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If spelunking (caving) is what you get your high from, one of the items on your must do list when visiting Guam is a trip to the caves of Guam. Armed with nothing more than charred sticks and quicklime, the ancient Chamorros, the original inhabitants of Guam, created within these caves a window into their lives, and give us glimpses about their culture, habits and way of life.
One of the much-visited caves of Guam is the Talofofo Caves situated in the southern part of the island. It is named after the village on whose outskirts it exists and the name is probably derived from the Chamorro phrase ‘entalo’ i fe’fo’, which means ‘between the cliffs’, or from ‘fo’fo’, which means a ‘bubbling spring’. The Talofofo River is also located close to the village, and so your trip could include a visit to the scenic Talofofo Falls nearby.
This system of caves consists of six caves of Mariana Reef limestone and form a labyrinth of interconnected chambers and high passageways. One of the main attractions here is the Eye of the Needel, a natural bridge formation and the Window Rock, an intriguing natural arch formation.
The Talofofo Caves are treasure troves of the relics of the ancient Chamorro civilization and the walls are covered in petroglyphs and paintings depicting the life and times of the people. The floors are covered with potsherds (fragments of pottery) and the cave walls blackened by soot indicate that the inhabitants lit fires in the caves.
Although most caves only served as temporary shelters, the mortars cut into the bedrock at the caves’ entrance and the signs of taro fields near the caves indicate that they must have been used as permanent shelters.
Archeologists have authenticated the simple petroglyphs in the caves as probably belonging to the Latte Period. Only two colors –black and white – have been used to draw these petroglyphs. The black work seems to have been done with charred pieces of wood while the white seems to have been done with quicklime, a compound make by firing and slaking corals and shells. The Chamorro chewed quicklime along with betel nuts and pepper betel leaves, a custom popular in Southeast Asia also.
The petroglyphs mostly depicted traditional ocean navigation concepts and stellar formations, natural for a sea faring people who spent their lifetime memorizing star charts and sea routes.
What to Bring With You When You Visit the Caves of Guam:
Admission to the caves is free. But you might want to carry a few things with you.
The caves are dark and you want to see the petroglyphs.
Again, dark caves and you would want to watch your step. A helmet with a headlamp is also a good idea so that you have a hand free to hold the flashlight to study the drawings.
The path could be slippery, or unsteady and a good pair of shoes makes all the difference between a memorable trip and a bruised back.
A good idea if you don’t plan to provide a feast for the various current day inhabitants of the caves.
The caves are pretty easy to navigate. But nothing like someone who knows the ropes and the paths so that you can spend the day enjoying the sights instead of guessing the path. You can arrange guides at the Talofofo Mayor’s office.
If you have any more questions about these caves, our friendly staff at Days Inn, the most popular Guam hotel, will be happy to answer you and point you along the right path. Also, we are located a short ride away from the caves which makes us the best place to stay!