Hairnets and Helmets

hairnets and helmets green grotto cavesWhat are Dave and I doing in hairnets and helmets? It was mandatory to put on both before we were allowed to begin our tour of the Green Grotto Caves in Discovery Bay, Jamaica.  The hairnets may have been a precaution for those who still believe in the myth that bats can get tangled in your hair. The caves are home to 24 different kinds and we saw lots flitting around during our tour.chett our guide green grotto caves Our guide Chedd was very knowledgeable about Jamaican history and well versed in facts about the animal and plant life of the country.  Thousands of bats live in the Green Grotto Caves. They fly out at sunset through light holes like this one in great waves. We saw the wide swaths of guano (bat shit) they leave on the walls of the cave along their path. They spend six or seven hours hunting and then return to the caves. The bat guano is collected for fertilizer and in days of yore, the Caribbean pirates used it to make gunpowder. Every morning workers must sweep up thousands of seeds from the fruit the bats have collected and eaten. Some seeds sprout and grow like this one for a short time in the artificial lighting of the cave but they don’t live for long. 

This deep lake in the caves was where a scene from the James Bond movie Live and Let Die was filmed. It served as a base for the story’s villain Doctor Kananga and James Bond’s submarine emerged from this lake. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond built a home in Jamaica in 1946, was married here in 1952 and had a long-term affair with one of his Jamaican neighbours. Chedd told us that this coral rock between two of the caves proves that 40-25 million years ago Jamaica was completely submerged under the sea and that 10-20 million years ago the tectonic uplift of the Caribbean plate created its present state. One of the rock formations was hollow and Chedd played it like a drum. This opening in the rocks is said to be the outline of the island of Jamaica. Chedd told us the entrance to this room of the caves was called the Limbo Hole and could only be used by the fittest and agile tourists and he was sure we could manage it. We did. For a time the caves served as an underground nightclub but the vibrations from the loud music, the debris from foodservice and the clumsiness of drunk patrons were doing ecological damage to the caves so the government took over and turned them into a tourist attraction.

This sign points to an escape route. The caves have often been used as hideouts- by pirates, by runaway slaves, and by the Spanish fleeing the British. Chedd told us this rock formation is supposed to look like the Biblical character Lot’s wife who turned into a pillar of salt. We found this interesting because when we toured the Jenolan caves in Australia they also had a rock formation that looked like Lot’s wife.  

Banyan fig tree roots seem to be the only vegetation that really thrives in the caves and our guide said if you follow the roots you are sure to find water. I was interested in these huge fruits on a tree at the cave entrance. The guide said they are calabash. Despite having to wear rather bizarre headgear our tour was great and taught us many new things about Jamaica.

Other posts about Jamaica……..

Pirates, Plantations, Political Activists and Pot

Jamaican Introductions

Acquiring a Taste for Jamaican Food

Dead Yard Party



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Filed under History, Jamaica, Nature

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