For over 30 years we have been exploring limestone karst areas in Thailand and have investigated and discovered hundreds of caves. The longest and most spectacular cave systems are close to the Lodge, in Pang Mapha District of Mae Hong Son Province. We know where they are- we found them, and in many cases, named them. Some caves are extraordinarily massive, with incredible formations. See our caving photos to get an idea of what types of caves tunnel under our area, and the quality of the stunning formations they contain.
Stroll to the nearby Tham Lod cave with its awesome caverns, prehistoric 1,700-year-old coffins and bamboo rafting. Experience the amazing Bird Show when 300,000 swifts return to nest in the cave each evening. Or join in a full day guided adventure to one or several of the incredible caves in our wilderness area. Our expert guides can take you through world class passages.
We select only robust active caves for our adventure tours and avoid sensitive areas with particularly fragile formations or endangered cave life. All visitors to caves are encouraged to abide by ethical caving guidelines which are displayed at Cave Lodge.
For those whom caving is a passion, we can guide you through kilometres of spectacular stream caves, or, you can use our maps and find your own! How about unexplored vertical caves? Want to drop into the Spirit Well, a 100m deep collapsed cave with an untouched, primeval forest at the base? For serious adventures like these you will need your own ropes, equipment and team. The area has plenty of potential for discovering unexplored systems. Read our brief background info below for a better idea of the possibilities.
One day adventure caving tours start from 600 Baht per person and include caving equipment, guide and lunch.
We can also organize multi-day and specialist trips for individuals and groups including schools and clubs. We have special rates for school groups and programs that can include caving, kayaking and hilltribe trekking.
Join one of our regular trips or go Caving with other guests using our free MAP
ONE DAY TREK AND CAVE
Full day walk from the Lodge through spectacular karst scenery, visiting three caves.
Fossil Cave- a long dry cave with excellent slabs of 280 million year old fossilized shells; Waterfall Cave with beautiful formations and an awesome 30 metre waterfall deep inside the stream tunnel and Christmas Cave with large decorated caverns and a sinking stream. This is our most popular day trip due to the variety of caves and the fantastic scenery along the walk. You enter deep into the karst mountains, and experience a good variety of excellent caves. Suitable for any reasonably fit person who likes adventure.
COST: 600 Baht (for 3 or more people)- includes a pickup ride up the mountain, expert guide, caving light, helmet and lunch.
ONE DAY ADVENTURE CAVING
There are over 200 caves in the local area, 5 of which are more than 4 kilometres long with world class, pristine formations. Let our expert guides lead you through the best of these amazing caves with minimal impact and maximum adventure. This trip takes you at least 3 kilometres into a rarely-visited and stunningly decorated stream cave.
COST: 900-1200 Baht (for 5 or more people- depending on which cave we visit) - includes transport to and from starting point of walk to the cave, expert guide, caving light, helmet and lunch.
All trips depart regularly, depending on weather conditions and interest. To book either phone or email us or just turn up and we will get you onto the next trip. We usually organize trips the evening before departure when we can confirm the numbers interested.
Tham Nam Lod (Lod Cave)
Guides (with lanterns) for Tham Lod are only 150 Baht per group (1-3 people), and the bamboo rafts inside the cave are 300 to 400 Baht for 3 people (one way or return trip through the cave). It takes about 2 hours to see all three higher level caverns, and the main river tunnel. You can watch 300,000 birds fly into the cave every evening after sunset, in the twilight, for free. Tham Lod is an enormous river tunnel with 3 higher dry caverns. The cave walls are covered with massive formations and columns over 20 metres high tower over visitors. The third cavern shelters the remains of prehistoric teak coffins. Near the visitor centre is a recently excavated archaeological site- a rock shelter where a 20,000 year old human skeleton was found- the oldest in Nth Thailand. Info on the site is in Thai and English. Sometimes wild gibbons inhabit the forest near the cave entrance- follow the whoops and you may see them.
A note on ecotourism: there are a few places in Thailand where "ecotourism" is a working reality. Tham Lod is one of these places. The local ethnic Shan community provides all of the guides and bamboo raft services for the cave, and receive all of the money. Tourism has helped reduce their reliance on slash & burn agriculture. The locals respect the cave, its ecosystem (the birds, bats, fish, and cave adapted snakes (harmless) are strictly protected.) When you visit Tham Lod, your money directly helps the local community.
BACKGROUND (UNDERGROUND) INFO
There are more than 200 known caves in our district with active systems up to 12 kms long, amongst the longest in Thailand. The deepest vertical cave is also found near the Lodge. Some caves are huge river tunnels with passages typically 20-50 metres high and wide. There are more than 10 caves longer than one kilometre. One collapsed cave, the Spirit Well (check out the Nat. Geo. ultimate destination, Sept. 2001, I think) is 100m deep and 100m across, with sheer cliffs and an untouched forest at the base. We took the first expedition to this amazing place in 1985 but unfortunately the first person to descend was struck by a weird tragedy- later that night he woke up, paralyzed in half of his body. A few of us have been down since and spent the night. The incident was a definite one-off.
More than one hundred of the caves in Pang Mapha are important archaeological sites and artifacts include the remains of massive teak coffins that have been carbon-dated to 1400-2200 years old. Other caves and rockshelters were once prehistoric habitation sites, some of which shelter rare paintings.
Formations in some caves are truly spectacular with massive crystal flowstones up to 100 metres long and 20 metres high, spectacular columns 30 metres high and delicate crystals of calcite and aragonite. Seven caves that we have discovered are home to 2 different species of blind cave fish including one cave where the 2 types share the same stream. One new genera, 'Cryptotora' is finger length, eyeless, colorless, without scales and uses 4 large fins to 'walk' up waterfalls. The caves and karst in Pang Mapha District are worthy of recognition as a world heritage site. For many cavers, a big plus in our area is the accessibility, variety, the comfortable conditions, the awesome size and the outstanding beauty of the caves.
Cave explorers have discovered and explored many of the systems only during the past 18 years. We have been intimately involved, and have introduced many international and Thai speleological research teams to the wonders of our area. Australian cavers, led by John Dunkley (who has been at the forefront of the efforts to record the areas assets), conducted much of the original underground surveys. Management and conservation issues increasingly concern us at Cave Lodge, not just individual caves but the entire watershed areas. There are many threats to the integrity of the underground resources in the area, from cave visitors to the activities of the people living in the catchments of stream caves. The unique underground resources of the area - such as the cave fish and other sensitive troglobites, the delicate and rare formations and the archaeological remains - remain particularly vulnerable to disturbance and irreversible damage.
We hope that all visitors to our area will treat these irreplaceable treasures with utmost care, avoid visiting particularly sensitive areas in caves and abide by the 'soft' caving guidelines promoted by international organizations such as the American National Speleological Society and the IUCN (The World Conservation Union). We encourage people interested in caving as a sport to think carefully about the potential impact their activities may have on the caves they visit. At Cave Lodge we can offer expert advice on caves suitable for adventure caving- usually big, active stream passages that flood every year. Wherever you have caved before, we are sure the beauty and accessibility of the spectacular caves near Cave Lodge will impress you. If you have the time bring your gear, a few caving friends and spend a couple of weeks exploring the best caves in Thailand. We can get you to them and point to areas that are virtually unexplored. Hope to see you soon.