I have traveled across the oceans, trekked in the mountains even drove around the deserts but what I have not seen is a real cave. This unfulfilled dream of mine came true when I had the opportunity to visit Belum Caves. Located in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh in India. This trip forms a part of the tourist circle which comprises of Belum Caves – Gandikota Gorge – Gandikota Fort – Gooty Fort.
How to Reach
The nearest railhead is Tadipatri but it is recommended that you stay at Gooty instead since Gooty has better facilities for ease of travel. There are no hotels near the cave and APTDC only manages a Haritha restaurant at the site thus you have to stay at a hotel either in Tadipatri or Gooty.
If you are traveling by car then you can directly reach the cave site and park your vehicles right next to the restaurant.
Where to Stay
Though Tadipatri is the nearest station to Belum Caves I decided to stay at Gooty instead thus would not be able to recommend any hotels at Tadipatri. The main reason why I opted to stay at Gooty was that Gooty Fort is also located right in the center of the town thus would be able to visit that place easily.
Gooty has limited options and I managed to only see three hotels where you can stay overnight with only one amongst the three recommendable. Even the locals will tell you that Hotel Ravi Theja is the best place with air-conditioned accommodations in the town. The only downside is that the hotel rooms do not have western toilets and you would have to get yourself accustomed with the Indian version. On the positive side, this hotel has a restaurant attached which takes care of your hunger problem. However, the taste of food is not that great and the saving grace would be that there are quite a few restaurants all around this place serving both veg and non-veg food.
If you are staying at Gooty then once you come out of the station you will find plenty of Auto and Vikram plying from the station towards the main town. Since the main Gooty town is around 5 kilometers from the station thus you have to avail their service. A fully booked Auto will cost you around 60 Rs. and with a limited number of hotels in the region, you can rest assured that the Auto driver will take you straight to the hotel.
To reach Belum Caves you have to book a car unless you have another pre-booked option. The car rates (2017) are 1000 Rs. for a day plus 300 Rs. for the driver, fuel cost will be at actual at the rate of 10 Kilometres per liter of diesel. Roughly a trip to Belum Caves and Gandikota from Gooty would roughly cost you around 3000 Rs.
Trip to Belum Caves
Usually, tourists visit Belum Caves and Gandikota together and these two tourist sites are actually in different districts thus start early so that you have enough time to go around each of the places at a comfortable pace. It takes roughly a little more than an hour to reach Belum Caves and you would pass through some of the driest regions of the state with beautiful landscapes of red soil and hill ranges in the distance. Just relax and enjoy the drive, I would recommend that you take snacks, drinking water and juices along with you, trust me these will come handy later.
What to See At Belum Caves
As you approach the cave you will be able to a hill in the distance with the word Belum Caves spelled out, don’t be mistaken the hill has nothing to do with the cave but just a sort of advertisement. As you enter the site you need to park your vehicles near the Haritha Restaurant, if you are not carrying water I would highly recommend that you stock up from the restaurant since you will for sure need this once inside the cave. All around the site you will find blower fans running, these are nothing but sending fresh air down to the caves below and sucking out air from inside the cave. This is critical else you will not survive with the accumulation of carbon dioxide at the bottom.
This place is a ticketed site and an adult would need to pay 50 Rs. and for a child (5 – 10 Years) is 35 Rs. Foreigners have to pay a fixed price of 300 Rs. Though there are no official guides for the site you will for sure be approached by the local staff to be the guide. Usually, I do not take a guide at a tourist spot since I do my homework before going but I would definitely recommend you to take their service out here. The caves are a labyrinth of interconnected sections and instead of wasting hours trying to figure out the correct way it best to use their service. There are no official rates for the guide and a tip on 80 – 100 Rs. would surely bring a smile to their faces.
Alternately if you do not take a guide there is no need to worry, you will never get lost as hundreds of CCTV with night vision cameras installed inside the cave thus if you are in any distress you will be easily traceable. The entire length of the cave which is open for tourist access have strategically placed lights giving the cave a wonderful yellowing glow but at some places, the floor can be slippery and carrying a battery operated torch or your mobile phone light is recommended.
This portion is basically a warning if you are claustrophobic or physically not fit this place is not for you. If you have breathing difficulties then it’s best to avoid since at places it can be extremely stuffy. Another portion of advice though may sound rude but some portions of the cave have a very narrow passage thus if you are overweight think twice before attempting to enter the narrow passages, there are other wider approaches take them instead. During the rainy season, some portion of the cave has constant water flowing beneath your feet thus wear footwear that is best suited.
The air pumps above the ground strategically force in the fresh air inside the cave thus do take rest from time to time under these blower pipes, you will surely feel relaxed. It’s always advisable to carry water inside the cave as it can become very sweaty inside and a quick round of hydration might be helpful.
Inside the cave
After going past the ticket gate you would need to climb down a flight of stairs to reach the first entry point of the cave, out here if you look straight up you will see a natural circular opening and during monsoon rain water enters the cave from this section.
Overall the cave is the second largest cave system in India with a length of 3229 meters and at the deepest point, it goes to a depth of 46 meters. Out of the total 3229 meters, only 900 meters is accessible to tourists and a total tour of this section would take around one and half hours.
There are several sections inside the cave which have been named, the names, however, are just imaginary and were given as an identification marker rather than any historical significance. Some of the sections are as follows:-
Dhyan Mandir (Meditation Hall)
This section is near to the entrance. Initial excavation revealed Buddhist period artifacts thus it is assumed that Buddhist monks used to use this as a meditation hall. There is even a section that looks like a bed with a pillow to recline.
Pillidwaram (Cats Gate)
A natural arch of stalactites formed in the shape of three lion heads.
This section contains stalactite formations which are akin to Shiva lingams. It has one huge pillar formed due to stalactite and stalagmite joining together. These as mentioned before are more of an imagination in naming the sections during initial exploration.
Saptasvarala Guha (Musical Chamber)
Saptasvarala Guha means a chamber of seven notes. The stalactite formations in this chamber reproduce musical sounds when these are struck with a wooden stick or knuckles. I would recommend you not to do this as it might damage the formations.
This section has amazing stalactite formations shaped like the hood of Cobra. The stalactite formations on the ceiling look as if thousands of cobras have opened their hoods.
Banyan Tree Hall
This section has a huge pillar with stalactites hanging from the ceiling. This gives a look of Banyan Tree with its aerial roots when seen from below. The locals call it “Voodalamari” since it looks like a Banyan Tree with its aerial roots hanging from the branches.
This is a huge area inside the cave with magnificent stalactite structures on the sides giving it a look of a hall with pillars.
This is the deepest portion of the cave accessible to tourists. It is a small perennial stream which disappears into the depths of the earth. It is believed to be heading towards a well at the Belum village, located 2 km away from the caves.
The finding of Buddhist era pottery and artefacts suggest that this place was once used by monks as a resting and a place for meditation. This is also the reason why a section of the cave is referred as the meditation hall where monks used to rest and meditate.
Lost in time this place was discovered by Robert Bruce Foote who was a British surveyor in 1884. Later on, Robert Bruce Foote became an architect of geological and archaeological surveys in India. However, this cave was again somewhat forgotten and it was only in the 1980’s that a group of German speleologist led by Herbert Daniel Gebauer surveyed the cave and mapped it. Much later did this place become a tourist attraction when Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation decided to promote this place as a tourist destination.
At the Patal Ganga location, a new cavernicolous (inhabiting caves) Isopod species discovered, named Andhracoides gebaueri in the year 2013.
People usually visit Gandikota next which some say is the Indian answer to Grand Canyon, just an hour’s drive from Belum Cave Gandikota has quite a few attractions actually the gorge as well as the fort. All that coming up in my next blog till then bon voyage.
Action Camera Video Footage
Click here to open the route map to Belum Caves from Gooty on Google Maps
Click here to open the route map to Belum Caves from Gooty onward to Gandikota on Google Maps
Click here to open the route map to Belum Caves from Gooty onward to Gandikota and return to Gooty on Google Maps
Gooty – Hotel Ravi Theja (Mobile – 83093 86360, this is the mobile number of the owner who can speak Telugu and little Hindi. You can also WhatsApp him in this number in English)
Local Transportation Details
Toyota Etios & Toyota Innova – Call Malli at 91000 91666, he can speak English, Hindi at Telugu