Guacharo Caves

This cave system in the Caripe Mountains of Venezuela was discovered in 1799 by the famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who not only found the caverns intriguing, but also its inhabitants. Led by a lantern down narrow passageways, a visitor today can experience what Humboldt did all those years ago. As you enter the first cavern, known as Humboldt’s Gallery, you are greeted by the deafening screams of up to 15,000 pigeon-sized oilbirds (gu&charo), the largest known
colony in the world. They roost and nest here in the dark, but at night they leave to forage for fruits in the surrounding forest.
At dusk 250 birds per minute pour out of the cave entrance, finding their way in the dark using a primitive echolocation system (similar to that used by bats and dolphins, but with the substitution of audible sounds). They mainly eat palm nuts, and the seeds they deposit in their droppings in the cave feed an entire ecosystem of cave crickets, spiders, centipedes, crabs, and rats. Some of the seeds germinate on the cave floor, so miniature forests of spindly palm-nut seedlings sprout and then die in the dark. The caves can be found about 6 miles (10 kilometers) north of Caripe.