The caves are of considerable importance in the Zingaro Nature Reserve. A unique experience for those who want to immerse themselves in these unique places and embrace them with their senses, but be careful, never without the guidance of an expert speleologist.
The caves of the Zingaro Nature Reserve represent an aspect of the "Karst", A term that refers to a whole set of activities that the man for study, research and" socialization "carries out and in which many disciplines come into play that intersect and help each other, to understand the phenomena and the potential of the binomial water / rock which is the main author of karstism.
With a simple approach, but without neglecting the scientific aspect, we can say that in the Riserva dello Zingaro, extended for about 1650 hectares, we can distinguish:
- a mountain area, where we find the highest peaks that form the ridge that from the south-east rises towards the north-west with the Scardina Mountains, Pizzo Passo del Lupo, Monte Speziale, Monte Passo del Lupo and, to close towards the sea, Monte Acci;
- a hilly area, intermediate, where we see some residential areas such as the Borgo Cusenza and the Case di Contrada Sughero;
- a third, coastal area, but not for this reason less geologically and geomorphologically interesting, lapped by the sea.
The current morphological situation of the Riserva dello Zingaro is linked to a whole series of geodynamic and tectonic events that have occurred over time from the Miocene to the present (Quaternary). These movements, linked to the under-scrolling of the African plate with respect to the Euro-Asian one, led to the formation of Apennine-Maghrebid mountain range which also includes the mountains of San Vito lo Capo.
However, we must point out that the rocks that we find inside the Reserve have a much older history, dating back to before the Miocene. We can find, in fact, dolomitic and carbonate rocks that have an age of about 200 millions of years (at most) but also Jurassic, Cretaceous rocks, up to the most recent Quaternary calcarenites.
The caves are the most known and appreciated products of karstism but there are very interesting and suggestive external or epicarsic morphologies.
The superficial forms are many:
- grooves or karren, which have various shapes and patterns, depending on the slope, from linear to sinuous;
- forms of collection: also these, depending on the size, can be trays, tanks or basins that also collect several cubic meters of water (real pools);
- forms of infiltration, that from simple loopholes and small percolation wells, due to the dissolution of calcite, they may become crevasses or real ravines (gorges) or even dolines, when the dissolution occurs on karstic depressions with sinkings of the rocky substrate;
- typical of karst landscapes, therefore we also find them in our Reserve, they are the stone forest: particular morphologies that are the consequence of various morphological, structural, lithological, pedological and hydrological factors. These are very particular forms that come in the form of spiers and pinnacles typical and eccentric.
The hypogean forms, that is those present inside the karst cavities, can have very different shapes and dimensions but usually they appear on the walls, in the form of sails or curtains, on the floor with stalagmites, trays and pisolites (pearls of cave) or on the vaults with the classic stalactites. Another very important factor for the creation of karst morphologies is the training environment. In fact they change depending on whether we are in rough conditions (percolation or free flowing water) or in phreatic conditions (in this case the waters completely fill the ducts and the chambers inside the caves). There are many forms that can be observed in the cave as you will appreciate in the photos accompanying this article.
By classifying the caves also according to the fruition we can distinguish horizontal caves and therefore mostly visitable by "neophytes" and the "zubbie" (a term that, in the Trapani area, was used in antiquity to indicate places rich in water and acquired by speleologists who made it their own). The latter are accessible only to experts, therefore only to those who are qualified to progress on rope (or speleologists). Finally, there is a third type of caves, the submerged ones, which are really exclusive: only divers with Cave Diving licenses can access (of the latter we will give only a hint given that their accessibility is very limited).
Some of these caves are really accessible to everyone but, remember, it is important to go with experienced people who know those places very well. Losing orientation is very easy.
In many cases the caves have different possibilities of paths, they can be very articulated, with tunnels and small jumps that you need to know. Those who are familiar with the caves know in fact that the way to go, even if it is the same on the way back, is very different and that panic can always occur.
La Grotta del Sughero it is undoubtedly the largest and most interesting of all the RNO of the Gypsy both for its concretions (not only stalactites, stalagmites and columns of about 10 meters) but also for characteristic formations such as the eccentric (or the particular forms that do not respect the force of gravity) and due to the presence of water (very rare inside the karst cavities in this Reserve) with some ponds that are formed both in the right branch and in the left branch.
La Grotta dell'Uzzo it is a very interesting karst cavity for archaeological reasons. Feedback has been made in this great cave, which dates the presence of the upper Paleolithic man.
Other accessible caves are that of the "Pig" which has faulty streaks that make us understand its (tectonic) origin and the three that take the name of "Mastro Peppe Siino", these last more than caves are caves that served as shelter until the last century. Still in the hilly area or in the middle of the coast there are three other very beautiful caves due to the presence of very interesting speleothems such as the "coral shapes" or rather the "pseudo corals" which in technical terminology are called splash concretions formed by the impact of water against walls or floors. This is the Zubbia dei Coralli (so called because of the presence of the speleothems described above), of the Zubbia del Corno and Zubbia delle Lame. As can be seen from the term "Zubbia" the three cavities are accessible only to experienced people, since they are vertical caves.
In the mountainous area, or on the peaks of the San Vito Mountains falling within the Zingaro Nature Reserve, there are other caves but the only one accessible to the inexperienced public is that of Monte Speziale. The others, either because of the fact that they are caves with differences in height at the entrance (Zubbia della Ficara and Zubbia di Monte Scardina) or because they are not stable given the nature and genesis (these are caves originating along fracture lines and subject in collapses) such as the Caves of Monte Scardina 1-2 we do not recommend access even in the presence of experts.
In summer it is recommended to visit the so-called semi caves.
Let's start with the caves of Cala dell'Uzzo, or the second one cala starting from the entrance of San Vito lo Capo: these are caves on the surface of the water or just above but easily accessible; to follow we have the caves of Cala Marinella, almost all reachable by swimming except the one of Cala Marinella which is located at an altitude of approximately 10 meters above sea level.
Pointed Leone and Others Cala del Varo we find four other caves very nice and also accessible to neophytes and finally almost at the end of the reserve, in the Cala Capreria, there are about ten small but very interesting caves including the homonymous one Grotta della Capreria and those named of the Museum because below the headquarters of the nature museum of the Reserve near the exit; to mention for the size la Cave of the Ciaraveddi and of the Baptisms for the interesting concretions and basins that have also determined the name of the second one. A special mention deserves Grotta dello Zingaro also called the Frassineto because it is located near a very large ash garden. A paleo-marine cavity inhabited until the last century.
Finally a nod to the submerged caves: Grotta degli Albanesi, Deep Cave, Cave of the Tunnel, Grotta delle Corvine, Grotta dell'Acqua Dolce ...
However, these are caves that can only be reached from speleo sub with "Brevetto Cave".
La Riserva dello Zingaro it is therefore not only a, although wonderful, setting that hosts a splendid sea with its suggestive coves. It is certainly much more. Stroll along its paths, letting yourself be enchanted by the colors, the smells, the sounds of the typically Mediterranean "flora that inhabit it"; discover, then, struggling a little but not too much, his hidden treasures - his caves - represent a unique and unforgettable experience.
Just imagine ... it's a May day, but it could be March or April or October ... walk along the path, immersed in a nature that is both wild and welcoming, until you reach a semi-hidden entrance.
The cavers that will guide you will provide you with gloves and helmets, and you, excited, a little intimidated and at the same time eager, will immerse yourself in a unique atmosphere.
Everything has already changed: light, smells, temperature ... the time to settle in a bit and the exploration begins between tunnels that are a little closer and wider spaces, rich in stalactites, stalagmites, sails (curtains), eccentric ...
Telling, I assure you, does not make. Through direct experience you can fully appreciate the riches and wonders of this magical place !!!
Ninni Gallina geologist
President of GAS TP
The Speleological Trapanese Environmental Group organizes events and excursions with qualified personnel
President of GAS TP: Antonino Gallina