Meghalaya, the “abode of clouds”, has probably the most diversified tourism options to offer in the entire country. There are waterfalls, lush green sceneries, mountain climbing, boat races, scuba diving and caving. In short, it’s an adventurer’s paradise. Today I’m going to take you into the dark, breathtaking, yet unexplored dungeons of the famous caves of Meghalaya, which now run something up to 1,350 spanning over 387 kilometre in the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo ranges, of which 887 have been explored including the country’s longest Krem Liat Prah. Some of them have been excavated and discovered recently, Mawsmai Caves being the most famous and hospitable of them. Some still lie hidden for centuries now and offer one of the most tempting opportunities for caving enthusiasts, speleologists and explorers from all over the world.
These are the longest, deepest and largest number of caves found in India, so offer a really unique experience of tourism. Most of the caves of these areas were either discovered or surveyed by the Europeans (German, British and Italian).
There has been a rise in the number of commercial tour packages recently offering systematic and guided exploration of these caves, ranging from 10K-70K rupees. You can find the details, history, geography and background of all the caves nicely explained in the official government website for Meghalaya tourism. All the caves have some kind of peculiar attraction about them. There are varied and beautiful displays of bright colours like blue, orange, red, green, and grey all through the caves making you feel like you have entered some kind of psychedelic parallel universe.
You can probably start with the Mawsmai caves in the Khasi range. It has been fully equipped with electricity and you can start off easy and explore the beautiful patterns made by the action of moving water inside.
The cave Krem Lymput lies about 6 km. from the village of Nongjri. The entrance is hidden in the jungle covered boulders which reveals itself mystically by the cool air. It is a beautiful, charming and another relatively easy cave for tourists to explore.
From the small entrance hole, the main trunk passage runs for about 1 km with inclined walls and ceiling towards west into a passage known as ‘Way to Heaven, which is a very loose and slippery climb. It leads into a series of spacious galleries which are very rich in calcite formations. Here, the great attraction is the very huge and spacious- Mughal Room.
Then there’s the Kret Liam Prah which is the longest one in the country, its most prominent feature being its grand trunk passage called the Aircraft Hangar. Then comes the Sinrang Pamiang, which has a wet entrance and is the longest single cave (7.63 km). The cave is very rich in formations coloured in orange, red, black, grey, blue, green and white. The Titanic Hall chamber is one of the most splendidly decorated chambers with thousands of large resplendent cave-pearls lying scattered on the floor. The Krem Lubon has a “phantom cave” type entrance just behind the waterfalls which is pretty cool. Most of the caves are rich in biodiversity, particularly endemic species of Bats and cave-adapted fishes.
Walking down the slope from Tongseng village, you reach a sink which will take you to a very unstable boulder blocking. The downward passage leads to the dream of cavers- big stream-way passages and is called the Krem Umthloo. An ultimate river cave with magnificent formations leaves you enchanted.
I particularly like the Krem Umkseh; it has a beautiful cave entrance, used as a washing place by the local people and is situated behind the sawmill to the south of the Lumshnong Petrol Station. It is a splendid river cave with lots of formations, and mostly low but wide and crawling size plain passages filled with water.
The Krem Shrieh (or the Tangnub Monkey cave) lies at the end of a fluted canyon and can be reached by the Tangnub village. It is famous for its peculiar key-hole passages lined with orange mud, giving it a very “artsy” look.
132 km from the Tura falls, the Siju caves are imprssive for their stalagtite and stalagmite formations which fill the expeditors with awe. Next comes the Dagedikol caves which are 18m wide and 12m high, and the entrance leads to a largish meandering stream passage. The cave houses a large population of bats. With 1352m of surveyed length, the cave is still ongoing, and you can be very well a part of it.
The 10th longest cave in the country, the Krem Labit Kseh in the Kopili Valley has fine river passages and beautifully decorated dry relic passages like the Black Diamond Passage and Crystal Gallery. This is one of the very few caves in India that has a profusion of rare gypsum formations resembling flowers.
For the religious, there is the Krem Syndai where the entrance of the cave opens with the impressive proportions. This cave is worshiped by Hindu saints, who come from Nepal. It has some amazing calcite formations.
Krem Chympe, the 5th longest, passes through the Khaddum village and Sielkan. The river cave has large deep caves, so you might have to swim to get through this one. It has a lot of new things waiting to be discovered. Sielkan Pouk acts as a sink to this cave system.
Now that I have given you a rough holistic idea about the main features of some of the most known caves, you can go ahead and explore for yourselves, and may be find out the lesser known ones. Happy Caving!