My friend and I booked a trip to Puerto Rico. I wanted to relax on the beach; my friend wanted an adventure. With a little persuasion from her, we ended up on one of the most exciting excursions I could have ever imagined; caving through the Rio Cavernas Del Camuy Cave Systems (https://www.aventurastierraadentro.net/).
Caving is said to be one of the most challenging feats and involves navigating through rapidly moving rivers, maneuvering boulders, ascending and descending vertical rock formations, and in my case, avoiding bats and scorpion spiders, all in the absence of light.
“Never double unclip,” says our guide, Rossano. We put on our helmets and harnesses dressed with carabiners and rappel devices. We are briefed on all safety techniques before embarking on our adventure into the forest. Three ziplines and a 130 ft. rappel into the Angeles sinkhole to the cave entrance lie ahead.
We arrive at the first zipline. I step onto the platform, hook myself onto the line and lift my feet. In a few short seconds, I fly from one cliff to the next. We soar through the next two ziplines and make our way on the narrow edge of steep cliffs at the top of the sinkhole.
I begin my descent down the face of the cliff, legs dangling below me, gripping tightly on the rope as I push it inch by inch through the rappel device. Only 129 more feet to go! After a few feet, I realize I do not have to hold on for dear life as the rappel device makes it almost impossible to actually plummet to the ground like a mashed potato.
We reach the bottom of the sinkhole and I look around. What an incredible scene! It feels like I am standing at the bottom of a large well, completely surrounded by natural walls covered in thick green plants. We prepare for our journey into the dark by putting on our lifejackets and turning on our headlamps. Then we enter the underground world.
Just a few minutes into the cave we encounter our first underground river, about six feet wide. It’s moving fast and I can’t tell how difficult it will be to cross. I hold onto a rock formation as I step waist deep into the river and plant my feet into the muddy floor. I’m supposed to let go of the boulder, fling my upper body across to the other side of the river and grab another rock. If I miss, the current will carry me into the cave, and I’ll become a rescue mission. Success! I make it to the other side!
We continue maneuvering through the cave, climbing up and down rock formations, squeezing through crevices and wading through the rivers. We encountered bats, crabs, rats and spiders. The spiders were the size of my hand with legs as long as my fingers (you can imagine the joy I had about that). Every time I went to steady myself on a rock I made sure I wasn’t about to plop my hand down on top of one.
The guides set up a candle-lit lunch inside the cave during which they tell us all kinds of crazy stories – about how they have gotten trapped in the cave for hours because the rivers flooded and blocked the exits or how someone broke an ankle and had to be evacuated from the cave.
One of the biggest rushes I had was when we stood at the top of a 20-foot drop. Rossano instructed us to turn off our head lamps. We were going to take a plunge into the river below in pitch blackness! I hesitated at first; I couldn’t even see my hands in front of my face let alone where I would be landing. Finally, I took the leap of faith and splashed down into the water after the longest few seconds of my life. Wow! I had such a sense of triumph, it was truly an experience.
The final part of the adventure was a 300-foot elevation gain Via Ferrata, or the “Iron Path.” We were going to climb our way back out of the sinkhole. This part was definitely the most tiring since we had been on the move for hours but was still a blast. The climb was completely vertical. I slowly made my way up, unclipping and clipping my carabiners every few feet. A suspension bridge and one final zipline stand between us and the finish line. Our adventure went by so fast!
This undertaking was something I would have previously considered out of my comfort zone, but after finishing I couldn’t wait to sign up for more adrenaline-pumping activities. I was hooked!
This experience is high caliber and more suited for people with an active lifestyle but is definitely doable by anyone who has the right mentality. If you are looking for an activity that will change your life, this is it. I realized how capable I am of overcoming my fears and gained the confidence to conquer even more exciting adventures. If you ever find yourself in Puerto Rico, I highly recommend going on this cave adventure.