Conch Bar Caves on Middle Caicos is the largest non-submerged cave system in the Bahamas-Turks and Caicos island chain and is a Turks and Caicos national park. The cave system is named after the village of Conch Bar nearby.
Conch Bar Caves is a Karst limestone cave system, formed over extremely-long periods of time by the dissolution of the soft limestone by mildly acidic water containing carbonic acid. The cave system is considered mid-sized on a global scale, and is a live cave system. Conch Bar Caves has many of the common cave features found in caves in other regions, including stalactites, stalagmites and columns, along with pools that fluctuate with the ocean tide.
The cave’s recorded history started when guano (bat manure) mining began in the 1880s. Guano was in great demand at the time as a fertilizer, and the guano from Conch Bar Caves was exported from the Turks and Caicos. During these initial diggings, skeletal remains of animals and Lucayan Indian artifacts were found, but unfortunately, these findings weren’t preserved. Recent archeological excavations at the nearby Indian Cave site uncovered skeletons of extinct animals, including a giant iguana, a tortoise unique to the Turks and Caicos, and owls, hawks and other birds, so the discoveries in Conch Bar Cave were probably much of the same. Carved and painted names and dates from the guano mining period can still be seen in the cave today.
Four species of bats currently live in Conch Bar Cave, along with several endemic species of crustaceans, including some isopods.
Largely due to graffiti, damage to sensitive cave features, and the harassment of bat populations, all visitors to Conch Bar Caves must be accompanied by a guide.
Conch Bar Caves does not have the developed paths, stairs and lighting that other tourist attraction caves have, so the visiting experience tends to be a bit more of an adventure. Handheld flash lights provide lighting, and tour guides usually have extras to loan to visitors.
The cave system is all generally on one level with no major ascents or descents, but some areas can be slippery and rough, so an in-depth tour might not be for everyone. It’s advisable to wear shoes or boots.
As is the usual practice for preserved caves, touching the formations and cave is forbidden as the oils and contaminates on human skin decay the rock surface and interrupt the natural processes of cave development. Care must also be taken during the day so as not to disturb the bats that live in the cave. All types of graffiti and vandalism is illegal and offenders can face stiff fines.
Middle Caicos doesn’t see large numbers of visitors, so Conch Bar Caves doesn’t have regular hours or guides on site. The entrance to the cave is gated, so all visitors must be accompanied by a guide. If you don’t have reservations, inquire at the Middle Caicos airport building near Conch Bar Caves, or visit the Middle Caicos Co-op store in Conch Bar Village. To make reservations, see the contact info for Middle Caicos Co-op at the bottom of this page.
The usual entrance and guided tour fee is $10 to $15. Expect tours to take a little over an hour.
This coastal village is the largest settlement on Middle Caicos. Found nearby is Conch Bar Caves and the impressive Mudjin Harbour.