Cave exploration in Dusun Blimbing
Gunung Kidul Regency in Yogyakarta, specifically Blimbing Village in Ponjong District, is a dry and desolate region – one of the main characteristics of an area with a dominantly karst geology. Karst – a term used worldwide to refer to limestone regions – is a kind of natural landform shaped by the dissolution of layers of soluble bedrock, in a process called karstification. Karst is characterized by sinkholes (closed basins), underground streams, and caverns, caused when rainwater and carbon dioxide dissolve limestone. These landforms are created gradually over millions of year.
Karst is important, as nearly 70% of karst contains valuable minerals, and many also contain water springs. In Indonesia, karst zones are found on nearly all islands, covering roughly 20% of the total land area.
With thoughtful consideration to the environment, cave and karst ecotourism can be an excellent way to utilize these areas, especially when local communities are involved. As well as generating revenue, this approach also requires that the karst be protected for its economic and environmental value. In fact, noting the tremendous benefits contained in karst, on 6 December 2004 President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proclaimed the karst zone a natural laboratory and encouraged “eco-karst” activities.
Here at Gunung Kidul, cave and karst tourism is currently being developed, as a very logical way to help overcome the local people’s poverty. This activity, which obviously appeals only to certain people, has not been widely developed, but a few karst-related activities, such as cave exploring, are beginning to attract visitors.
The karst zone at Gunung Kidul is actually part of the much larger Gunung Sewu karst zone in Central Java, which stretches as far as Pacitan in East Java. Blimbing village itself has seven cave entrances into three caves – two vertical and one horizontal – that can be explored by special-interest tourists.
Cave exploration in Dusun Blimbing is very safe. Not only are the guides highly qualified and experienced, but international-standard safety equipment is used, ensuring safety even for absolute beginners. Before entering the caves, visitors are urged to stop off at the Blimbing Village Hall, which serves as an information center on tourism in the area. Here you can receive the information you need through visual displays, videos, and important explanations, including proper preparation for trekking and caving activities.
As a starting experience that’s sure to give you an adrenalin rush, tourists can explore the Cokro vertical cave, or Luweng Cokro. From the Village Hall, tourists first hike around 500 meters along a steep trail through an arid landscape with rocky plains, until they come to a rice-field dike.
Arriving at the mouth of the cave, you will be greeted by local people offering help lift you into and out of the cave; but you have to follow your guide’s orders.
Luweng Cokro has two openings and is around 18 meters deep. To start the exploration, you enter through a narrow opening just wide enough for one person, with a strong wall to hold on to. Once the ropes are properly fastened, your guide will order you to sit and hold on to the cave walls on both sides. As you hang, the local people will gradually lower you until you reach the cave floor.
Luweng Cokro, like many caves, contains stalactites and stalagmites in many interesting shapes, creating an exotic panorama. These “ornamental” structures are created by mineral deposits from water dripping over thousands of years. The floor of this cave is challenging to navigate, as it comprises boulders, mud, soft ground and sand.
Luweng also contains some unusual cave-dwelling creatures: snakes, swallows, and many bats flying near the cave walls. The cavern has an unusual structure, with one large chamber like a ballroom and a descending corridor that gradually becomes narrower; toward the end you have to squat to more forward.
If you want to explore this cave in a party of ten, it will take around three hours: 45 minutes to descend, 90 minutes to explore the cave, including rest periods, and another 45 minutes to reascend. The party is usually divided into groups; when one group has finished the descent, they start the exploration while waiting for the others to descend.
After finishing the exploration and resting briefly, the tourists get ready to be hauled up and out of the cave. The guide in the cave gives orders using special communication equipment so that the people outside are ready to pull.
During the ascent process, you need to maintain a gentle balance, avoid moving too much, and hold on to the rope, especially when you approach the mouth of the cave so that you don’t bang into the hard walls and injure yourself.
This activity is both challenging and a lot of fun, but it’s not recommended for those who suffer from a serious fear of heights or darkness. These special-interest tourists need a certain level of courage, and adequate understanding of what they’re doing.
Luweng Cokro is a perfect “starter cave” for tourists with no previous experience who want to try caving. Even children can do it safely, following the guide’s instructions.
Getting to Yogyakarta
Garuda Indonesia flies the Jakarta-Yogyakarta-Jakarta route 56 times per weeks, and Denpasar-Yogyakarta-Denpasar 14 times per week.
Getting to Dusun Blimbing
The village is 60 km southeast of Yogyakarta. You can take a bus from Yogyakarta to Wonosari and then take another to Ponjong, and continue
Facts about the Gunung Kidul karst zone:
Though it’s considered an arid region, there’s actually a tremendous amount of water underground – an estimated 4000 liters per second flowing into the southern ocean, enough to meet the needs of 1 to 2 people; the population of Gunung Kidul is around 725,000.
Three locations could be developed for karst tourism: Ponjong, Pantai Siung, and Pantai Wedi Ombo.
After exploring Luweng Cokro, tourists can continue with more challenging activities at other nearby caves, such as Gua Gremeng and Gua Banyu Sumurup, or Luweng Senen and Gua Dilem.