Caving is one of my favorite activities. Nothing serious, of course. Just simple visiting and exploring. There are thousands of all sorts of caves and pits in Croatia. Karst landscape is extremely porous and active.
One of my favorite caves is Modrič cave near Rovanjska. It has been a while since our last visit so we went in with Marijan again few weeks back. The original article was published in February 2009 but, since then, I did get a much better equipment so I hope the photos are better now. Also, thanks to custom lights on my helmet, I managed to get some really nice shots.
Modrič Cave stays as one of the most interesting adventures for whole families when traveling with us. Of course, it is not for folks who fear enclosed spaces but, for everyone else, it is a lot of fun!
I have never been to Vrdovo before. This part of hinterland I am not very familiar with and I am enjoying every opportunity to explore it. Few days before Christmas, we were invited to go searching for some newly discovered caves. This is a relative term as most of the caves have been “discovered” a while back but most of them were known only to the local cattle herders and never explored. There is one very interesting story in development focusing on one of the pits on Vrdovo but more on it when it happens.
In short, Vrdovo is a mountain plateau between Kamešnica and Dinara and just below Vještića hill (Witches’ hill) in Hercegovina. Very barren and rocky, it was always serving just as a pasture with few patches of fertile land. Numerous old stone huts still serve as evidence of once difficult life as most of the cattle herders are now gone…
As our search for caves was not producing any results, we decided to visit a well known and explored Vodena peća cave closer to Sinj. Passing the “Here – There ” sign, we continued driving through the hillside on the well maintained dirt road. From the west, the fist signs of now infamous storm “Ines” were approaching with temperature dropping fast…
Even though the forecast was quite bad and with numerous warnings, the next day, a group of friends decided to visit Vrdovo in the snow not taking the warnings seriously. It almost costed them their lives as the rescue team had serious difficulty reaching them. Nature is not to be taken lightly…
And we soon reached Vodena peća cave. Another well hidden entrance!
The name implies it is full of water but we did not encounter anything serious. However, the cave is just beautiful masterpiece of water!
The main canal is fairly long – about 100 or so meters. It is big and spacious for nearly the entire length and it filled with both stalactites and stalagmites and all sorts of decorations.
And there is another canal of the this beautiful cave. Not as attractive for general public as it is one scary, 80 meters deep straight pit! We entered the first section of the second canal just to see what it looks like but it is much demanding than the main canal. The second canal is for serious cavers only!
And for bats.
There are only few sleeping through the winter hanging from the cave ceiling. I think this is Veliki potkovnjak or Greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) in English but please correct me if I am wrong. Out of nearly 1150 different species of bats in the World, there are 52 in Croatia and 35 are under strict protection. There are 5000 + species of mammals on planet Earthy and one fifth are bats! While in the past, the house that was visited by a bat was a blessed one, recently, due to modern day education and influence of vampire movies, bats are considered “scary and dangerous”. Far from that, they are one of the very important parts of every eco system.
One of the greatest threat to these fragile creatures is posed by the wind turbines and it is estimated, in Germany, that in the past 10 years, over 2 mil bats have been killed …
The olm (Proteus anguinus) was always one of the animals I wanted to see. It lives only in this part of the world but it is rarely seen by people as it lives underground. It can only be found in the karst caves starting from Soča near Trieste all the way to Hercegovina. It rarely gets out of the caves and only if the floods bring it out. In appearance, it is a strange, almost lizard like animal and, because of it’s skin color that resembles the color of the human skin, it is also known in these areas as a “human fish”. It was first mentioned in 1689 by a local naturalist Valvasor describing that after heavy rains, the olms were washed up from the underground and made locals believe they saw a cave dragons’ offspring.
So, being a member of “Špiljar” Caving club from Split, I asked Mr. Tonči Rađa if it would be possible to see the olm. Luckily, olm lives only few miles from Split. In Dugopolje.
One August afternoon, we all got together, got the equipment and headed north to Đuderina jama cave. The cave is nothing special but has one very narrow section and the olm is usually hidden way deep. In a small, natural lake. The olm was first found here in 1979.
The cave is not too deep – only few meters at the entrance and then few more to get to the lower level. We used ropes and 100 years old rope ladder that belonged to Split’s first cavers! Since some of us were not experienced cavers, that ladder came in quite handy!
The cave is nothing special – very few cave decorations can be seen.
We had to get on our knees and then slide through some muddy sections to get to the part of the cave with the olm. But before that, we had to slide through a very narrow section, In some parts, it was so narrow the helmet could barely go through…
After all this, we finally reached the part of the cave where olm lives. It is a narrow passage – just for one person – all the way to the small lake. But, we were not lucky to see it… Despite all the rain this summer, the small lake in the cave was almost dry- The olm has retreated deeper to the underground, to the narrow streams and rivers where it normally hides.
So, it was time to go back and hope that some other time we will be more lucky and finally see it. It is quite common in the caves in this area so it should not be too long before we get o see it in real life.
Also, important notice – caving is only for people with permits and with experienced, licensed members of local caving clubs. And don’t forget, the olm is a protected animal!