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caves of Morocco

September-October 2021

There's little to no information on caves in Morocco - only that there indeed are caves.

This tempting lack of information was enough to get Suhei and I to fly to Morocco. We decided to spend a month in this fascinating country, with two weeks for traveling, a week for canyoneering, and a week for caving. The caves were by far the highlight of our trip.

To plan, we contacted the Chefchaouen Association for Speleology. Run by half a dozen passionate Moroccan cavers, two of which studied caving in Spain, their mission is to find, explore, and protect their country's underground treasures.  Minutes after my initial message, they responded saying they'd be happy to help us get underground. We agreed to plan a trip together.

Initially, Aalae and Mohammed met us in Chefchaouen one night and suggested a 30-hour trip down Kef Toghobeit, a 700+ meter deep cave in the remote mountains. The cave is all sharp rock, has clouds of dust, is near-constant tight squeezes, and has no formations. Additionally, they explained, we'd have to carry several hundred meters of rope. 

Or, they suggested, we could visit some extremely decorated pit and river caves in the alpine cedar forests, with underground waterfalls and millions of soda straws.

We chose option two.

Over a week, we went in several caves while based out of a friend's rural hut. These included Knadel Cave, Cave of the Eagle, Cave of the Stairs, and Tiniwin Cave. Each of these caves has varying names in Berber, Arabic, Spanish, English and French, in addition to depending on which local you talk to, and as a result, the information on each cave can be confusing, inaccurate, or missing. For instance, a cave diving expedition to Cave of the Stairs, a major river cave, occurred several decades ago, and all information of what the dive found, who dove it, and any maps made, are apparently lost forever, according to Moroccan cavers.

Our goal, however, was not to find or explore caves. We just wanted to go caving. So we did.

With Aalae Boukhajjou, an experienced local caver with caving certifications from Barcelona, we went into some amazing spaces. In general, caves are spacious, decorated, and lukewarm in this country. There was no mud to deal with either. Vertical rigging is of course European style, with a ton of rebelays instead of edge-rubs.

Looking forward, locals want to better explore and fully map existing caves, conduct further ridgewalking efforts (possibly assisted by a drone), partner with the national parks authority for conservation measures, train and educate passionate locals to become cavers, and become internationally recognized cavers. Their limitations are money - caving is expensive, and Morocco is largely a poor country with very low salaries. Buying rope, even, is a significant investment for locals. Any future expeditions should keep in mind this limitation.

All in all, we had a blast. I'd highly, highly, highly recommend any passionate caver visit this great country for recreational or exploratory caving.

I'll let the photos and videos below speak for themselves.

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