Where there were waterfalls, there were caves. Or so we discovered was the case in Meghalaya. The gorgeous waterfalls in Meghalaya were a perfect smokescreen for the treasure-laden caves in Meghalaya. Our caving expedition in Sohra helped us uncover these hidden wonders – some within the depth of the dark caverns and some just along its walls. Adding to the thrill of this treasure trail were the mysterious turns and twists of the Meghalaya Caves.
We visited two of the many caves in Meghalaya – one being an offbeat cave and the other slightly more known. This caving experience was the first for my daughter and she does claim this to be the highlight of her trip to Meghalaya. She absolutely enjoyed the thrill of walking through unknown. Why she loved it is what I shall share in the next two posts.
Why two posts?
Well, even the little minx felt that clubbing both the caves in a single post was being unjust to one!
Caves in Meghalaya
Meghalaya is known for the longest and deepest caves in India – some of them even featuring in the World caves list. The caves are primarily limestone ones and have some fresh water streams running through them. To be honest, the caves in Meghalaya were a key consideration that sold the destination to me. There are just plenty all over the state but for this trip, the two that Rajiv suggested were – Arwah Caves and Mawsmai caves – both in Sohra (Cherrapunji). The Mawsmai caves are fairly well known on the tourist circuit and we visited these on our Day Two at Sohra. Our caving expedition started with the offbeat Arwah Caves.
Arwah Caves in Sohra
A little before you hit Cherrapunji town (Sohra), you can see a small dusty board that shows a left turn to the Arwah Lumshynna Caves. The road is slushy and muddy and you might just find your taxi guy reluctant to take you here. Insist you must! For what follows later is so worth the squabble.
The muddy ride lasted just for a few minutes till we reached a proper parking and ticketing counter to Arwah caves. Here you will find volunteer guides who help you discover the caves. Do not decline these guides for there are no marked paths within these caves. Once you are in, you are at their mercy to get out 🙂
A scenic wooden bridge takes you along the Khasi hills to the main entrance of Arwah caves. A walk along this bridge is so refreshing for you experience the misty showers of the waterfalls that fall along the bridge. It is here that I realized how the cascades of Meghalaya concealed the myriad entrances to the underground wonders of nature. I felt quite conflicted with an urge to stop and enjoy the valley view from here or start exploring the Arwah caves. With the little minx enthusiasm of seeing the caves, I abandoned the first urge .
Squeezing through the caves in Meghalaya
The entrance to the Arwah caves is an immediate descent to the underground world. From here, starts your challenge of crawling through narrow holes and squeezing through the crevices of the Arwah caves. Doing this in bright sunlight is going to be easy but what makes it even more thrilling is the whole dank and dark atmosphere of the caves.
With just a torchlight to guide you, there are some things that hit you by surprise. Like how we climbed a few crevices to jump into a stream of cold water on the other side.
There were sections of the caves that were out of bounds and then there were some that made me realize how my height was to my advantage for I crawled through those spaces easily. My little minx had a time of her life – for this was one thing that she could do better than her tall dad. 🙂
The passages were just shaped naturally and appeared so artistic and beautiful. Some of the crevices within the caves were narrow slits that got us to turn sideways to just pass through. It was squeezing through these narrow slits that re-assured me that I had not put on weight 😉
Treasure Trail through Stalagmites & Stalactites
As we continued our winding trail, we spotted the various stalagmites & stalactites lending their artistic touch to the caves in Meghalaya. My daughter’s first experience with these was at the Baratang caves in Andamans. Her biggest high was to be able to recognize these through this caving expedition. What she claims as the key difference between the two caves was that the ones here were wet!
Wet and how – they were dripping of water and limestone droplets. At one particular section, you could see a limestone stream that made its way into the clear underground water.
Quite unlike the Mawsmai caves and the Baratang caves, there were fewer central “limestone masterpieces” to admire. The artistic formations of the caves were set along the walls & ceilings of the Arwah Caves. If there is a fairytale or a familiar setting that I could relate to, it was Alladin’s cave with glistening walls that lead to a treasure chest.
Fossils within Arwah Caves
The key highlight of the Arwah Caves are the various fossils that you can spot along its walls. Mollusk shells and fish bones were primarily what I identified here. Our guide knew where exactly to flash his torch and was rewarded by our Oohs and Ahs! For my daughter, this part of the tour was straight out of her Geology book.
Adventure of The A Team
My daughter called this whole experience of caving as the “Adventure of the A Team” ( “A team” as all our names begin with that letter). She says that she felt as if she were Anne of the Famous Five series who found hidden caverns and mysteries behind it. She thinks that the parts we were not allowed to go in must have some “King’s treasures” or some “Robbers” were hiding there.
I tend to agree with her on the part where it felt like the Famous Five adventure. The dark cave chambers lit only by our torch, filled with sounds of our feet splashing through the underground stream and with its twists and unexpected turns could not be anything else. For those who have forgotten Famous Five, think Pirates of the Carribean. I am pretty sure that those stories found their inspiration here.
The Arwah Caves was quite raw compared to the next ones that we visited. If were to rate my caving experience through the caves in Meghalaya, I would definitely put Arwah Caves on top of that list. That is not to say that we did not enjoy the Mawsmai caves. They were different and there were some interesting discoveries there too. What they were – stay tuned as I share them soon. For now, pin up Arwah Caves on your board.
- Arwah caves are very close to Cherrapunji. To reach Cherrapunji, you first need to reach Shillong and then take a cab that takes you here.
- On how to reach Shillong, please click through this post and read through the Getting here section.
- The cab drivers in Shillong will offer you a package of things to see in Sohra. Arwah caves will not be a part of it. Make sure you negotiate and include the same in your package.
- The entrance to the cave is INR 20 per adult and INR 10 for children. For cameras, you will need to be pay INR 50 while for cell phone photography, it is INR 20
- Arwah caves are not lit in certain sections. Please ensure you have a torch with you when you visit these caves.
- Remember to take a guide with you in these caves. There is no fixed price for the guide. You can pay them as you think is appropriate. They claim to do this as a voluntary service but it is always nice to give them some tips.
- Wear comfortable, flat shoes that can work well in water. The entire cave has an underground stream running through it.
- Remember there is a fair bit of roughing out that goes in these caves. You might need to jump or squeeze through gaps. This is fairly easy for most people but it is important to be cognizant of it, especially if you have kids or elders with you.
- There are a lot of slippery surfaces within the cave.
- Stay clear of areas that have been marked as out of bounds.
- Carry a light raincoat while exploring as there is water dripping even from the roofs of the cave.
- There are restrooms at the entrance of the cave. A small wash area for you to rinse your hands and feet is also, available here.
- You can find a small shop with refreshments at the parking lot of the caves,
- There is a lovely restaurant called Orange roots, right before reaching the left turn for Arwah caves in Sohra. It is called Orange roots and one can grab a hearty meal before or after your caving expedition.
- A plea – Please do not dirty the caves by leaving behind waste. This is truly an unspoiled natural wonder. Please enjoy it for what it is and leave it pristine as is.