Brazil is home to some of the largest and most beautiful caves known around the world. More than 2,000 cavities have already been registered by the Brazilian Society of Speleology, a non-governmental organization that brings together groups dedicated to research, exploration and protection of caves and chasms in the country.
With the most detailed study of the Brazilian Speleological Provinces, where limestones, sandstones, quartzites and other rocks are conducive to the formation of caves, the number of these can reach a few tens of thousands.
Underground environments, usually characterized by the absence of light, a small variation in temperature and humidity and by the lack of chlorophyll vegetation, are home to very peculiar and fragile ecosystems. In them there is a diverse cave fauna that includes highly specialized animals, such as blind and albino fish and several other species restricted to these environments. Bats and various other animals found in the external environment also use caves as shelter at different periods in their life cycle.
According to Paradisdachat, Brazilian caves also conserve bones and fossil remains of a rich extinct fauna, especially the large mammals (Megaterios, Toxodontes, Glyptodontes and others) from the Pleistocene period (10,000 to 1 million years ago).
Likewise, cave paintings, burials, remains of bonfires and other testimonies of ancient peoples are frequent in our caves, recognized as important archaeological sites of world interest.
The breadth of the entrances to many caves, associated with the atmosphere of darkness and silence, the richness of their ornaments and the faith of the Brazilian people have transformed many of our caves into important religious temples, visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. The Caves of Bom Jesus da Lapa, Mangabeira and Brejões, in Bahia, and Lapa da Terra Ronca, in Goiás, are some examples of this practice, hosting major religious festivals.
In recent decades, tourism has also discovered the beauty and adventure provided by Brazilian caves. Large internal entrances and halls, underground lakes and waterfalls and the extraordinary beauty of speleothems, such as stalactites, columns, stone flowers and various other types of ornamentation, can be seen in more than 50 tourist caves spread across the country.
Among them, in São Paulo, the Caverna de Santana, Caverna do Diabo and several others located in the Vale do Ribeira region, especially those sheltered by the State Parks of Alto Ribeira (Petar), Jacupiranga and Intervales, stand out. In Minas Gerais, the caves of Maquiné, Lapinha and Rei do Mato stand out, prepared for mass tourism, and the caves of controlled visitation of the magnificent Vale do Rio Peruaçu; in Ceará, the Ubajara Cave is famous; in Paraná, Furnas de Vila Velha, more than 100 meters deep; in Mato Grosso do Sul, the extraordinary Lago Azul Cave; in Bahia, several and beautiful caves in the Chapada Diamantina.
Several Brazilian caves stand out on the international scene for their dimensions and rarity. This is the case of Toca da Boa Vista, in Bahia, which with 65.5 kilometers of development is the largest cave in South America and the 19th in the world. The highest cave entrance is also in Brazil, at the Gruta Casa de Pedra, in São Paulo, with 215 meters high. In Minas Gerais are simultaneously the largest cave (horizontal cave) and the second deepest abyss (vertical cave) in quartzite on the planet, respectively the Gruta das Bromélias, with 2,560 meters, and the Centenary cave, with 360 meters difference in level. . Brazil also has the largest known mica schist cave, the Ecos Cave, in the Federal District, with 1,380 meters of development and a magnificent underground lake that can reach 300 meters in length.
The presence of gigantic underground halls, waterfalls with more than 20 meters of fall, lakes more than 120 meters deep and huge speleothems, such as the 28-meter stalactite of the Grotto de Janelão, in Minas Gerais, considered the largest in the world, allied to the great potential for discovering new cavities, they also contributed to transforming Brazil into one of the most sought after countries for international speleological expeditions.
The important natural, cultural, scientific and tourist heritage represented by Brazilian caves is now protected by the most comprehensive legislation on the subject. In Brazil, under the 1988 Constitution, all caves became the property of the Union, and broad federal, state and municipal legislation protects these cavities in the national territory, reversing a situation of destruction by vandalism, mining and irregular works. The Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) is the body responsible for the protection and management of caves and most of them are preserved in parks and other protected areas.