You’ll certainly have heard plenty about the natural wonders of many of the places you can visit on a cruise and in many cases, these are impossible to miss, especially when you’re surrounded by stunning forests and awesome mountain ranges. However, there’s some real beauty to be discovered right beneath your feet, deep underground. Here’s a look at some of the most spectacular caves you can explore on a cruise and where you can find them.
Caves of Drach, Mallorca
If you’re on a Mediterranean cruise which includes Palma de Mallorca as a port of call, then you’ll have a chance to explore this famous cave system, which actually comprises four interlinked caves – the White Cave, the Black Cave, Cave of Luis Salvador and the Cave of the French. The caves were formed by the Mediterranean Sea forcing its way into the rock and some researchers believe they could date back as much as 20 million years. We’ve French explorer Edouard Martel to thank for mapping the caves and indeed, the awesome underground lake which you’ll see when you visit is named after him. The caves’ stunning natural acoustics are put to good use when classical musicians perform underground during the finale of your tour.
Elephanta Caves, Mumbai
A number of Middle East and Far East cruises include the former Bombay on their itinerary and as well as being a fascinating city to explore in its own right, it offers a number of excursions, including one to nearby Elephanta Island, where these basalt rock caves can be found. A visit here isn’t really about stalagmites and stalactites, however, as they’re in fact a vast temple complex which is home to a stunning collection of rock-cut architecture which dates back to between the fifth and eight centuries. Interestingly, there’s still a lot of debate over who actual built the statues and pillars, though the caves contain both Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and were extensively rebuilt in the 1970’s after being neglected for years.
St Michael’s Cave, Gibraltar
I wasn’t 100 per cent accurate in my intro it seems, as these popular caves are not beneath your feet at all but 300 metres above sea level. If you’re Mediterranean cruise takes you to The Rock and caverns are your thing, then don’t miss this, the most visited of Gibraltar’s many caves. This limestone wonder is lit up with a colourful display which shows the many formations off to stunning effect and the crowning glory is the impressive auditorium, which is used as a concert hall and boasts an ancient fallen stalagmite. The lower cave area was only discovered in 1942 following blasting to create an alternative entrance, and if you’re a true enthusiast you can arrange an excursion of the lower St Michael’s Caves a couple of days in advance.
Harrison’s Cave, Barbados
If you’re docking at Bridgetown on your Caribbean cruise and you want to escape from the sun for a while, then you may want to head for Barbados’ most famous cave, which is only around nine miles away. The underground cave stream system is home to a number of caverns, crystal formations and waterfalls and interestingly, you explore it all by tram, from which you are allowed to disembark at certain points to get a closer look at the formations. Key sights include the appropriately-named Great Hall, which is over 100 feet tall and The Village, where a number of formations have joined together to form columns. Seasoned cavers should seek out an Eco Adventure Tour or a Walk-in Cave tour to get a closer look at some of the natural passages.
Crystal Cave, Belize
A bit of a caving excursion for the more adventurous, this one. If you find yourself in Belize City on your South America cruise, then you’ll have the opportunity to take part in one of the must-do excursions of the moment, cave tubing. Once in Crystal Cave, you’ll climb into a rubber tube (with helmet and life jacket provided) and explore the caves on an exhilarating water ride with only your fellow explorers’ headlamps to light the way. You will of course be accompanied by a guide, who’ll be there to help and you’ll leave your tubes for certain parts of the journey to get a close-up view of a number of ancient Mayan artifacts.
By Simon Brotherton