Worlds Beneath The Hidden Wonders of Cuba’s Caves
By Odalys Buscarón, Photos: Courtesy of Cuban speleologists
Its tropical island setting, legends about hidden treasures and its unique and unspoiled biodiversity make Cuba an exotic destination par excellence.
Many of the island’s caves have already been well explored, but others located deep within mountain ranges have yet to be discovered and seduced into revealing their natural beauty and the intriguing formations created by water currents, humidity and time.
More than 60 percent of Cuba’s territorial platform is limestone, which results in an extraordinary wealth of underground cave systems. The world’s biggest known stalagmite is in the Martin Infierno Cave in the Escambray mountain range, in the central province of Sancti Spíritus.
But the western provinces of Pinar del Río and Matanzas are where the island’s most spectacular limestone beds and caves are to be found, as in the case of the Bella Mar system and its famous El Jarrito cave.
The Geda Cave, deep in the heart of Pinar del Río province’s Viñales Valley, also stands out for its extraordinary beauty. Along with Panal and El Jarrito in the Bella Mar system, Geda is unquestionably one of the country’s three most beautiful caves, hidden in the Silent Valley and surrounded by the stunning limestone mogote hills of Viñales, that rise to some 300 meters above sea level.
Because of its remarkable splendor, excellent state of preservation, natural treasures and fossil remains, the cave featured in a French-Cuban documentary about a speleologist’s view of the country’s unique natural heritage.
A Cuban ecologist described Geda Cave as “a true treasure trove for Cuban speleology and paleontology, due to its exuberant secondary formations and its large reserve of extraordinarily well preserved fossils.”
Illuminated calcite crystals, stalactites, stalagmites and columns enchant the eyes at first sight. Lakes, tunnels and “Geda Roses” — formations created by water dropping on a false floor — are some of the charms hidden in more than five kilometer deep underground galleries. Viñales cave systems Several of Cuba’s most stunning and expansive cave systems are to be found within what is known as the Silent Valley and surrounded by giant mogotes.
Speleologists have christened the western most province of Pinar del Río “the capital of Cuban limestone.”
It is where the country’s two largest cave systems are found, Palmarito with over 60 kilometers of underground caverns and Santo Tomás, “the prince” of Cuban caves, where the National Speleology Training Center is located.