Limestone Cave is on Baratang Island, particularly at Nayadera near Wrafters Creef, there is a huge deposit of Limestone, where some deposits are in the form of caves and the rest of it is in the form of layers or beds one upon the other. These deposits are either above the soil or under the ground (the underground portions from caves). There are more than 300 big and small deposits of limestone, out of which only one ¡n the form of a cave is open for tourists. In the cave, massive limestone formations dangled from the ceiling, glowed from the sides and sprouted from the ground.
How to reach Limestone Cave:
One has to reach Baratang Island which is a 100-kilometre drive through the narrow Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) from Port Blair. The drive is followed by a short vehicle ferry ride from Middle Strait to Baratang Nilambur Jetty and from there another half-an-hour ride on a speedboat. As the speedboat knifes its way through the waters of the Baratang Creek, tiny islands and endless stretches of massive, primordial tropical forests bordered by unique Mangrove vegetation move up and down into the view on either side.
The speedboat is berthed at a temporary wooden jetty at Nayadera Creek. A few steps after the landing a ‘Mangrove Canopy Walk’ welcome the tourists. The Mangrove Canopy Walk is maintained by the staff of the Bara:ang Forest Division of the Andaman and Nicobar Administration. The Canopy Walk is a 240 meters long narrow bridge made of Non-timber Forest produce, winding its way through thick mangroves.
The Mangrove Canopy Walkway is designed in such a way that neither any Mangrove branch was pruned nor any tree felled during the construction of the path. The information on the boards is instructive and enlightening. One can get well acquainted with various aspects of mangroves, their morphology, saltwater adaptations etc while walking on this path.
The mangrove swamps help in flood control, trapping silt, and storm breakers and act as coastal protection barriers. The Mangroves Canopy Walk, the information boards in Hindi and English, eco huts, sit-outs and chairs formed part of “An open interpretation centre” to provide information on mangroves, their morphology, and their uses and so on. After getting off the bridge, one must trudge over one and a half kilometres through dense tropical forests. At a couple of clearings were paddy fields with idyllic huts located strategically. On either side of the path, there are eco-huts to take shelter when it rains, eco sit-outs, benches and chairs, all made of bamboo and thick cane plats. While passing through this forest, one can see only the faint ray of sunlight filtering through the dense foliage. The “cave” comes into view after the walk through Forest. The cave is a sight to behold- massive limestone formations dangled from the ceiling like chandeliers, glowed from the sides and sprouted from the ground like short pilasters. One hung like a thick pillar from the top of the cave. The serrated edges of the limestone blocks shine in the dark. There is a narrow walkway of the cave inside and constant water dripping from the ceiling. The limestone caves at Baratang have been opened to visitors to promote eco-tourism.
Formation of Limestone Cave
The origin of limestone caves is complex, and scientists need to be in complete agreement as to the sequence of their formation Limestone is a sedimentary rock formed at the bottom of the sea. It is formed by the compression of the gradual deposits of many ingredients, such as marine life, shells, skeletons and coral, over millions of years. The primary source of calcite in Limestone is most commonly marine organisms. These organisms’ exuded shells settle out of the water column. They are deposited on the ocean floor as pelagic ooze or in coral reefs. These produce are speleothems such as stalactites and stalagmites. The formations are pushed above sea level in many parts of the world. They have different hues, textures and degrees of purity. The solution process forms these Limestone Caves. These caves are believed to be the deepest and largest caves found by man. A common characteristic of these rocks is that rainwater easily dissolves them.
Limestone Formation Process:
When it rains, the raindrops pick up Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It hits the earth’s surface and flows downward into small cracks. As it flows, it passes through air pockets in the soil. These air pockets contain more carbon dioxide, given off by rotting plants and soluble lime from the limestone rocks. When the atmospheric Carbon dioxide gets dissolved into the rainwater. This mixture forms a mild Carbonic Acid, an effective solvent limestone.
This acid water seeks any split in the rock formations, such as fissures, joints or faults. It gradually seeps into these weakened rocks, enlarging them and dissolving Calcium Carbonate, the main mineral in Limestone. This mixture flows down to the water table. One of the essential properties of Limestone is that it is easy to find a weak acidic solution compared to other rock types.
Limestone is a calcium carbonate rock dissolved by water containing carbon dioxide (mild carbonic acid), forming a calcium hydrogen carbonate solution. This solution travels through the rock until it reaches an edge, and if it is on the roof of a cave, it will drip down. When the solution comes into contact with air, the chemical reaction is reversed, and calcium carbonate particles are deposited.
y the continuing physical flow of rainwater and the chemical reaction of the Carbonic Acid making its way through these weakened areas, erosion results gradually over thousands of years until underground rooms, chambers or carves are formed. There is constant seepage of groundwater through the rocks. Water carries calcite, which has been leeched from the rocks. Calcite is a crystallite mineral that is the main component of chalk limestone and marble stone. It is a natural form of calcium carbonate.
Carboniferous Limestone is a sedimentary rock made of calcium carbonate, generally light grey and hard. It has horizontal layers or beds with bedding planes and vertical joints. These joints are weak in the rock and exploited by agents of denudation and weathering. The average growth rate of Limestone is 0.13 mm (0.005 inches) a year. The quickest-growing stalactites are those formed by fast-flowing water rich in calcium carbonate and carbon dioxide, which can grow at 3 mm (0.12 inch) per year.
Hotels / Resorts near Limestone Cave:
there is no stay in Limestone Cave, you can visit and come back to Baratang Jetty, we can find some hotels in Baratang if you want to stay, but most of the Baratang trip starts early morning from Port Blair and return back to the port blair by evening. some of the hotels/resorts in Baratang are:
- Coral Greek Resort
- Dew Dale Resorts
There are very less stays, so if you are planning to stay at Baratang, pre-booking the stay is recommended.