Don’t throw coins when you visit the Škocjan Caves
These days, the Škocjan Caves are more or less empty. The decline in visitors has been huge since the global epidemic started almost a year ago. But due to the expansion of tourism in the previous years, the preservation of natural ecosystems has become one of the main focuses of the local nature conservation supervisors.
The unique Škocjan Caves
The Škocjan Caves are the largest and at the same time the most famous natural phenomenon of the classical karst. They are characterized by an extremely branched system of cave tunnels, which are a good six kilometers long, and the lowest point is 223 meters deep.
The Škocjan Caves Park is located in the far south-east of Slovenia, near the town of Divača.
Geographers and karstologist will tell you, that what separates the Škocjan Caves from other caves in Slovenia and around the world is above all the exceptional underground canyon and the fantastic story of exploring the karst underground.
The Škocjan Caves system is a broad network of underground caves, passages, natural bridges and swallow holes. It was created by the Reka River which, after flowing for 50 km on the surface, disappears in this location into the karst underground and reappears in water sources near the Gulf of Trieste.
Visiting the Škocjan Caves
According to historical record, tourism in the caves began around 1819 when the county councilor ordered that steps be built in the caves to allow visitors to walk through them.
Škocjan Caves see about 100,000 visitors per year (pre covid-19 numbers), with tours operating in Slovenian, English, Italian, and German.
Today, the Škocjan Caves are managed locally by Škocjan Caves Regional Park, where they are running various programs and environmental activities for to protection and preservation of the caves.
Taking photos with a camera or cell phone is not permitted since the flashgun has many negative effects on the cave formations and the animals that live below the surface. They are very sensitive to unnatural light. Also, for safety measures, dogs can’t go on a tour with you.
If any negative impact of tourism is found, the number of visitors would be limited or diverted to other parts of the cave.
In the name of nature
The exploration of the Škocjan Caves began in 1884; in the years following, explorers reached Dead Lake, Silent Cave, and other natural wonders. As a result of an exploratory swim, Slovenian divers also discovered over 200m of new cave passages in 1990.
Besides new passages and tunnels in the cave, the divers of the Speleological Association of Slovenia are often running into a lot of waste and litter left behind by locals and the people visiting the caves. Upon visiting the caves, some visitors are also throwing ‘coins for luck’ into the pools of water inside the caves, which can harm extensively a very sensitive cave ecosystems.
International year of caves and karst 2021
Karst springs and watersheds supply 20% of the world’s drinking water and are home to hundreds of rare species of animals.
To raise the awareness of the importance of the karst to humanity, the International Year of Caves and Karst (IYCK) has been declared. For the first time in history, the global speleological community is united in 2021 in a one grand project with the goal of teaching the world about the many benefits of caves and karst.
According to the Slovenian Speleological Association, there are currently around 10.200 registered karst caves in Slovenia, and about 100 new ones are discovered every year. It is estimated that cavers could explore a total of about 30.000 caves.
Check out the GUIDE to planning IYCK virtual events.
The Škocjan Caves were placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1986.