Posts Tagged ‘caves in the philippines’

The 6th Casili Spring Exploration was adjourned. We packed-off our stuff  and headed back to Balamban town proper to lunch on some liempo. We ate quickly as we had another hour or so of driving along the coast heading north to Tabuelan. Niel reported that Gumbang spring feeds the water needs of the barrio folks. It flows from a cave with a pool and has an entrance big enough to allow exploration.

Doc was on the wheel to stave off his carsickness brought on by the twisting and turning coastal and mountain hi-way. On the passenger side, I welcomed the scenic route to Tabuelan.

It was on a quiet mountain road overlooking a shallow, spring water pool with folks doing their laundry where Niel said we’ve reached our destination.

Tabuelan

We got off the truck and Niel led us to a path above and behind the shallow pool. He said the entrance to the cave is located beneath the concrete well.

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Our excitement increased and we scrambled down the well to see what’s in there.

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The air was thin inside the area but the cave was a beauty and certainly ripe for exploration.

We went back to the truck to find the closest barangay hall to inform the local officials of our intentions to explore the site. After getting directions from a local, we found ourselves driving on a narrow dirt path towards  a hilly area. Not sure where the path will lead us, and what is at the end of it, we started talking about the t.v show “Twilight Zone” and the strange possibilities that might be waiting for us.

You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!

You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!

Fantasies notwithstanding, we found the pretty Barangay Bongon at the end of the path.

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With century old Molave trees, an elementary school, a neat Barangay Hall and a staffed barangay clinic.

Doc and Eric even found the time to shoot some hoops.

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After making the appropriate contacts, we had a little walk around the place. Checking out the community board, we saw a wealth of information that made us grin wide and wider.

bongon caves

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bongon springs

So much areas to explore but they will have to wait as we have a date with Gumbang Spring.

Back to the site, I suited up for an initial underwater look-see. Doc sat this one out, groggy from the anti-motion pill he took during the drive.

Caving

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Inside the Cave (Alone)

Creeping into the low opening in the rock with a 5.5 liter cylinder, I got into the cold spring water. Right at the moment I dipped my head underwater, the sight that greeted me chilled me to my core! I thought I saw dead people or ghosts hanging from the ceiling!! In my limited view, the long and thick clumps of white roots from plants that snaked into the water for sustenance resembled a form that nightmares are made of. They surrounded the edge of the pool like scary curtains. It was freaky!

The pool inside was around 8 meters in diameter and the water was crystal clear. The bottom which was only 2 meters deep was a mixture of sand, mud and limestone pebbles. I did not see any tunnel or opening to a chamber that we can explore further. The spring water welled up from the bottom of the pool.

Finding no other space that I can enter, I swam back and got out of that freaky place.

During the exploration, my Go Pro camera ran out of battery and I could not take any pictures of the sight that I described above. I suggest you check-out the area yourself for a first-hand look of the creepiest cave I’ve ever been to.

Gumbang Spring

From my experience, I believe that another exploration of Gumbang Spring will not yield any path or underwater  tunnel similar to the Casili or Pawod Spring.

The exploration of Gumbang Spring was conducted on the afternoon of November 28, 2012.

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The fabled beast of Casili Spring emerges!

The fabled beast of Casili Spring emerges!

“Holy Mother!!” — I cringed, turned my head away and shut my eyes as a snake-like form lunged from the dark mouth of the Casili Spring and slithered towards me.

“If this thing decides to bite me, I’m just darn out of luck!”, I thought as the serpentine creature came within kissing distance.

Thankfully, it was not hungry or in a biting mood since Doc and I finned away unscathed from our first encounter of the fabled freshwater eel that the spring is named for. “Casili” after all is the local word for eels that thrive in rivers and springs.

The approximately 1 meter/ 3ft eel of robust girth (size probably gained from feeding on tadpoles and toads) was seen again observing us from the muddy ledge of the Gold Mine Chamber. It must have been attracted to the lights because it approached within touching distance. Its curiosity sated, it left and the only evidence of its presence was the disturbed silt of the path it took and a blurry picture taken by a shaky hand.

We left Cebu at dawn (4AM) for this trip since our objective was to conduct a dive at Casili and then proceed to Tabuelan to check out Gumbang Spring with Niel Jarina of ACE Cebu ( he joined us on the 3rd Casili Spring Exploration) guiding us to its location.

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Niel and Doc having a nice breakfast of hot pork soup courtesy of our support member, Eric.

I told Niel later about the eel and offered to catch it for him so he can add it to his pet collection — he declined.

Photo by Niel Jarina

Photo by Niel Jarina

A few good rainy days brought in much needed water for the spring and we were delighted to see the pool turn back to a healthy and clean looking color. The river bed was still dry though.

Photo by Niel Jarina

Photo by Niel Jarina

Doc and I used the same amount of tanks  and gas percentage for this trip and we soon realized that we have finally reached our gas limitation upon reaching the last tie-off at the depth 35 meters inside the Gold Mine Chamber. We only had a few bars of air to spare before turn-around time.

Making most of what can be done in the decreasing window of opportunity to extend the exploration line, I swiftly tied a continuing line and we moved on to get a few more meters of area explored. Barely 10 minutes later, Doc signaled for us to turn back and I looked at the nearest wall for a spot to tie-down. A saw a rock jutting from the wall and it was then I realized that directly beneath it, the bottom has dropped sharply beyond what our lights can illuminate.

While I was busy tying to the rock and cutting the tie-down line from the reel, Doc took a peek into the darkness and later tells me that there is definitely another chamber that lies beyond. Back on the surface, we asked Niel to name this chamber — he christened it “The Black Hole”.

Well then “Black Hole”, we look forward to exploring you on our next trip.

Casili Diagram-6th trip

The 6th Casii Spring Exploration Diagram

From the look of things, the next explorations will involve multi-tank staging an additional 2 or more tanks of air to extend gas turn-around time. The procedure will also include staging the 50% O2 at 21 meters to allow earlier gas switch for the expected longer decompression requirements and O2 staged at 6 meters. 6 or more tanks per diver will be required.

The 6th Casili Spring Exploration was conducted on the morning of November 28, 2012.

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The 3rd Casili Spring Exploration was conducted on September 21, 2011.

Doc and Bernil

On this trip, we managed to get more information on the topography of the area and the depth of the MAD Sanctum Canyon.

We were also joined by 2 representatives from the Aquatic Cebu Enthusiasts (ACE), Niel Jarina and Lerch Ylaya, who were there to document, identify and take sample specimens endemic in the spring. They were endorsed to us by Joey Gatus of the University of San Carlos- Marine Biology Dept. [photo credits for the surface and fauna images go to Niel Jarina, using a Canon EOS 60D]

Niel checking his shots…

Lerch transporting specimens…

A fine specimen of a fresh water shrimp locally called “Uwang”.

  

Their documentation work will be of great value towards future conservation efforts for Casili’s underwater species.

No-mounting towards Uwang Drop and into the MAD Gate.

It is no easy task to don and doff your twin tanks in a dark, confined and silty area but we had to try.

We swam to the Uwang Drop holding our harness and pushing our twin tanks ahead of us.  Dropping into the MAD Gate, we moved through the old tire (its a Goodyear, if you must know) . Getting our units through was fine but then the big rock very close to the entrance of Snake Crawl required us to make a 45degree turn to the right as soon as we had our body half-way in the steel-belted rubber obstacle framing the entrance.

Since we cannot afford positive buoyancy due to the constricted head room,  it was a heavy job negotiating the tunnel down to the start of the muddy bottom.

Looking for an "uwang" specimen.

Looking for an “uwang” specimen.

Doc was leading this dive so I focused my lights on him as he donned his twins. It was a silty affair but he was successful, after which I followed suit.

With our units on, we established neutral buoyancy and floated off the bottom where the visibility then became clear and we could see the blackness of the canyon that lay before us. We shined our lights on and followed the line we laid on our last visit. At 22 meters depth, it was tied off to the side of the wall and Doc took out another reel to extend the line.

The MAD Sanctum Canyon brought us down to 30.5 meters. The bottom is muddy and is on a very slight slope. There is still more distance to be covered but we reached our turn-around pressure and we headed back after laying down a line 15meters long extending our previous line up to 40 meters.

Heading back up, minding our ascent rate and deep stops,  I was astounded by the realization that  the Casili Spring is currently the deepest freshwater cave system discovered and dived in Cebu. And there is still more depth and length to explore…WOW!

We got back to 14 meters and Doc gestured me to go ahead, I slipped off my harness and tanks and moved back up through the Snake Crawl constriction. Pausing to wait for Doc outside the MAD Gate, I felt eyes watching me. I turned to my left and saw the black beady eyes of a fine-looking, good sized freshwater shrimp specimen. Perched on a log, the shrimp flicked its antenna at me as if to say, ” Howdy dude –welcome to my world”. Cool!

Back at the shallows of the Casili Spring pool, we spent the rest of the afternoon assisting the ACE guys with their specimen collection and photo documentation.

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We will go back soon to extend the line and to explore the unknown ceiling height and the distance of the canyon walls. We will also be presenting our report to the site owner and to the Local Government officials so that they will be informed and then they can start to appreciate how special Casili Spring is.

Revised Casili Spring Profile View

Revised Casili Spring Profile View

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