Descending the steps down into the lava tubes of Tenerife’s Cueva del Viento, the fourth longest in the world, we came face to face with 27,000 years of geography, history and geology.
Cueva del Viento or Cave of the Wind, is so-called due to a gently cooling breeze that continuously refreshes the subterranean air in the lava tubes.
Discovered 90 years ago after a shepherdess fell down a 16-metre hole into the lava tubes, this labyrinth of caves stretches 17 kilometres. The lava flows of past volcanic eruptions from Pico Viejo have left an underground world of fascinating caves, rock formations and sculptured surfaces.
Thankfully the shepherdess survived her ordeal with a few broken bones, but what was a tragic accident for her has resulted in a geological bonanza for lava tube research and exploration.
The first notable thing on entering the caves carved out by the lava was the rugged and very uneven floor, each step had to be carefully placed. In a couple of places there were examples of where the roof has caved in, but all that has now been made safe for visitors. Clearly visible on the ceiling were the beginnings of the formation of stalactites.
The temperature in the lava tubes was comfortable but got cooler as we trundled further into the bowels of the caves.
There’s a rich variety of life in the lava tubes but very little of it can be seen. Some 190 species have been found in this volcanic complex, including fifteen that were new to science, and steps have been taken to protect them and keep humans away from their habitat. A handful of spiders were cocooned in crevices in the lava tubes’ roof, but there is nothing for arachnophobes to be fearful of.
Listen to the LiveShareTravel Audioboo from Cueva del Viento
We visited the lava tubes of Cueva del Viento while staying at Pearly Grey Ocean Club.