and pools of water. Also gear up to face species such as bats, insects, and fishes in this stunning network of tunnels.
Providing one of the best caving adventures for beginners, Krem Umthloo can be approached via Tongseng village in Jaintia Hills. This striking river cave has beautiful formations and big stream passages that are an oasis of calm. Umthloo has numerous entrances of approximately 50-60 metre deep potholes and a dendritic pattern of stream cave passage that rises to Krem Ticha. The Titanic Hall Chamber of this cave has spellbinding bright coloured formations in hues of orange, red, black, grey, blue, green and white.
Waddle your way to get to the entrance of Krem Mawkhyrdop or make way to Krem Lymput with the boulders to its entrance covered by the forest. Pay homage at Krem Mawjymbuin whose female stalagmite formations give the impression of a Shiva Lingam, or the famed Titanic Hall chamber of Synrang-Pamiang, you are bound to keep coming back for more. The caves are aplenty and the quest has just begun.
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