BONAIRE CAVES & KARST TOUR GUIDE COURSE

Four-day course (morning/afternoon classes) 29 h classes
One-day forum
Dates: 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th, 21st June 2019
Maximum student capacity: 12

The Island of Bonaire is rich in sinkholes and caves, many of them still unexplored. These natural beauties are, on one hand, invaluable reservoirs of natural resources, ecological interactions and ecosystem services; and on the other hand, a treasure of local traditions and cultural values. Contrasting with this privileged condition, caves and karst on the island are under constant threat, due to anthropogenic impacts (pollution, structural damage, rock extraction, vandalism, and disturbance of bat colonies, among others) and lack of protective legislation. They represent a natural and cultural resource in need of protection and a management plan for their sustainable use.

The aim of this course is to offer comprehensive training on cave tour guidance to tour operators with a license to operate as such on the Island of Bonaire. Topics include the caves and karst system of Bonaire, basic notions about their associated flora, fauna and ecology, caves and sinkholes in the Bonerian culture, cave guiding, cave safety, first aid, and a closing forum, in which the most relevant topics concerning the management of the new Bonaire Caves and Karst Park will be addressed. At the end of the course, students will be prepared to provide cave guidance under safe conditions, optimizing the use of caves as a recreational resource, and contributing to preserve their integrity and biodiversity. The Caribbean Speleological Society (CARIBSS) will grant certification as caves and karst tour guides upon full completion of the course. A key outcome of this training and forum will be the establishment of the Bonaire Cave Tour Guides Network, which will work in cooperation with the Public Entity Bonaire (OLB) to organize and coordinate the management of caves as recreational sites on the island and to generate the legal framework for their sustainable use and protection.

donated by the foundation Dieren Lot

The Bat Conservation Program for the ABC islands (PPRABC), a member of the Caribbean Speleological Society, received today a pick up truck donated by the foundation Dieren Lot. The truck will be used for work related to the conservation of bats and their habitats. This donation came in perfect timing for the Caves and Karst Nature Reserve project that the society is currently conducting. A huge thanks to Dieren Lot and all the people that made this possible!!

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Wet Caves of Bonaire: Faroa Cave

Faroa Cave is a special cave for sure. There are several reasons that reinforce this sense of uniqueness.
First, its remote location and really tricky access, with rough seas, no proper sea access points and severe restricted passages, had kept this cave hidden and unknown to the world.
Secondly, it treasures a few wonders in its entrails.

Faroa Cave has the honor to be the most important turtle cemetery of the island so far. There might be other undiscovered caves, but this one contains an invaluable amount of remains, including several gigantic and well preserved turtle skulls that rise many questions about their age.
The only current access to the cave is a tight no-mount restriction, way too narrow for a turtle that size to swim in. How did they get inside then? The most logical explanation is that there used to be another entrance that eventually collapsed. Collapses most likely happen when the caves are dry, in this case, several thousands years ago. Could that be that these skeletons are ancient? We don’t know.

The cave has also revealed unexpected surprises, like a species of brotula that have not been sighted in Bonaire before, and apparently seldom reported around the Antilles too.

Survey has not been completed yet. A temporary line has been set by CARIBSS members in order to ease the access and survey of the cave’s features.

*PLEASE note that these caves are not “open” to the general public. Further survey and research should be done, and visitors can severely compromise this process and their own safety.

Wet Caves of Bonaire: Pos di Wajaka

If you ever heard somebody saying that Bonaire is like a “Gruyere cheese”, you better believe it!

Most of the island is limestone, a soft sedimentary rock that is easily weathered by water courses. Rainfall, underground water and the sea itself can dig through it, creating a variety of geological formations and karst landscapes.

Pos di Wajaka is the biggest known inland wet cave there is in Bonaire (but not the longest). It was formed by a long dissolution process that shaped the limestone into a system of caves. These underground vaults eventually collapsed, widening the cave until it reached the surface, thus creating an entrance.

This is also the deepest known wet cave of Bonaire, with -38 meters at its deepest point.

Although its existence was known by geologists and topographists in the beginning of the 20th century, the cave remained unexplored and undocumented until  the 80s, when a the first team of cave divers  performed the first dives.

Other exploration teams followed ever since, making the first rough maps and  laying the exploration line that we can still see today. The cave is explored in its majority, with the exception of a couple of deep and very dangerous galleries.

Three layers of water are clearly noticeable: the first layer is fresh water, rich in tannic acid (0-6 meters approx.), followed by a thick layer of brackish water and hydrogen sulfide acid (6-12 meters approx.). The last layer (12-38 meters approx.) is essentially salt water. These layers can change after a rainy season.

The cave displays very spectacular but fragile decoration (except for the deeper sections) and serves as one of the few natural water wells for the animals that live in the area. Visitors might disrupt their behavior and deny the access to this precious water source.

*PLEASE note that these caves are not “open” to the general public. Further survey and research should be done, and visitors can severely compromise this process and their own safety.

 

Wet Caves of Bonaire: Morla’s Cave

Bonaire, being an island composed mainly of limestone rocks, shows a number of geological formations, caverns, karst ridges and caves among others. There is a number of reports and surveys of  the inland caves that can be found across the island, but there is little information about the undersea geological formations. This is mainly due the extremely complicated, and often dangerous, conditions of the water. Rough seas, high waves, surf and lack of sea access points or infrastructure makes regular surveys almost infeasible.
Specific equipment and formed professionals (such as cave and technical divers) are required as well, adding more obstacles towards the achievement of a consistent exploration endeavour.
Because this, the sea caves and caverns remain mostly unexplored, and definitely, undocumented.

Morla’s Cave is one of the most spectacular examples of what our waters hold. First documented by CARIBSS members, this huge cavern contains wonders that are unique to the island. Originally carved into the limestone walls when the sea level was lower, thousands of years ago, this cavern remained untouched for hundreds of years, telling us a story that can reveal how our island looked like long time ago.

The huge dome inside shows signs of former collapses, big boulders have fallen from the ceiling, widening the already huge space. We can tell that the cave was at least partially dry once, according to the flowstone formations carved onto some of the biggest boulders, most likely originated by the dripping water coming from the surf.

But there are more wonders inside. The cave is a huge turtle cementery. Ancient and modern turtles might have entered in the cave, lost direction and eventually drowned inside of it. The proof is the great amount of bones, including big skulls, that can be found littering the bottom. One particular big, and almost complete skeleton catches our eye, giving the name to the cave (Morla, the ancient turtle from “The Neverending story” book, by Michael Ende).

The natural relevance of these remains is yet to be clarified. Some of the bones seem modern, some other show clear signs of fossilization, and some other might be still buried in the sand. These remains are under research and may not be disturbed or loot in any way.

Other unexpected inhabitants can be seen, like lobsters, shrimps and brotulas.

CARIBSS divers have also laid a survey line in order to help with further research.

Pictures: Lars Bosman (misspelled in the pics) & Alejandro Gutierrez

Model: Yago Rodriguez

*PLEASE note that these caves are not “open” to the general public. Further survey and research should be done, and visitors can severely compromise this process.

Wet caves of Bonaire: Pos di Urugyan di Zuid

Pos di Urugyan di Zuid, also known as Pos di Kalbas or “The Mailbox” is one of the most extense cave systems in the island.

This is one of the best known wet caves in Bonaire. It has been dived extensively through the years, in many occasions with no proper training or equipment, causing irreparable damage to the cave formations.

Although it has been almost fully explored and mapped in the past by Pamela Werdath and Malin Kaijser (both members of CARIBSS), there are no good recent shots of this cave.

One of the goals of the Wet Cave Exploration Project regarding this cave is to document the most remarkable features contained in it and the damage caused to them in the past.
We hope, by our activity, to create awareness about the delicate situation of our underground cave systems and to preserve them for the generations to come.

*PLEASE note that these caves are not “open” to the general public. Further survey and research should be done, and visitors can severely compromise this process.

 

Photographer: Lars Bosman

Model: Yago Rodriguez

Over ons

 

 

CARIBSS is in 2016 opgericht op het eiland Bonaire, Caribisch Nederland, door een diverse groep van toegewijde professionals die een grote passie delen voor verschillende aspecten van grotten, waaronder exploratie, cultureel erfgoed, ecologie, geologie en recreatie.

ONZE VISIE

Ervoor zorg dragen dat de grotten in de Caraïben en het belang daarvan wordt erkend, gerespecteerd en beschermd door inwoners en bezoekers.

ONZE MISSIE

CARIBSS heeft tot doel om het Caraïbische grottenstelsel te exploreren, documenteren en te behouden, terwijl zij optimaal beheerd worden. Daarnaast willen we dienen als een forum waar allerlei verschillende organisaties of individuen terecht kunnen om informatie, projecten en initiatieven te delen.

De doelen van de vereniging zijn:

  • Het voor toekomstige generaties beschermen, behouden en herstellen van de natuurlijke, culturele, historische, esthetische, recreatieve en wetenschappelijke waarde die de grottenstelsels in de Caraïbische regio vertegenwoordigen.
  • Zeker stellen dat het behartigen van deze belangen, prioriteit krijgt in het proces van het openbaar bestuur.
  • Zeker stellen dat inwoners en bezoekers van het Caraïbisch gebied kwalitatief goede informatie en voorlichting krijgen over het belang en de bescherming  van de grotten.
  • Het bevorderen en zeker stellen dat de bronnen in deze grottenstelsels op een duurzame manier gebruikt worden.
  • Zeker stellen dat tijdens alle grot gerelateerde activiteiten, prioriteit gegeven wordt aan de veiligheid van mensen.

Acerca de nosotros

 

CARIBSS fue fundada en 2016 en la isla de Bonaire, Caribe Neerlandés, por un grupo de dedicados profesionales que comparten una gran pasión por el mundo de la espeleología, incluyendo exploración, patrimonio cultural, ecología, geología y recreación, entre otras.

NUESTRA VISIÓN

Garantizar que las cuevas del Caribe y sus recursos son reconocidos, respetados y protegidos por residentes y visitantes.

NUESTRA MISIÓN

Explorar, documentar y preservar las cuevas del Caribe para asegurar su óptima gestión, y servir como foro donde personas y entidades puedan compartir información, proyectos e iniciativas.

Los objetivos de la sociedad son:

  • Proteger, conservar y restaurar los recursos naturales, culturales, históricos, estéticos y recreativos presentes en las cuevas del Caribe para las generaciones venideras.
  • Garantizar que la conservación de estos recursos recibe prioridad en decisiones públicas y gubernamentales.
  • Garantizar que los residentes y visitantes del Caribe reciben educación de calidad e información suficiente sobre la importancia de la conservación de las cuevas y sus recursos.
  • Promover y asegurar el uso sostenible de los mismos.
  • Garantizar que la seguridad de las personas recibe prioridad en todas las actividades espeleológicas.

Bonaire Cave & Karst Recreational Park

DESCRIPTION
In order to guarantee the enjoyment and safety of visitors as well as the integrity of the caves, this project aims to create a cave park with proper trails to access cave entrances and signage including cave maps showing the different levels of difficulty, safety indications and highlighting cave values. It will be imperative that the infrastructure of the park does not affect the character of the caves and the natural surrounding areas.
COORDINATOR
Ruud Stelten                                                                                 ruud.stelten@caribss.org
TIMEFRAME
 From: August 2017          To:  December 2018
FUNDING STATUS
 Funds Approved.
FUNDERS
 Dutch Government
PARTNERS

 Dutch Government

Openbaar Lichaam Bonaire

WILDCONSCIENCE BV

GOALS

 >To create proper trails and signage to cave entrances,

>To create an adequate parking area,

>To explore and document the caves included in the park according to international safety standards,

>To identify and document natural resources contained in them,

>To have well guided and controlled visits to the caves,

>To identify and document their cultural and historical values.