Caving at Amboni caves in Tanga

I finally got over my phobia for pitch dark places with a labyrinth of passages and low oxygen levels. Shaking off that phobia saw me and my claustrophobic sister walk into East-Africa’s largest limestone cave system luckily found in my hometown, Tanga- Amboni caves. Situated about 8km off  Tanga-Mombasa road which is now a smooth ride down following the renovations. Our patient and encouraging guide, Mwinyi Boko walked us through a maze of passages (avoiding the squeezes) into caverns sharing myths about the caves and enlightening us on the natural carving attractions within. In this post I share some pictures of the Amboni caves and caving terminologies.

There are about 10 caves at Amboni but only two are used for tours. This is the entrance to the largest of the two. Note the map of Africa?

CAVE ENTRANCE. n. The start of a cave, defined by the dripline or at a horizontal line across an entrance at the base of a doline. The starting point of a cave survey.

CAVE ENTRANCE. n. The start of a cave, defined by the dripline or at a horizontal line across an entrance at the base of a doline. The starting point of a cave survey.

At this point, cavers (CAVER. n. A person who goes caving.) may sit with the tour guide for briefing and/or refreshments before or after the tour.

ENTRANCE CHAMBER. n. A chamber which begins at the cave entrance or a chamber connected to the entrance by a short passage, but still within the twilight zone.

ENTRANCE CHAMBER. n. A chamber which begins at the cave entrance or a chamber connected to the entrance by a short passage, but still within the twilight zone.

Rocks project both from the roof and the ground of the cave. During rainy season water is seen dripping on the walls; there are no streams, springs or lakes within the cave.

LIMESTONE CAVE. n. A cave formed in limestone. DEAD CAVE. n. A cave without streams, pools or drips of water. A more correct term to use would be dormant cave.

LIMESTONE CAVE. n. A cave formed in limestone.
DEAD CAVE. n. A cave without streams, pools or drips of water. A more correct term to use would be dormant cave.

A labyrinth of passages: some are walk-throughs, some are squeezes and some are like rifts.

WALK-THROUGH. n. A passage with plenty of headroom where a caver can walk through without stooping or crawling.

WALK-THROUGH. n. A passage with plenty of headroom where a caver can walk through without stooping or crawling.

RIFT. n. A long, narrow, high and straight cave passage with development controlled by a relatively straight weakness in the rock. (eg. formed along a fault or bedding plane).

RIFT. n. A long, narrow, high and straight cave passage with development controlled by a relatively straight weakness in the rock. (eg. formed along a fault or bedding plane).

CRAWL. n. A low passage negotiated by stooping or crawling on hands and knees. sy

CRAWL. n. A low passage negotiated by stooping or crawling on hands and knees.
Synonymous to squeeze and flattener.

Heard of Osalo Otango? His story is very common during visits to the caves or if you get time to talk to the people of Kiomoni village near by the caves. Read Chaiba Kombo’s narration – UNTOLD STORIES: Amboni caves and the story of the African hero.

AVEN. n. A shaft which rises from a passage, sometimes leading to a passage above, but not open to the surface.

AVEN. n. A shaft which rises from a passage, sometimes leading to a passage above, but not open to the surface.

There are several attractions within the cave that have been associated to various monuments, animals and historical events. One of them is this semicircular wall niche that is likened to the mihrab; there is even speculation regarding the line markings on the wall being Quranic inscriptions. I couldn’t make out any words in particular but the guide was convinced that he could read ‘Bismillah’. I still wonder whether the wall niche is actually facing the qiblah!

Mihrab (Arabic: محراب‎ miḥrāb, pl. محاريب maḥārīb) is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla; that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying.

Mihrab (Arabic: محراب‎ miḥrāb, pl. محاريب maḥārīb) is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla; that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying.

A close up picture; do you see the markings?

A close up picture; do you see the markings?

As you go deep the caves become pitch dark, there are chambers with windows that let light and air through.

DAYLIGHT HOLE. n. An opening in the roof of a cave which allows light to enter from the surface.

DAYLIGHT HOLE. n. An opening in the roof of a cave which allows light to enter from the surface.

Roots run deep: some roots traverse the caves, they are strong enough to support a person’s weight allowing one to climb up the walls.

ROOTSICLE. n. roots of trees or plants which grow into a cave cavity and become calcified. The roots and speleothem comprising the rootsicle. cf. rhizomorph.

ROOTSICLE. n. roots of trees or plants which grow into a cave cavity and become calcified. The roots and speleothem comprising the rootsicle. cf. rhizomorph.

There are several blocks within the caves some forming false stair cases and convenient sits, tables or beds.

This roof broke off to give a block the shape of African map below it. BLOCK. n. A solid piece of stone larger than 3 metres across. cf. boulder.

This roof broke off to give a block the shape of African map below it ( pic below).
BLOCK. n. A solid piece of stone larger than 3 metres across. cf. boulder.

BREAKDOWN. (1) v. A fall of bedrock from cave roof or wall under its own weight. (2) n. A pile of broken bedrock.

BREAKDOWN. (1) v. A fall of bedrock from cave roof or wall under its own weight. (2) n. A pile of broken bedrock.

A large colony of bats reside in the caves: you’ll hear the high pitched sounds and the sounds of their butting wings  as you get  into the caves. As you go deeper into the caves the floor is filled with their excrement making the air somewhat stuffy.

GUANO. n. A large accumulation of bat excrement which may also consist partly of decomposing animal skeletal material and small fragments of rock particles. To a lesser extent in caves it may consist of bird droppings.

CAVERNICOLE. n. An animal which normally lives in a cave for the whole or part of it's life cycle.

CAVERNICOLE. n. An animal which normally lives in a cave for the whole or part of it’s life cycle.

Arachnophobic? Beware of creepy crawlers.

I wonder if this is a spider?

I wonder if this is a spider?

These are just some of the pictures… If we showed you all that there is, there would be nothing left to fascinate you when you decide to go spelunking or potholing (both words synonymous to “CAVING. (1) v. The physical act of entering and exploring a cave or caves. (2) n. The sport of exploring caves and other aspects.”)

Have you been to Amboni caves?

All caving terms definition have been sourced from- GLOSSARY OF CAVING TERMS by Garry K Smith

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One comment

  1. Nikivyutio kizuri nimepata hamu ya kufika niguse mapango kwa mikono yangu

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