The Wavulpana Stalactite Caves of Sri Lanka, situated 912 feet above sea level and said to be over 500 million years old is a cave explorers paradise. The stalactites which hang like crystal chandeliers from the ceiling of the cave make the somewhat difficult trek and the smell of bat dung all worth while.
The caves lies in the Eastern slopes of the Rakwana range off Embilipitiya close to a remote village in Palebadde on the right bank of the Halwinna Stream, a tributary of the Andhdu Ganga. It is also approachable from Palancotta Estate on the Rakwana-Bulutala-Deniyaya Road. The Halwinna Stream flows through the cave.
As you walk the fair distance through the village and through the jungle path you come to the Wavulpana Caves. Take the lower entrance to the cave. The cavern roof of this cave is higher and slopes inwards and therefore you can avoid colliding with the thousands of bats that prefer the upper entrance. It is the resting place of bats who hang from the roof of the cave, after which the cave has been named and the smell of bat dug is over powering. The entrance is slippery with bat droppings but it gets wider as you go in and the overhang is about 30 feet high. The cave is pitch black so go armed with good lamps or torches. Be careful of the many pools of water as its depths are not certain.
As you go in, you are greeted with a loud sound of water which could be quite alarming at first. Inside you will see a huge gushing waterfall 80 feet in height. It is part of a perennial spring which flows into the cave through a hole and falls down as a waterfall and exits at the other end of the cave.
The stalactites appear as columns and pillars and hang like chandeliers from the ceiling of the cave. There are also projections from the sides of the cave. Powerful lights when focused on them gives an ethereal appearance.
Rain drops containing mild acid which sink through the soil gather carbon dioxide from the decaying plants and animals. Water trickles through tiny cracks in the limestone, dissolving the limestone and enlarging the cracks. After a while the cracks meet and grow bigger and a funnel shaped hole is formed. The funnel becomes wider and deeper as more water travels through the rock. The holes in the rock enlarge and become crevices which in turn becomes channels. The rain water underground becomes rivers that fill the tunnels and the stone caverns.
When the water in a cave slowly drains away to other parts of the cave, air rushes through the surface cracks in the cave and the cave begins to dry out. But small amounts of rain water trickle down the walls and cracks. Little pools of water form on the uneven surface. Little drops of water that clings to the ceiling evaporates losing its vapour because of the drier air in the cave. Eventually the drops of water disappears leaving behind a tiny circle of lime.
As more drops of rain fall, the lime deposits get larger and over the years and centuries they form stalactites, which are like hollow stone straws which continue to grow when water trickles down its surface and evaporates. They hang down from the cave in fanciful shapes. Some stalactites grow an inch in one year but some grow only a cubic inch in a century.
Drops of water which splash onto the floor of the cave form into stalagmites. These are broader and blunt on top. However, they are not noticeable due to the water which flows on the ground of the cave.
One can also find ancient fossils in the Wavulpane Cavern walls and luminous fish splash in the pools of water. The water in this area contain many minerals and the villages believe that bathing in this water will heal many ailments. The Wavulpana Cave is a cave explorers paradise and not even the smell of bat dung will deter the single minded people to explore this wonderful cave. Do visit this cave when you are in the area. Organized Tours to this cave are available through tour operators in Sri Lanka.