Friday, March 4, 2011

Travel Photo of the Day: Guácharo Cave, Caripe, Venezuela

In Parque Nacional Cueva del Guácharo (Guácharo Cave National Park) near the town of Caripe, Venezuela, lies one of the country's most interesting geological structures and its first national monument, the Guácharo Cave. The limestone cave is one of the longest in Venezuela, at 6.38 miles (10.3 kilometers) and is considered to be one of the most complete cave ecosytems on earth. Even though is was "discovered" by German explorers in the 18th century, the cave had in fact been used by indigenous communties for thousands of years.

Luis and I visited the cave in November 2007 and spent the day exploring the tunnels, caverns, stalactitesstalagmites, strange rock formations and the colonies of guácharos or oilbirds, for which the cave is named, the only nocturnal bird in the world that feeds on fruit. A spectacular sight in the evenings is to watch the birds flock out of the cave in huge numbers in search of food. The birds are far from the only residents of the cave: bats, mice, woodlice, crickets, millipedes, fish and crabs all feast on the dropped, germinated fruit seeds that the birds drop.

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