We have never done anything quite like this. The history left behind is incredible. The artifacts in this cave are literally at your feet without yellow tape or barriers. Fourteen humans' remains have been found in the cave to date, some of which visitors see. The number of pots and pot shards are countless.
Despite the restrictions there seemed to be way too many groups there, and there was some agitation amongst different guides. Someone from another group complained to us that their guide told them we were breaking all the rules like group size limit, I think the limit is 8 and we had 6 whereas they had about 18, so it sounds like some people are just trying to create issues. We would not be surprised to see the rules change dramatically and the restriction to increase, or even for the place to shut down completely due to the circus the large groups cause.
We saw many incredible cave formations. One would probably call them typical...stalactites, stalagmites..but we still found it incredible.
Deeper in the cave there are a lot of stalagmites (from the ground up) that have been altered so that their shadows make a figure on the wall. You might never know that they throw shadows as figures unless the guide shines the flashlight on it.
To get to the artifacts, we had to swim into the cave, and wade though narrow corridors - and sometimes doggie paddle - for about a mile or so (perhaps a bit less). Once we reached a ledge that we had to climb up rocks to get to. But we finally made it.
Once you are deep inside the cave, you climb out of the water up a pile of rocks and scramble on to a ledge in the cave. From there, access to the rooms of artifacts is dry, and is done barefoot.
It was decided that the artifacts found in the cave would be left exactly where they found them. Seeing the pots and bones in the position where they were left thousands of years ago is amazing. yes things shift, but in general, the place is a living museum. One of the pots that we saw had the man (or monkey) pressed from the inside out to cause a 3D figure like the one we saw at Che Chem Ha. The pot with the figure from this cave is shown below.
To leave the cave, we backtracked through the rooms and down the rocks back into the water where we waded, walked, and swam back to the opening. We were glad we did this trip on the last day because we could not imagine anything could top the overall adventure from the hiking to swimming though a wet cave to the artifacts and the interesting history the guide told. And yes, there was a horrible spider, and yes there was a cave crab as well, but we only saw one of each and they were in the same exact place hours later on our return, so it is safe from that perspective.
This trip is a must do, but please do so with respect for the artifacts, the cave, and the culture.
The visits to the cave are limited and every one must be accompanied by a guide. You can't just show up at the mouth of the cave and expect to join in with a group. The visit is arranged beforehand, usually with the help of the place you are staying.
If you plan to do this trip, remember to bring your own dry bag so you can access your camera at any point. Also, bring extra film and batteries. We hiked in wearing teva-like shoes and aqua socks which made it easy. Bring an extra set of clothes to leave in the van so you can change when you get back.
Wear hiking shoes. To get to the cave you need to hike in about 45 minutes to an hour. There are three river crossings where you wade from shore to shore (see first photo at the top of this page).