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Aripo Main Cave, Trinidad

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 10.7195 N 61.2442 W (mistake up to 200 m)
No:351        (list of all attractions)
Category:Caves, Ecosystems
Values:Biology, Geology
Rank:6
Address:North America, Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunapuna-Piarco, south from the summit of El Cerro del Aripo
Length:862 m
Depth:160 m

The largest and longest accessible cave system in Trinidad island is Aripo Main Cave.

Geology

Just like many other caves in this part of Trinidad, Aripo Main Cave has formed in Jurassic limestone. Cave is located at the foot of the tallest mountain in Trinidad - the 941 m tall El Cerro del Aripo. Walk to the cave takes a long, strenuous walk through the tropical forest.

This cave is impressive and spatious. The entrance is more than 10 m tall and passage goes below the Aripo stream. Cave itself contains a small stream with waterfalls.

Aripo Main Cave is adorned with numerous stalactites and stalagmites.

Swarming life in the darkness

Stay into this cave is rather creepy experience. The darkness of the cave is filled with deafening noise of its unique inhabitants - guacharos, countless bats and birds are flying around and the thick layer of putrid guano is teeming with insects (with incredibly long antennae which help to orientate in the darkness) and other invertebrates. Six insect species have been first described in this cave.

Cave is dangerous - guano at places is infested with Histoplasma capsulatum fungus which can infect lungs.

Several species of bats live in the cave - Glossophaga s. socrina, Anoura g. geoffroyi and the exotic vampire bat Desmodus r. rotundas.

The most famous inhabitant of the cave is guacharo (Steatornis caripensis) - the only fruit eating nocturnal bird in the world. Here, in the cave live some 150 of these rare birds, who have built their nests in the crevices of the walls and ceilings.

This unusual bird is both disgusting and exciting. It uses echolocation to orientate in the darkness. Guacharo contains lots of oil and local people hunted them for cooking oil, which sometimes was used as lighting too.

Map

See Aripo Main Cave on the map of Trinidad and Tobago!