T ü r k i y e

A LAND OF
ECHOING CAVERNS




Caverns form where there are large deposits of soluble carbonic rock. Water oozing down over countless millenia gradually hollows out these deposit, until mammoth cavities are formed, sometimes many miles deep. Meanwhile, carbonate precipitates in the water seeping from the ceiling and walls slowly build up to form dripstones, whose crystals range from a milky white to the darkest shades of brown. These varied colors derive from the minerals picked up by the water in its passage through the soil, and also depend to a certain extent on the climate.



Altinbesik Cave, Antalya


Approximately one fifth the surface area of Türkiye is made up of carbonic rock. A climate which is favorable to slow inward erosion has hollowed out thousands of caves, perhaps as many as forty thousand in all.


Aksu Cave, Antalya


Although there are caverns almost everywhere in Türkiye, they are concentrated in the two mountain ranges which buttress the Anatolian peninsula on the south and north; the Taurus, and the Black Sea range.


Zindan Cave, Isparta


Follow along the flank of the Taurus in the south, and you will find a wealth of caves in Mersin,Antalya, further west in Mugla, Izmir, Aydin and, almost at the shores of the Marmara, in Bursa. Along the Black Sea coast Kastamonu and Zonguldak, and on the Anatolian plateau Konya and Isparta, all are regions which will reward the spelunker.

The potential of the myriad caves in Türkiye is only now being fully appreciated. Thus, the caves nearer to the haunts of tourists have been developed. To date, four different caves have been opened to the tourists. Insuyu on the Burdur-Antalya highway, Karain in Antalya, Damlatas in Alanya, and Narlikuyu, the "Wishing Cave", near Silifke west of Mersin. Since this is only one onehundreth of one percent of the estimated 40,000 caves in Türkiye, the discovery and developement of the remainder will be a labor of considerable time. The vast majority are simply untouched-and to be the first to discover, go in, and explore is a great source of pride and satisfaction. It suddenly makes all the tribulations experienced on the way seem insignificant. And there are hundreds of caves in Türkiye whose exploration will demand a spelunker's skills combined with those of the mountain climber. The challange is breathtaking, and just one more reason why Türkiye is a paradise of caves, for the explorer, the sportsman, or merely the interested tourist.



Altinbesik Cave, Antalya



THREE DESCENTS:   CENNET- The Pit of Heaven,
CEHENNEM- The Pit of Hell,
NARLIKUYU- The Wishing Cave


Narlikuyu, a small fishing village that lies on a pleasant bay 20 kilometers east of Silifke, is a favorite rest stop for travellers on the Mersin-Antalya highway. People leave their cars and come down to the restaurants and tea gardens that line the shore of the bay. Here they settle into straight-backed chairs, remove their shoes, and dip their feet into the water. You can read the sudden shock in their faces. This water is cold, much colder than what one expects from the Mediterranean. You are startled againt to notice that some are bending over to actually scoop up and drink the seawater, wells up from the floor of the bay, dropping the temperature and creating pools of fresh water in the sea. At the entrance to the bay the remains of 5th century Roman baths attests to the attraction of these springwaters for people of that time. A mosaic graces the floor within; three nymphs bathing who smile at us across the centuries.
Wishing Cave, Narlikuyu near Mersin

A yellow road sign beside the highway passing thorugh the village alerts the traveller: "Cennet, Cehennem ve Dilek Magarasi(Heaven, Hell, and Wishing Cave), 2 km." Unless they are desperately trying to make time, most turn off, follow a slight incline lined by scrub and pine, on up to a point where the road divides right before the Roman baths. Hard by the roadside, beyond a guardrail, a deep pit yawns. As the sign by the rail indicates, this is Cennet, Heaven. At 100 meters across, 250 meters long and 60 to 70 meters deep its an impressive sight. Descending into the pit one begins to notice the many trees that grow along its sides, full of bird's-nests. The lively chirps and twitterings mean they are in use. The staired pathway down leads you to coolness. Passing between trees, you suddenly come upon an ancient building. Barely visible from above, this is a 5th century Roman church, now in ruins with only the walls left standing.

Past this ruined church the Pit of Heaven begins to gape open into a cavern. An ominous rustling of water from the dim depths can be unmistakably heard even from here. As we make our way inward toward the source of the sound, we come to a broad underground stream, waters chillingly cold, which runs on the far end of the cave where it vanishes over the edge of a falls.Drink of its water-the coldness goes down clean. And it is this stream, wending its subterranean way for another mile or so, that emerges from the sea bottom in Narlikuyu Bay.

Another awesome pit in the ground, just 75 meters northeast of Cennet (Heaven) is called Cehennem, or Hell. Here the width is 60 meters, the depth 120 meters, and the shape roughly circular. It is scary enough looking down. There's no entrance, only a specially installed steel ladder for those who trust their legs. And of course those with the experience and expertise can rappel down. The floor of the pit is rough and rocky, with clumps of scrub here and there. The walls hold hundreds of bird's nests built of mud.

A road leading off to the left from the first pit, Cennet, leads after a drive of some 300 meters to the Narlikuyu or Wishing Cave. Here the first thing you notice is a group of recent structures standing on level terrain with a view of the Mediterranean. They give visitors to the cave a place to relax, rest, and do a little shopping.

The Wishing Cave is one of the best appointed in Türkiye, with the tourist's needs taken fully into account. It is well lighted, and the descent via a winding staircase is relatively easy. Plans call for this staircase to be removed in the near future, and a gently sloping tunnel ramp built instead.


At the top of the stairway one is met by a cool breeze wafting up. Most people experience subliminal dread before entering a cave, but in the case of Narlikuyu this feeling completely vanishes on entering. It is replaced by one of excitement and wonder. The whole interior of the cave, the ceiling and walls, are covered with clusters of crystal forms, with dripstines of every color from white to deep brown, all glimmering and sprakling under carefully modulated strenghts and colors of light. Picture a cave 250 meters deep by 10 to 15 meters wide, where the wanderer feels dwarfed by huge stalactites and the mighty stalagmites which rise directly beneath them. In many places throughout the cave these comlementary dripstones have joined, to form columns which seem to hold up the 10 to 15 meter ceiling, and divide the cavern into four large halls and numerous smaller chambers.

Calcite crystals, Narlikuyu



Dripstones, Wishing Cave, Narlikuyu



The dripstones that depend from the walls hint of colored banners furling in the breeze. When light strikes onto the flowstone sheets that pave the floor in faceted crytals clumps, color seems to run out of them and fill the whole cave. Carrying the accumulated molecular secrest of millenia, these crystalled deposits of the Narlikuyu Wishing Cave teach new lessons in the vividness of red, the warmth of green and blue, the purity of white.

Just as we thought nothing could be more mysterious than the mighty dripstones of the great halls, we turn off into the small antechambers and meet with strangely bristling stalactites, like glass quills yet on closer inspection hollow; huge collections of laboratory pipettes. Or some like icicles. You will see a drop of water at the tip, adding its helpful, ultraminute fraction to the slender length before falling free. These fine-stranded clusters are sometimes mirrored in natural pools of the cave floor. The North Hall in particular sports such pools, the water often so pure that one fails to notice it.


Reference: Image of Turkey by TUTAV