Most Epic Places: Episode one – The Cave of Swallows

Emerging from the jungle your eyes are met by a sight that is difficult to take in. The mouth of a cave so vast that it could comfortably house the Shard in London with 23 metres to spare on its lowest side. The mouth of the abyss stretches out to between 50 and 60 metres in front of you depending on where you are, in a slightly elliptical shape. The seemingly endless pit has become a mecca for extreme sports enthusiasts from all over the world; BASE jumpers, climbers, cavers and rapellers flock to use their skills in this magnificent natural cavern.

BASE jumpers can enjoy a 12 second free fall into the darkness from the highest side, the wall of the cave gradually slopes outwards so the cave gets wider as if it were designed for this exact purpose. Jumpers are plunged into temperatures vastly different to those at the surface which is something that I had never actually considered, in fact it has been known to damage climbing equipment with the change in extremes, just to give you an idea of how distant those temperatures are from each other.

Nearby the surrounding area hosts various schools specialising in BASE jumping with fully qualified instructors too. As if the message wasn’t strong enough already that this is an area for extreme activity… Whether you’d want to learn here though I’m not so sure, I think it’s more to take your already honed skills as a BASE jumper and apply them to a cave situation. Parachuting in a subterranean environment is not for the faint hearted, there are a LOT of walls.

As for those of you who prefer to stay attached to something, abseilers can expect to hit the floor in 20 minutes, climbers manage to scale the rock face in between 1 and 2 hours. Make no mistake the Cave of Swallows is a destination for the more experienced thrill seeker; you would be, after all, submitting your body to extremely challenging conditions. Waterfalls coast towards the bottom, flowing over the mouth of the cave on rainy days meaning slippery conditions. Undercut sides become almost impossible in this situation, that’s even if your body hasn’t become hindered by the freezing temperatures at the base.

To be honest though, whether you’re actively involved in extreme sports or not, The Cave of Swallows is an epic place to witness. Also nearby is The Cave of Huahuas which is 100 metres shallower than the Cave of Swallows but the mouth is wider, it offers the same fabulous spectacle of birds exiting the cave in the morning in a plume of feathers and returning at night as well, an attraction that brings thousands of tourists per year to the area. On a more sobering note most of you know that Mexico isn’t exactly the safest place to be roaming around long distance on your own as a tourist, but there are a few hotels very local to the area, minimising risk.

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