28/12/2015 and 5/1/2016 - Nigel Dibben - 30S 0725663 4265615
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Having to suffer a few weeks on the Costa Blanca over Christmas, I managed to fit in a couple of local show cave trips. Much of the area is made of cretaceous limestone, similar to Matienzo, and there are a number of caves on the maps. Amongst these are two show caves, Cuevas de Canelobre (caves of the candelabra) and Cueva de las Calaveras (cave of the skulls).
Cuevas de Canelobre
The first is fairly high up a mountain at about 700m and consists of one huge chamber with plenty of evidence of a phreatic origin. The chamber is some 50m in diameter with a 25m descending passage below the main chamber making it something like 75m overall vertical range. The trip involves going down and back up the chamber on rather rotten wooden steps with a guide. After that, you’re allowed to climb up more steps to a grilled upper entrance, the original way into the cave. The main feature of the guided trip is the rather gaudy lighting (just look at their website at http://www.cuevasdecanelobre.com/2.0/) but at €7 for an adult (half that for a pensioner) it was not bad value.
The pictures show the interior, the main entrance (which was partly made in the Civil War) and the valley below. Some caves can be seen in the hill above the entrance.
Below 1: The formation know as the Helmet. Note lovely colours! Below 2: General view of the chamber from above the viewing platform. Below 3: The entrance with more caves in the cliff above. Below 4: Looking north-westwards from the entrance platform.
Cueva de las Calaveras
The second cave is a little way north of Benidorm near a village called Benidoleig. This one is called Cueva de las Calaveras because skulls of Palaeolithic and more recent inhabitants have been found there. The trip is self-guided with information available in English at each stopping point. Again, it is formed in the cretaceous limestone but this time is more linear. All the evidence is that the cave is entirely phreatic although it had obviously been dry and filled with formations at some time before going back below the water table. Some of the formations are corroded away to look just like phreatic pendants.
We were in there for the best part of an hour and met no one else so photography was easy. There is plenty of information which is of high quality providing geological maps, cave plans and sections, and a sensible description of the cave and its history. At the end, the system drops down into an active level but the water there is extracted through an artificial drainage tunnel for use in local agriculture. The cave was even cheaper at just €3.90 for an adult (less than £3, Speedwell is £10.50) and there is a very convenient bar and gift shop at the entrance.
You have to put up with a couple of dinosaurs at the entrance but they were around when the rock was formed too. The pictures show the entrance and some passage as well as one of the display boards provided by the Alicante provincial council showing the high quality of information they provide.
If you want to find this cave on the map, it is at 30S 0759057 4298015.
Below 1: The entrance to the cave. Below 2: Typical passage in the cave. Below 3: Phreatic pendants and pockets in the roof. Below 4: Display board of regional and local geology with a map of the cave.