Exploring Caves: Journey into the Earth’s Hidden Chambers

exploring-caves

Exploring caves can be exciting as there tends to be an air of mystery and adventure that surrounds caves. Depending on the type of cave and the purpose of exploration, this activity is known as caving, spelunking (in the United States and Canada), potholing (in the United Kingdom and Ireland) as a recreational activity of exploring wild caves (as opposed to show caves). It is also known as speleology which is the scientific exploration and study of the caves and its environment.  

Depending on how and where caves are formed, they can be classified into the following categories

  1. Solution Caves
  2. These are also known as Karst caves and are the most popular type of cave formation. These caves are formed due to a chemical reaction that occurs where groundwater erodes the rock slowly and after thousands of years it gaps in the rocks become large enough for a person to enter them and are then called caves. These caves are usually made up of two types of rocks- carbonates which include limestone, marble and dolomite and evaporites which comprises gypsum, anhydrite and halite.

  3. Lava Caves or Tubes
  4. These types of caves are found in volcanic terrains across the world and occur where fluid molten lava flows or flowed in the past. These different types of caves or tubes are formed after a volcanic eruption when the molten lava flows down the flanks of the volcano. As the outer surface cools and hardens it forms a tunnel or tube within which the molten lava still flows. Once the eruption stops and the lava drains out an empty tube/ tunnel is left behind. The remnants of the lava continue to drip within these tubes forming stalactites and stalagmites. These lava caves can either end up as a simple tube or a complex one with different levels and braided patterns.

  5. Sea or Littoral Caves
  6. As the name suggests, these caves are formed by the sea due to the erosion that occurs as the waves continuously beat on these huge cliff faces. The caves found along most coastlines around the world are called ‘sea caves’ and those that are found around rivers and lakes are called ‘littoral caves.These types of caves can be found both over and underwater, they are characterised by large openings and breadth taking views.

  7. Talus Caves
  8. To put it simply, Talus caves are formed when large boulders, rocks, stones collapse and pile up on each other at the base of a mountain slope. These caves are much smaller in length and width compared to the other cave formations. Technically speaking these are not real caves but spaces with “roofs”, forming small tunnels and hence named Talus caves.

  9. Eolian Caves
  10. These fascinating caves are found mostly in deserts and in regions that experience high wind speeds. The wind blasts against the dry cliffs and carries away small particles of sand and silt. Over long periods of time, cavities or cave-like structures are formed in the cliffs.

Glacial or Ice Caves

These types of caves are formed in glaciers and not in rock, however there are some caves that are formed in rock but they contain ice these are known as ‘ice caves. The process in which these caves are formed is similar, meaning, they are all formed by melting ice, it is the manner in which the ice melts and flows that creates the diversity in these cave formations. Some glaciers melt at the base creating streams of water that flow out the bottom of the glaciers, others melt at the surface and the water flows down through crevices or cracks. The glacial caves are the most unstable, their shapes and forms change annually. Global warming has led to the glaciers melting faster, has caused the collapse of some caves and the formation of new ones.

Now that we have learnt about the different types of caves and how caves are formed, here are some fun facts about caves for kids-

  • Caves are underground spaces often made by water, and sometimes by wind, lava, and even by man, this process occurs over very long periods of time.
  • The largest natural cave, Son Doong, is found in Vietnam.
  • Caves provide shelter to many animals and insects including Bats, and hibernating animals. They are homes to many unique species of animals not found anywhere else
  • The pointy structures found in some caves are called Stalactites and Stalagmites. The ones that hang from the roof are Stalactites and the ones projecting from the ground are stalagmites.
  • Some caves have rivers and lakes within them. (Just like you see in the movies.)
  • Caves have the ability to maintain their internal temperature all year round.
  • The study of caves is called speleology.
  • Caves were homes to ancient people who even made beautiful drawings on the walls

Caves offer a world of mystery and intrigue as you never know what you will find in a cave. Yet it can be a bit frightening for kids who are not used to the concept of caves.  Caves are dark, cool, moist and can be narrow at one point and very big and spacious at another, which in totality can be overwhelming for littles ones. You can ease your child into learning about caves with these few activities-

  • Read books and stories about caves – look at pictures of different caves, talk about its features. Talk about what you can see and find in caves.
  • Build a cave – use chairs cardboards. Pillows, large cartons, even bedsheets to create your own cave, get your child involved. Initially you can do this activity in the daytime but turn out the lights the natural daylight will provide enough illumination for first timers, next you can do the activity at night using headlamps and torches.
  • Cave Treasure hunt- you can do a treasure hunt, stick some pictures on the “walls”, randomly scatter blocks to imitate rocks, have some stuffed animals hidden around for your child to find and so on.
  • Research cave dwellers – whether it be ancient people or different birds, animals and insects, learn about how they lived, why the caves were useful for them, what you can find in caves and so on.
  • Have a cave playdate- invite a few friends over with their parents and let your child be a tour guide sharing all they know about caves.

Before you begin a full-fledged natural cave exploration with your kids and family, it might be better to begin with more mainstream, man-made rock cut caves. In India we are fortunate to have a huge plethora of these types of caves speckled all across the country. Many of them are centuries old and have astonishing architecture and very elaborate carvings, offering everything from history to spirituality. Many caves have been maintained by the Archaeological survey of India and quite a few have also been classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so with either a very nominal fee or free of charge you can safely explore these caves with your family. Do take a tour guide along if available as they provide a lot of historical and/or spiritual insights about the caves. 

Use this list and begin exploring these well renowned caves found across India. Doing a little research before visiting these caves will prepare you for what to expect and what you might need to carry along-

  • ➔    Ajanta and Ellora, Maharashtra
  • ➔    Elephanta Caves, Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • ➔    Badami, Karnataka
  • ➔    Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, Madhya Pradesh
  • ➔    Krem Liat Prah, Meghalaya
  • ➔    Mawsmai Caves, Cherrapunjee
  • ➔    Krem Kotsati Cave, Meghalaya
  • ➔    Nellitheertha, Karnataka
  • ➔    Kailash and Kotumsar Caves, Chhattisgarh
  • ➔    Jogimara Caves, Chhattisgarh
  • ➔    Pataleshwar Caves, Pune
  • ➔    Sittanavasal Caves, Tamil Nadu
  • ➔    Koteshwar Caves, Uttarakhand
  • ➔    Patal Bhubaneswar Caves, Uttarakhand
  • ➔    Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh
  • ➔    Borra Caves, Andhra Pradesh
  • ➔    Undavalli and Mogalarajapuram, Andhra Pradesh
  • ➔    Udayagiri caves, Odisha
  • ➔    Khandagiri Caves, Odisha
  • ➔    Tabo, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
  • ➔    Mahavatar Babaji Cave, Dunagiri, Uttarakhand
  • ➔    Cave Temples in Jammu and Kashmir
  • ➔    Rock Fort Temple and Pallava Caves, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu
  • ➔    Naida Caves, Diu
  • ➔    Barabar Hill Caves, Bihar
  • ➔    Dungeshwari Cave Temples, Bihar
  • ➔    Karla Caves, Lonavala, Maharashtra
  • ➔    Kanheri Caves, Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • ➔    Varaha Cave, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
  • ➔    Narlai Village, Rajasthan
  • ➔    Mahakal Cave, Jayanti, West Bengal
  • ➔    Bagh Caves, Madhya Pradesh

With this exhaustive list of caves each unique and famous in its own right, you can begin your exploration and develop a love for caves in your children from a very young age. Most of these caves are tourist friendly, have proper stairs and walkways, even places for you to sit and take a break.

At EuroKids, we believe that children learn best through exploration and hands-on learning and hence they are given ample opportunities throughout the day to explore and self-learn. Concepts are taught and as far as possible using a variety of visual aids to help children remember and learn.