Frequently asked questions

Answers to all your questions about caving and visiting the lava tunnels on Réunion Island!

I'm afraid of claustrophobia. Can I visit a lava tunnel?

Claustrophobia is defined as an unhealthy fear of enclosed or confined spaces and is often the result of a past trauma.

99 % of people who doubt their ability to explore a cave do not suffer from claustrophobia but from a simple (and not sickly) fear of an unknown and naturally hostile environment such as high mountains or the seabed.

Caving also suffers from an unfairly accident-prone image created by the cinema and the media, even though it is ranked as the mountain activity with the fewest accidents in proportion to the number of people practising it!

The word caving is also associated with very narrow passages and crawling through guts, whereas the literal definition is the study of the underground environment. I can be passionate about caving and hate crawling!

The outings on offer are designed for discovery and narrow passages are always optional. If this is not the case, as on the visit to the Gendarme cave for example, the presence of a narrower obstacle is clearly mentioned in the description of the activity.

What's more, cave outings (with the exception of certain sports exploration outings) are never over long distances.

Of course, you can always turn back at the entrance to the cave. That's not the point, of course, but if you're one of the tiny percentage of true claustrophobes who realise this at the entrance, no one will force you!

It seems obvious that if, on the other hand, I am aware of my claustrophobia, the activity is not suitable for me.

In all cases we are here to explain clearly what you can expect, so don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have before you book.

Is it cold in the tunnels?

The temperature of an underground environment anywhere in the world is measured by averaging the annual outside temperatures, and is therefore dependent on geography as well as altitude.

In the 2004 coulée tunnel, located in the discovery zone at an altitude of less than 100m, the average temperature is around 24°, so forget your jacket!

Some will say that it's not so hot, but the humidity level is saturated, generating a humidity that makes you sweat very quickly (hammam effect).

Particularly in some southern winter conditions (June to October), the winds outside can be very cold and the activity can end some afternoons at the end of the day. Knowing that between humidity and sweat we always come out a little wet, we appreciate a windbreaker in these cases.

The weather forecast calls for rain. Will the activity be cancelled?

Visiting the lava tunnels does not present any danger of rising water levels in wet weather.

The volcanic rock is naturally porous and fractured, so rain passes through the ceiling of the tunnel and immediately continues on its way underneath. So there is no risk of flooding, but we are not protected from the rain. This means that rainy weather means a rainy tunnel!

Beware: some of the island's tunnels may become flooded due to sedimentation or at the bottom of gullies, so don't venture out if you don't know the specifics of the site.

The pleasant temperature of the tunnel means that we don't feel cold, but on some days we can get quite wet, so it's a good idea to bring a change of clothes and a raincoat.

Road access, however, can become dangerous in bad weather. For safety reasons, access to the site may be cancelled if Météo-France issues a heavy rain warning.

Access to the caverne gendarme follows a gully that can rise in water level. This exit may be cancelled if there is a risk of heavy rainfall.

The last weather update is made at around 5pm for the following day and at 7am on the day itself, so be sure to stay in touch in the 48 hours before your outing.

At what age can people visit the tunnels, and is there an age limit?

Visiting the tunnels requires a minimum of balance, the ability to bend down and even to move forward on four legs, and motor skills.

The recommended age depends on the type of outing planned.

For the discovery trip we ask for a minimum of 6 years old, the maximum is difficult to fix as the capacities depend enormously from one person to another, we can hear that the trip adapts from 6 to 66 years old.

Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any doubts about your abilities, and we'll be happy to give you a precise explanation of the typical procedure.

Even if the visits are adapted to the public, we must remember that we are engaging in an outdoor sporting activity that requires a minimum awareness of one's abilities and any medical history.

Can I visit the lava tunnels without a guide?

Caving is as legal in France as any other outdoor activity, so access to caves is open to anyone who wishes to do so, except on private land.

However, like any other mountain activity, it requires specific personal protective equipment, suitable lighting plus a back-up, a topography of the site, knowledge of the specific natural risks of each site, awareness of the fact that you may not be contactable during the activity, and specific insurance, often taken out with membership of a federation such as the Fédération Française de Spéléologie.

Even though most lava tunnels do not require rope-based protective equipment like canyoning or climbing, an incident in a cave can be critical and require a lot of resources, so it is not advisable to venture out if you are not a practising climber.

Is there a limit to the number of groups formed?

My diploma does not specify a limit on the number of people in a group, as this depends on the outing (caving, canyoning, accro-branche, etc.). The national recommendations for caving supervision requiring only a helmet and lighting (no harness) are twelve people.

In the interests of quality and preserving the environment, I try not to put more than eight people in a group.

However, an outing is only valid for groups of four or more people. However, if you would like to organise an outing for a larger group, please contact us and we will be happy to suggest solutions.

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Profundo, by Jocelyn Michel

(Sole trader)

SIRET : 419 831 920 00048

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