Curtil’s ‘Cow Cave’: Extreme caving in Colombia

Colombia’s adventure capital, San Gil, offers thrill-seekers the experience of a lifetime, navigating the dark, narrow passageways of the “Cow Cave.”

The city of San Gil, Santander is located about 186 miles northeast of Colombia’s capital, Bogota. From the center of San Gil, the Cueva de Vaca (Cow Cave) just outside of the Curtil hamlet is only a 15-minute bus ride out of town.

The cave has multiple tight spots, winding passageways and large openings that add up to about a two-hour caving experience not for the weak of heart. If you are claustrophobic, can’t swim or are not willing to get down and dirty, this might not be the adventure for you. Also, the Cueva de Vaca is filled with bats, spiders, fish, crabs, mosquitos and all sorts of creepy crawlers, so beware.

You might be joining these creepy crawlers on the floor of the cave, as some sections require you to slither and slide your way through wet, dirty crevices.

There is also the dreaded underwater portion of the trip where in order to get to the next room, you need to dive under and swim through a hole using a rope to guide you. Upon emerging, you will find only a few inches of space between the water and the roof, making breathing much more difficult. This sensation heightens your nerves and your adrenaline.

The highlight of the tour was saved for the final room. The room features grand stalactites hanging from the roof of the cave like chandeliers. A small waterfall in the center of the room contributes to the tranquility that overcomes you after you arrive at your destination after your long adventure. The tranquility does not last long however. After exploring the jaw-dropping room, the guide explains that an exit out of the cave has yet to be discovered despite many attempts, so the group must retrace their path to exit the cave.

The caving trip can be arranged through most hostels and adventure companies. Tours with Gualti Adventura Sin Limites (571- 312 – 421- 7948) are said to be the most adventurous according to local hostel owners. Tours run daily with start times in both the mornings and afternoons.

Average cost for a caving expedition is around $13.00.

Be prepared with dark colored clothing -as you will get dirty- and long shorts or pants to protect your skin while crawling on your knees. Shoes with good grip are also recommended and they will surely get wet and dirty. The tour company should supply helmets and headlamps.

If Cueva de Vaca sounds a bit too extreme, local hostel owner, Shaun Clohesy says, “Cueva Indio in the area is more popular with families while Cueva Vaca is for those looking for something extreme, more physical and challenging and rewarding.”


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