Indiana Jones. Ethan Hunt. Lara Croft. You’ve seen these daredevils rappel down from insane heights, explore mysterious caverns, and overcome insurmountable challenges. Your adrenaline shoots up just by watching them in action.
Well, let me tell you that you can definitely be just as adventurous. Better yet, you can try something even these action stars haven’t done yet–like explore the crystal kingdom of Central Cave in Catbalogan, Samar!
If that sounds a little too daunting, you don’t have to worry because the adventure is guided and supervised by Joni Abesamis of Trexplore the Adventures.
Our team woke up early at 6 AM, showered, and ate a huge breakfast prepared by Joni’s family. We were bursting with excitement but were quite worried about the weather. At that time in the morning, the sun should have already been lighting up the city. But what greeted us when we went outside was a gray sky accentuated by thick and ominous nimbus clouds. Claps of thunder boomed overhead as if the gods were playing bowling up in the clouds.
Nevertheless, Joni assured us that the cave was in no danger of flooding even in the midst of bad weather. As a cave master, he knows these caves like the back of his hand, so we were totally reassured by his confidence. We loaded our caving equipment on a motorella and headed off to nearby Barangay Andres where Joni’s porters were waiting for us.
Getting to the Cave
No sooner after we alighted from the motorella that rain started pouring down from the skies. Although it wasn’t as heavy as we expected to be, we got totally drenched as we hiked to the mouth of Central Cave. But we chose to see the rain as a refreshing shower because walking on the exposed trail under the full power of the sun would have been torturous.
Getting to the mouth of the cave involved an arduous trek through the cliff above the mighty Bangon Falls, a site for canyoning and is actually another adventure offered by Trexplore. Then we had to make our way through an expanse of thick foliage along a barely discernable trail. After climbing a tall hill surrounded by moss-covered slippery rocks, we finally arrived at the entrance to Central Cave. The trek, which was an adventure in itself, took us 3 long hours of walking along rolling, wet, and slippery terrain. No wonder we devoured our heavy lunch quickly.
The entrance to Central Cave is an unassuming dark hole surrounded by thick foliage, wet rocks, and a bench made of bamboo and tree branches. To get inside the cave, we needed to rappel down 70 feet to the cave floor. There’s no safe way to get inside the cave other than going down a rope using technical climbing equipment.
It is important to note that using technical gear and rigging the rope correctly are a must. A few decades ago, using only forest vines, a local went down Central Cave to hunt for birds’ nests. The descent went well, but it was during the exhausting ascent that trouble began. His muscles screamed with pain, and his grip threatened to come loose due to sheer exhaustion. If he had let go of the vine, he would have fallen onto the sharp rocks far below. He was very lucky to have left the cave alive.
Anyway, one by one, we rappelled down the dark hollow dome that formed the shell of the mountain. Once we were standing on the cave floor, our tour of this amazing underworld began.
Inside the Cave’s Chambers
Joni led us to chambers made of crystallized rock. The strange and magnificent formations were like curtains, pillars, and columns covered in glittery hardened ice cream. These are untouched speleothems, geological formations created by the interaction between rainwater and calcium carbonate.
Central Cave is a silent underground kingdom made of almost completely intact crystals. The difficulty of entering the cave without proper equipment means that only very few humans have ever set foot inside it. As such, these rare rock formations are perfectly preserved, living and dying in their own natural way.
Numerous stalactites adorned the entirety of the cave’s roof. The possibility of one falling to the ground was very real, so we wore sturdy helmets. The stalagmites that rose up from the floor looked like the audience in a movie house, the gypsum crystals in them sparkling like fireflies as we shone our headlamps on them.
Joni motioned us over to one corner of a room. He then gestured to a geological process in the making. A drop of water stubbornly hung from the very tip of a crystalline stalactite, less than a centimeter from the tip of a stalagmite! While it may look clear, that drop of water contained microscopic deposits. Those deposits will accumulate over many years until a thin, fragile crystal formation connects the two points. The result will be a newborn column, which will become thicker with age.
Joni led us to another chamber of fresh, untouched stalagmites. He explained that in more accessible caves, rock formations like these are harvested and sold as house decorations to the rich. Such a sad ending to a splendid formation that took Mother Nature thousands or even millions of years to create.
There were more weird rock formations as we explored the passageways and chambers. For example, there were delicate helictites that looked like tiny multi-branched icicles stuck on the walls. There were also fragile, paper thin beacons so translucent that our headlamps shone right through them, as well as shallow-gradient rimstone dams that looked like rivers frozen in time.
Another feature inside Central Cave is the Twin Stalagmites. Two huge 25-foot crystalline stalagmites that look like unmoving sentinels guarding the gateway to another realm. It felt really eerie standing between them.
After over four hours of touring Central Cave, it was time to get back to daylight. We climbed a rocky hill, the remains of an ancient rockfall, to where our climbing equipment lay. Using an ascender and a croll, we inched our way up the rope. Should we had gotten tired from the push-and-pull ascending action, we could have simply let go of the ascender. The ascender and croll locks onto the rope, allowing the climber to sit on the harness and recover their strength. Finally, we climbed over the entrance of the cave towards the waiting hands of the porters.
An adventure of a lifetime and a rarely-seen crystalline world awaits you at Central Cave. Be your own action and adventure hero and be amazed by one of the best-kept secrets of our country.
In an alien environment like caves, accidents can easily happen! Rescue is difficult and sometimes, impossible. To lessen the chances of accidents happening, always follow the right caving protocols.
- 1. Be aware of your own capabilities and limitations.
- 2. Give a person who is close to you your itinerary, estimated schedules, and emergency numbers.
- 3. Never go caving without an experienced and skilled guide.
- 4. Never go caving alone. Do not separate from the group.
- 5. Watch your step and check if handholds are firm.
- 6. Never swim unaided. Do not swim underwater to explore a tunnel.
- 7. Do not remove your personal safety equipment without the instruction of the guide.
- 8. Use the safety gears and lines that the guide provides.
- 9. Always inform the guide if you have problems with your equipment, if you feel sick, or if you are having a difficult time overcoming an obstacle.
- 10. Your guide will bring safety equipment and emergency supplies. However, it is a good practice to bring your own such as an extra waterproof headlamp, flashlight, first-aid kit, and personal medication.
Take a flight from Manila to Tacloban. Once you arrive in Tacloban, ride a tricycle or taxi to the bus station. From there, you can ride a van or bus that will take you to Catbalogan. Do book with Joni in advance so that he can fetch you when you arrive in Catbalogan.
Joni Abesamis Bonifacio of Trexplore the Adventures is the guy to approach if you want to visit Lobo Cave and other caves of Samar. Trained by top Italian and French speleologists, he is an extremely skilled and experienced cave master. For caving guideship services, contact Joni using the following details:
Mailing Address: Abesamis Store, Allen Ave., Catbalogan City, Samar, Philippines 6700
Cellphone Number: +63 919 294 38 65 / +63 927 675 00 62
Landline: +63 55 251 23 01
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Website: Trexplore the Adventures
Trexplore Facebook Page: Trexplore the Adventures