There’s no better way to bring out your inner adventurer than with a trip in a chartered jet to some of the greatest caves in the world. As you crawl, duck, climb and squeeze your way through tight passages, you’ll find that every corner has something new to discover—canyons, waterfalls, streams, bodies of water, and animals. When going on a spelunking holiday, know your limits, bring a buddy and don’t skimp on the gear. You’ll at least need a helmet, comfortable boots and clothes, headlamps, extra batteries, food and water, and a first-aid kit. Bring a camera, too, to capture the awesome memories you’ll make.
The Coolest Places to Explore the Underworld
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Perfect for novice spelunkers, Mammoth Cave is one of the most accessible and impressive grottos in the United States. With a nearly-350-mile stretch, it’s also the longest cave in the world. Inside, you’ll find miles of tunnels, interesting chambers, and wildlife, such as blind cave fish. The National Park Service offers non-strenuous tours for beginners that serve as a great introduction to spelunking. Traditional ranger-guided tours to different parts of the cave are also available.
Barton Creek Cave, Belize
An archaeological site and tourist destination in Central America, ancient Mayans once thought the Barton Creek Cave was the location of the underworld and used it as a burial site. Archaeologists continue to discover artifacts today. Experience the site’s unique history and spectacular rock formations with a guided kayak tour or canoe cruise through the spectacular domed chambers.
Phong Nha Cave, Vietnam
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Phong Nha Cave in central Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park has 14 water grottoes almost 300 caves, but spelunkers have only explored a small fraction of them. Even though the cave system is vast, visitors may only explore the first mile of the tunnels. Within the 7,729-meter-long cavern, you’ll find a 13,969-meter underground river, an underground lake, a wide dry cave, sandbanks, reefs, and rock formations named after different animals.
Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia
The best way to access the four “show” caves and karst formations in remote Gunung Mulu National Park is to charter a flight to Mulu Airport. The park is in a protected rainforest and offers guided tours to the recently discovered, largest known natural chamber room in the world, the Sarawak Chamber in Gua Nasib Bagus (Good Luck Cave). The chamber is 2,300 feet long, 1,299 feet wide and at least 230 feet high—large enough to fit 40 Boeing 747s without overlapping their wings. Before entering the cave, you must secure a permit. It is important to note that the trek into the Sarawak Chamber is one of the most demanding and toughest underground tours available.
Cango Caves, Western Cape, South Africa
Located in the foothills of Swartberg, the Cango Caves are some of the most impressive and accessible caverns in the African continent. The subterranean attraction features large chambers filled with towering stalagmites and speleothems. Of interest to archaeological buffs are paintings on cave walls and artifacts that suggest the cave was used during the Middle and Later Stone Ages. Making exploring the system simpler for visitors are illuminated pathways and an underground visitor’s center. The cave’s Standard Tour is ideal for those who prefer to stand upright. The Adventure Tour is great for those who want to explore a little further and don’t mind doing some climbing and crawling.