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2022: Boca de yuma Caving Expedition: Dominican Republic

January-February 2022

There are more accessible undiscovered caves in the DR than likely anywhere else in North America.

For years I studied maps of karst regions of the DR. They looked similar to cave-rich areas nearby in the Caribbean, like Puerto Rico, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, etc.

But I could never find any info on caves of the Dominican Republic. Are there any?

There is an active cave diving organization in the DR, which confirmed to me that the non-flooded caves thus far known in the country are extremely short - as in 50 meters or less generally. But the Dominican Republic Speleological Society also said vast tracts of the DR have never been visited by cavers, and the potential is huge. I even learned of a solo French caver who apparently discovered and started exploring a 10-kilometer system, confiding its length to a close friend, and then mysteriously died. The system remained unfound.

Completely sold on the idea of discovering and mapping caves here, we bought our tickets and flew into the DR.

Over a month, in February 2022, we spent a week canyoneering, a week travelling, and just over two weeks caving. Dave Weimer and Ashlee Lee, two caving friends based in Tucson, joined us for a week of intense survey.

To date, I don't think I've found prettier caves than those in the DR. I'll let the photos below back up my assertion.

However, I don't think I've found caves scarier than the DR. Notably, caves here are often surrounded by hundreds of wasps nests, and occasionally killer bees. The experience can be terrifying, as happened to us in the discovery of Wasp-In-Eye Cave, fittingly named when a wasp flew in my eye deep in the blackness of the cave. The only way you should ever look for caves here is while wearing a beesuit - we got stung repeatedly in a minefield of wasp nests near one entrance.

We also had issues with giant centipedes, huge spiders, snakes, and sharp plants. There are more creepy crawlies here than most tropical places I've been.

But the juice was worth the squeeze. We discovered and mapped multiple caves, in what any serious explorer would consider a success, and submitted some of our work to the Dominican Republic Speleological Society. I did not expect to find such stunning caves on a trip of only a few cavers. We even stayed at a hotel with a pool on the coast, spending our evenings on the patio pouring over survey data in the warm, tropical breeze. How much more fun could such a trip be?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of decorated horizontal caves awaiting discovery in the area west of Boca de Yuma. As well, the mountains inland from Pedernales will absolutely yield stunning discoveries. We returned to the DR in January 2023 for a major expedition to explore the deepest cave in the Dominican Republic, called Catanamatias Cave. The DR is a gem in the caving world, and its incredible discoveries are only just beginning.

In November 2022, our work was published by the US-based National Speleological Society. The article is available below, or on the NSS News.

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