Bats are common in the caves of the Turks and Caicos
The caves on East Caicos are a lot more remote and difficult to reach than those on Middle Caicos. Similarly mined for guano in the 19th century, it is the infrastructure built at this time that makes it possible to find the caves today. A donkey railway was established to transport the valuable guano to the coast and it this trail that one must follow inland to reach the caves. There are four caves spaced out along the 3 mile track. It is overgrow with countless trees, shrubs, and cacti, and progress can be fairly slow.
The first two caves are located about 20 minutes down the track and are both labyrinths of tunnels and rooms that interconnect in very confusing ways. The passages range in height from 20 feet to just 2 feet high and there are a number of secrets entrances and obvious skylights. The descending roots of the strangler fig are a common site and old bird and rodent bones litter these entrances, remnants of past meals by resident owls. The history books tell us that these caves were used by the Taino Indians hundreds of years ago for shelter and as a place of worship. A number of artifacts and skeletons were discovered by the miners and ancient petroglyphs can still be seen on the walls of the caves today.
The other caves along the trail are quite a bit further along and require crossing an old causeway over a shallow creek. Rising up onto the hillside the old railway continues onto some ruined buildings, past a large sinkhole (with submerged side tunnels leading off it), and onto the mouth of a vast cavern. Filled with water there is evidence that great pumps were used to drain out the caves, presumably to access the further reaches of the cave and the remove valuable guano within. The water is cold but welcoming after the hot and sweaty walk to get there. The ceiling is high and the floor extremely muddy. The cave is still home to a healthy population of bats and the water is full of shrimp living off their refuse. There is good reason to bring your mask, snorkel, and a waterproof camera; the long passage turns to reveal a rocky outcrop lit by a shaft of light from a skylight high above. It's an impressive and beautiful sight.
From this rather remote but awe inspiring location it's always tough to pull yourself away and begin the long trek back down the donkey trail to the coast. A back-pack, sturdy shoes, long pants, and a long sleeve shirt are highly recommended. Flashlights are provided by Amphibious Adventures.