Caving & Spelunking in the Philippines

Caving & Spelunking in the Philippines is dramatic & exotic, and some of the Philippines' caves are unique in all the World. There are literally thousands of caves in the Philippines still to be discovered, explored and studied.

To find out more about where go caving in the Philippines check out caving / potholing in the Philippines at the AllSports Philippines website - select CAVING from the slider menu for full details.

But an introduction to the caving jargon used here:
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  • Caving - (caving = the term originally used by Europeans) caving is an adventure sport similar to other adventure sports such as mountain climbing and river-kayaking (both of which you can also enjoy near most Philippine caving destinations); caving in the Philippines is a sport that demands some physical excursion, preparation and modest investment in caving equipment and protective clothing.
  • Speleology - speleology is a term used to describe caving by people who enjoy entering a cave with the objective of scientific understanding and analysis of what they find; speleologists in the Philippines love their caves and are dedicated and determined to protect as much as promote the caves they discover.
  • Spelunking - spelunking was once the American term for "caving" but recently spelunking has taken on a casual connotation: spelunking today is visiting a cave with no other interest than to say "been there, got the T-shirt"; if caves in the Philippines are for spelunking then there are probably T-shirt vendors around and no special skills are required to enjoy the cave's vista.
Spelunking has been a pass-time for tourists in the Philippines for a century but caving and speleology are new - only two decades old. As a result, and because of the expanse of the Philippine archipelago, current knowledge of documented caving destinations in the Philippines is limited.

Caving in the Northern Philippines

The Northern Philippines offers some excellent spelunking around the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Calao Cave complex, near PeƱablanca, Cagayan Valley, can be rewarding. Further up the Cagayan River Valley, beyond PeƱablanca, there are numerous limestone caves set into the steep valley sides: many caves here contain bat colonies and some are said to contain (or have contained) hordes of Yamashita's Gold . . . these caves are more suited to caving & speleology enthusiasts.

The Sierra Madre Mountains and much of the Cordilleras - the mountainous center of northern Luzon - provide untold opportunities for virgin cave systems yet to be explored by caving enthusiasts and speleologists.

Caving in the Central Philippines

Limestone caves abound in the hundreds of islands in the central Philippines and so many have yet to be fully explored. One of the largest cave system in the World and the Philippines' biggest cave formation - the Calbiga Cave system - is located on Samar Island. The almost 3,000 hectares of the Calbiga Cave system is a great destination of spelunking and caving.

Further West, on Palawan Island, is the famous Tabon Cave system, the home of earliest inhabitants of the Philippines - Tabon Man. The 200 plus caves within the Tabon Cave system were home to humankind at least 47,000 years ago; the Tabon Cave system is truly a speleology, archeology and anthropology rich destination. And not far away is the World's longest accessible underground river at the St. Paul's National Park; this 8.2 kilometer river cave system is one of the wonders of the natural World - a must for spelunking and caving enthusiasts. Other spelunking locations can be found on almost any of the islands of the central Philippines and some have been so popular that they are now degraded to the point of becoming dangerous to visitors - one such spelunking cave, on Panglao Island, is now permanently close to visitors, which is a great pity because when visited in 1990 the large chamber where the sea and the stream meet was very special. Adjacent to Panglao Island is Bohol Island, which claims to have more than 1,000 limestone caves, mostly unexplored.

Caving in the Southern Philippines

By far the best cave system destinations so far explored in the Philippines are found on the island of Mindanao. From Cagayan De Oro to Davao, Mindanao is prime territory for caving and speleology with scores of virgin cave systems to study and enjoy. Perhaps the best introductions are around Bukidnon (near Cagayan de Oro city) and around New Corella and Kapalong (near Davao City). Many of the caves here have served as homes for indigenous tribes over the centuries while others (especially around Kapalong) are virgin cave systems, new to Man.

Not far from New Corella, Kapalong and Davao City is Samal Island, where you can find the Monfort Bat Cave, interesting because it hosts the largest fruit bat colony in the World with an estimated fruit bat population of 1.8 million. Samal Island also offers some entertaining spelunking opportunities.

If you are a caving enthusiast or a budding speleologist then the caves around Kapalong (Sua-on, Laak, San Isidro and New Corella) will provide endless days, weeks and months (how much time do you have?) of interest and enjoyment. Fly to Davao International Airport and you are just a couple of hours drive from some of the most beautiful, almost virgin cave systems in the World.

More Philippine Caving Information

You can find more Philippine caving information in the MyCam-Asia Travel Forum Caving/Spelunking section. Or, review the caving stories in GetWet-Asia.

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