Cueva del Gato (Gato Cave), Benaoján (Unique Site)
Recommended month to visit it: July.
It was said that this was the lair of a basilisk, of the alicante... Be it a mythological beast, a bandolero [bandit] or a smuggler, this Cueva del Gato has always had a main role in the daily life and mythos of the area. A natural spring emerges from the proper cave, which is situated on a side of the road from Ronda to Benaoján. With its more than ten kilometres and more than ten different routes, we are in one of the most complex geological systems of Andalusia. The trouble here turns into beauty and appeal. Already 14,000 years ago its served as shelter for the peoples of the Palaeolithic, who left their paintings as testimony. The cave welcomes you with a crystalline lake in the outside, which invites you to have a swim in summer, but one must warn the reader that the temperature of the water is breath-taking.
- Parking (high site): 300378 / 4066888
- Parking (low site): 300260 / 4066866
- Gato Cave (entrance - mouth): 300105 / 4066976
Hundidero-Gato is ten kilometres long and quite wide, and it comprises one of the most complex pot-hole systems in Andalusia. The beauty and difficulties of this cavity have attracted interest of speleologists and adventure sport lovers all over the world. Unfortunately, it also became the place of many accidents. The southern part of this cave system is Cueva del Gato.
Inside the cavity, hanging bridges, paths, and electricity system were built, and some galleries were closed with concrete. Nevertheless, due to the water flow, these works, as well as the building of a dam, were abandoned.
In the area with fossils, there are huge formations, and generally the size of all elements of the cave system is imposing. There are areas with fossils that are abandoned because of torrential rain and others which are open to visitors depending on the weather.
Moreover, there are bat colonies that hibernate here. Beautiful calcite formations are hanging on the high ceiling. During some periods of year, the river flow at the bottom makes it impossible for specialist to follow on from that place. In the cave system Hundidero-Gato water is collected in a big basin.
Cueva del Gato is placed between the towns of Montejaque and Benaoján, more or less 15 kilometres away from Ronda. The same as in the entire Sierra Grazalema (The Grazalema Mountain Range), there is a karstic area of limestone rocks where waters built an incredible underworld.
Inside the cave, there are many long lagoons and the wind is strong inside the galleries. Water forms a pool in one big hall, and further on it falls down abruptly and at high speed along a narrow channel. At the end of the way, there is a light that comes from the entrance of the cave, and the river continues flowing. Then it creates a beautiful lake, and further on it meets the Guadiaro River.
The cave system named Hundidero-Gato, which is some 10 kilometres long and has 10 different routes, is one of the most complex in Andalucía.
The beauty and complexities found within the cave system have attracted expert potholers and adventure sport lovers from all over the world.
The huge mouth to the Hundidero cave system is situated at the beginning of a gorge that used to be the bed for the Gaduares River; also known as Campobuche
The Compañía Sevillana de Electricidad built a dam to contain the river in the 20s,but the reservoir never had any permanent water supply as the water drained away in a few days through the natural outlets on the bed of the reservoir.
A walk along the route through the cave reveals a lot of half-destroyed infrastructure that was used when experts were trying to find out where the water from the reservoir was going. There are hanging bridges, walkways, electrical installations, and even some of the galleries were bricked up. The water, as it usually does, found other escape routes, so both the work inside and the reservoir itself were abandoned for good.
The largest gallery is very big and has several very deep lakes, with extremely cold water.
There are zones on the inside where the water receded and created a large number of fossils, as well as other more active zones depending n the climate. The fossils found here are, like everything else inside the cave, enormous. One of the most outstanding zones, which has its own personality is known as the "Sala de los Gours".
These formations, that are formed due to the accumulation of lime that is in the water flowing down the walls of the caves, reach unusually big sizes. Several people can fit into these bathing pools (bañeras)
Groups of bats can also be found amongst the caves galleries. They can be seen mainly in the upper, inaccessible parts of the galleries, which are perfect places for the to spend the winters and reproduce.
The ceilings are very high and full of beautiful limestone outflows. Towards the central part of the cave system, where water can be seen to penetrate in rainy seasons, the route becomes almost totally horizontal except for slight undulations and the odd shallow pool of water.
The large gallery known as, "Plaza de Toros" is found here, at the end of the "Galería de la Ciénaga". It is more than 60 metres high and wide and is, therefore, one of the largest in Andalusia. After this visitors come across the "Los Toriles" and the beautiful waterfall that gives its name to the gallery.
At this point of the route the river that runs into the reservoir makes an appearance and turns the route from this spot on into something that can be, according to the season, very dangerous even for specialist potholers.
Just around the next corner visitors come across what is called "La gran estalagmita", which is a formation that occupies the central part of the gallery in a zone of great activity. Sometimes the whole gallery is completely submerged under water.
There are several elongated pools like the "Lago Doble" and the "Lago Largo" and other areas like the "Cabo de las Tormentas" where there are always strong gusts of wind due to its situation. The "Galería de la Botella" is the last one on the route and is where the water rests still in a large gallery before plummeting down a narrow outlet.
Visitors finally get a glimpse of daylight again through the large mouth of the Cueva del Gato after passing through the "Galería del Aburrimiento" and the "sala de las Dunas". The river flows out of this exit and forms a large pool, which joins the Guadiaro River a few metres from the exit.
A group of archaeologists from Malaga discovered remains of some paintings from the Palaeolithic period in September 2004. This confirms the thesis that there were humans in this region at least 14,000 years ago.
From amongst the paintings the most outstanding is the profile of a ochre colour big deer with an impressive head of horns, a strong back, chest and front legs. There is also a figure of a hunter that seems to have been done at a later date. All these examples, from the Palaeolithic period, can be catalogued as being from the middle part of the period due to their subject matter and condition, like the ones found in the Cueva de la Pileta.
The province of Malaga can boast of having eight such cave systems today that contain some sort of drawings or paintings. This fact sets it up as the most important focal point of Palaeolithic Art in the Mediterranean basin and makes it comparable with similar discoveries made in Cantabria and some areas in southern France.