This program of conservation and promotion of Haiti’s underground heritage began in 2009 with the caving expedition “Ayiti Toma 2009”. Its objective is to promote responsible tourism in the caves located in the proximity of Parc Macaya and help generate revenues for the local people living in these remote regions of Haiti.
The discovery - or re-discovery - these past couple of years, of magnificent caves, but also of sites badly degraded by unsupervised visits, prompted us to launch a program of conservation and promotion of the Caves of Haiti.
Despite all the plagues that hit the country, we think it is important to build the future with development projects that will give a new dynamic to the local economic fabric. In that sense, ecotourism (Touris Lakay in Creole) is an important asset for Haiti, that should not be ignored.
This program concentrates on 5 activities:
- To explore caves and evaluate their potential (tourist, scientific, archeological, cultural, natural, hydrological)
- To protect the caves from degradation and fit them for tourism
- To raise awareness of the professionals and elected officials working in the tourism sector on a regional scale, about the environment and underground tourism potential
- To train local guides for the caves already suitable for tourism
- To communicate on the underground wonders of Haiti (brochures, photos, books, website).
The final objective being to generate new economic activities in the remote regions of Haiti.
| Actions in the field
In concrete terms, our main actions in the field consist in exploring, executing topographical plans and photographing the caves. We fit the cavities out for protection and tourism, train local guides and publish communication documents.
> Exploration of caves
At the request of individuals or institutions, we go and explore caves. We also explore zones that are particularly interesting in speleological potential.
We do the topography and make an inventory of the eventual axles for development of the cavity (resources in water, in fertilizer, tourism, archeology, paleontology, biodiversity, culture…)
> Fitting caves out for tourist visits
In the Bellony Cave for example, the local context drove us to suggest simple fittings that allow the guiding of tourists and the visit of the cave in good and safe conditions, while protecting the fragile formations found in it.
A locked gate was installed to limit access to the most beautiful part of the cave and the keys are with Pestel City Hall.
Outside, a path was traced and carved to allow access to the cave main entrance. A large descriptive billboard was placed at the cave entrance.
> Conception and installation of descriptive billboards about the caves
These billboards give visitors basic information on the respective cave with images and text in four languages (Creole, French, English and Spanish). They also remind them of the safety instructions.
Conceived to last, the frames are made of steel, the visual is printed with UV-resistant inks on a light weather-resistant aluminum sheet. They are embedded in the ground permanently.
> Training of local guides on the specificities of guiding in underground environment
The training alternates between theory sessions when various subjects relating to the cave are discussed (rock, origin, erosion, concretions), and practical sessions when guiding techniques and security aspects are developed. During the first phase of the project nine guides were trained on the three caves (Bellony, Kounoubwa and Marie-Jeanne).
> Publication of communication literature
In order to present to the general public the aesthetic wealth of these caves, never before displayed, we are making photos, publishing brochures and posters, and writing articles in the general press. A book will also be published by the Imprimerie Deschamps in the near future.
| The future of speleological tourism
The first step of this program was focused on a few caves in the South and Grand’Anse departments. It seems pertinent now to launch a similar project in the North department, where the majority of foreign tourists in Haiti concentrates. This would diversify its tourist attractions.
Caves are an excellent ecotourist resource complementing the existing attractions. They appeal as much to tourists seeking adventure and wishing to explore the earth in depth as to tourists who only wish to admire wonders of nature.
The Haitian public is very taken by caves: numerous legends circulate about them and one can regularly read in Le Nouvelliste (the national daily newspaper) articles related to caves, a sign of a genuine interest for this hidden world.
It is this passion of Haitians for their caves that motivates us.