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Expedition to the Dominican Republic: caving dreams

This marks the first incursion by Les Hommes des Cavernes, or "cave people," into the Dominican Republic, a country that contains thousands of caves. After spending hours poring over maps and reading trip reports from past explorers, we left France with dreams of adventure. Who is included in that "we" you ask? Jeff, Jean-Louis, Rémi, and Olivier. On the other side of the Atlantic, in the Dominican Republic, our hosts from the DRSS, Phillip, Benjamin, Angel, and Rosie, await our arrival.

January 10 2018


Cueva de Tubagua

Guided by local villagers, we spent 5 days exploring Cueva de Tubagua. The topographic data collected by Jean-Louis Galéra and myself indicates more than 2.5km of cave galleries. There are several galleries that we did not fully explore, so we will just have to come back. This truly exceptional cave includes sections where the roof rises 40m high, a wide variety of extraordinary features, huge pools, and a colony of more than 100,000 bats.


Cueva Tri Nicola

We are off to Pedernales, on the island's southern coast, along the border with Haiti. In Cueva Tri Nicola (which had already been explored, but we did not know it at the time), we saw several stalactites with engravings (classic symbols of the Taino people who lived on the island when Christopher Columbus arrived).


Can you say Indiana Jones?

One of the expedition's goals was to explore a chasm that we had identified via Google Earth, and that looked like a black hole in satellite photos.
We battled for four days. Four days to cut a path through a forest choked with cactus and tangled vines. Four days walking on strips of razor-sharp limestone. Four days being eaten alive by mosquitoes that swarmed around each and every one of us. 


90m deep

It takes four days before we finally set foot at the bottom of this 90m deep and 25m wide hole in the ground. After meticulously making our way around the entire perimeter and center, every potential outlet leading underground is all clogged up. It could have gone the other way around. Oh, the joys of exploration!

I equip one wall of the chasm with two extremely practical PULSE removable bolts. The rope hangs straight down through the air, 60m above the talus. What a magical place. This should be a fun descent, right? Yes, it should be except for the nerve-racking buzz the keeps getting louder. Giant beehives beneath just about every overhang line the walls the chasm. One after the other, the wax hives all extend more than one-meter down the wall. Although we successfully sidestep the bees, the friendly local wasp population stings Rémi 18 times. 


To learn more

I could talk for hours about our expedition, about Cueva del Peñon de Veragua with its cave-dwelling boa constrictors and bats flying everywhere, about Cueva Asfalto and Cueva Escalera, about ethereal underwater caves explored by Phillip and Angel, about tarantulas that use their hairs as weapons, about jumping cacti, about stalagmites 18-meters high, and about huge vats of guano. For more, follow the DRSS and Hommes des Cavernes ("Cave People") on Facebook where we plan to tell stories and post photos.

Text by Olivier Testa
Photos by Rémi Flament

This expedition took place from November 20 to December 10, 2017, and was co-organized by the Dominican Republic Speleological Society and Hommes des Cavernes, in partnernship with the French Caving Federation (FFS).

Jean-François Fabriol
Rémi Flament
Jean-Louis Galéra
Olivier Testa (expedition leader)
Angel Compres
Phillip Lehman
Benjamin Forde
Rosie Pitibù

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