Volume 45 Number 1 Article 11
Thailand Nov 2007 to Feb 2008
Tham Luem, 29/01/08
Dave from One Stop Dive shop, Mike Gadd, Ben Jackson, and Alex Fletcher
Dave from the dive shop knows the owner of the land on which the entrance lies otherwise we would never have been able to do this trip. The owner has asked for the location to be kept secret and I can fully understand why.
The Thai owner Suun had previously been in here to another large entrance, reached after 3 hours caving and wanted to know the extent of the cave beyond. The cave is a great sporting trip without the need for any ropes etc.
A short climb down leads to chest deep water and just enough airspace for your head. After a few metres the roof lifts to become walking size and the walls and roof a mass of pure white stals and gour pools, the water flowing over gravel with silt banks to the sides. The cave continues pretty much the same, crawling, wading and swimming, but every 100m or so enlarges to a chamber each one bigger than the last.
After a couple of routes through boulders the sound of bats catches the attention and soon the passage opens up once more to a large chamber containing a stal shaped like a Bhuddist bell about 3m diameter and 5m high. Hundreds of bats have made this place home. The way out of here is a crawl about 1m high and 3m wide still in the stream and with the bats flapping past your ears. The walls here are a series of narrow ledges running horizontally, and in one of these was a White Python testing the air with its tongue waiting for one of the bats to get too close.
The roof soon lifts again to a climb up and over a dodgy looking boulder fall to a climb back down to the stream. The sound of bats and now the smell of guano is pretty heavy at this point but 20m further on and the roof lifts to impressive proportions and the whole passage widens. At stream level the usual gravel and sand banks occupy the sides of a 5m wide passage. The roof 18m above looks scoured clean with large gouge marks in it, the width at roof level 20m. Straight on here leads to a climb up a boulder slope to an entrance 25m above, this was the limit of the owners trip. The streamway at this point contained large Limestone and Granite boulders. A way through very unstable boulders at the base of the climb leads to a point where a small stream dropped vertically from hanging death.
Back at the base of the climb up, the right hand route containing the main flow continued on but getting lower and with a very unstable roof. At a climb up to bypass impossible access at stream level one particular rock the size of a small car was balanced on two small rocks but was firmly cemented. The whole of this area at first glance is frightening to say the least but it soon becomes clear that they have been in this position long enough to become firmly calcited together.
The next section changed in that the flow had prevented any calcitng and very cautious progress was made through a nerve jangling area. At one point Mike touched a boulder that rolled a few inches to come to a halt at a smaller rock, keeping our exit clear. We had hoped to surface on the other side of the ridge but 500m on from the start of the right hand branch the stream was emerging from between boulders with large quantities of silt barring any further progress. We must have been very close to the surface but the boulders, both Granite and Limestone were too big and loose to consider pulling any of them about. Maybe at the end of the wet season the silt will be washed out and a way through can be found. But it's all very loose and no rescue service exists.
In all we guessed the cave to be 2.5Km long. Many holes in the roof offered ways on but would require bolting and a fondness for the hundreds of bats that live in them. All in all a great sporting trip, five and a half hours in and out and solid formations and rock sculpture to photograph. Water temp. 24degs.
Tham Thong Lang
02/02/08 8' 30' 10N, 98' 34' 59 E, Elev. 55m
Mike Gadd and Alex Fletcher
This impressive cave is the sink for the Tham Nam Tok water. A 4Km walk through rubber plantations and sometimes dense undergrowth leads to the entrance, a stream passage 4m wide and 14m high. A few days previous I'd been here with some locals, the old man took me 100m downstream and said just around the next corner the roof came down and we could go no further. Mike Gadd arrived a couple of days later and he said well if it's only 100m to the sump we'll take tanks and that he'd walk the 100m to the sump and dive it. And so we set off downstream, him fully kitted and me following behind, sometimes wading sometimes having to swim, (sorry float). At the wedged tree branch which was supposed to be just before the sump Mike made final checks. There was no sump there. Must be just around the next corner I said. A few next corners later and he decided to 'stage' the tanks on a wide gravel bank on one side of the passage 500m from the entrance. We carried on downstream just enjoying the place. 1Km from the entrance the roof lifted again and daylight could be seen 20m above, the passage 16m wide here. Hundreds of bats making a hell of a noise and a bloody awful smell. At 1.5Km in we decided to stop. The outward trip was very tiring against the powerful flow. At the limit of this trip the passage is 3 or 4 times the size of the resurgence cave and there is still approx. 800m to the upstream line in Tham Nam Tok. This will be a great through trip.
At the entrance we spotted a small brown snake with a yellow stripe along its body and the distinctive diamond shaped head of something not very nice. Any ideas anybody?
Krabi and Phang Nga Provinces
Compared to the North, South Thailands Karst towers and mountains have received little attention. Many of them are sign posted and easy to visit show caves with walkways and electric lighting, but have not been explored beyond. Some like Tham Thong Lang and Tham Luem have only been visited by the local Thais and some of these no further than day light will reach, the cave spirits may get angry! Many caves must await discovery and the ones already known have the potential for extension.
Tham Sa Lek, Tonsai Beach, Krabi Province
At some point in time a mass of rock has fallen from the 100m high cliffs onto the beach causing the water to back up and create a sumped entrance. A low entrance in the cliff 3m above the beach drops into a small pool. A nasty thrutch down underwater (side mount only) leads to an enlargement after 2m. A further 16m diving in zero vis breaks surface in a 3m diameter pool. A scramble out of the pool and 15m of easy passage leads to another pool. Halfway along here a climb up to the left closes at 5m. Sump 2 is larger with a small trickle of water emerging. I've dived this for 30m to 4m depth and still going. A compass bearing at the end shows it's heading towards Diamond Cave, a large show cave not fully explored and 1km away. I first explored this in Jan 2005. The only problem is getting off this beach once you're on it. I was diving alone at the time so safety was paramount and, as I mentioned earlier, no rescue service exists.
Tham Phet, Ao Luek, Krabi Province
A sign-posted show cave East of Highway 4 1k North of Ao Luek Tai turning. Easy walking leads past a side passage marked No Entry, after 50m. This pasage is blocked after a few metres. A small hole down to water just past here has not been tried. At a large junction about 200m in, the right hand passage (again signed do not enter), leads after a further 30m of descending passage to a sump containing many fish. This was dived to a constriction at 2m depth. Back at the junction a stooping height passage on the left enlarges after 20m and divides again, the left passage unexplored 1m high and 2.5m wide. To the right here leads to a muddy crater which fills up with water in the rainy season, the water coming up from the floor. Just before this to the left a sandy crawl continues unexplored but draughting.
For photographs visit www.drmike.smugmug.com/caving and cave diving.