The location of the cave
Ôhe cave – Map of the cave
Ôhe miracle of life
The location of the cave
The rocks which are dominant on the massif of Mount Psiloritis are the limestones, the existence of which justifies the very large number of caves and precipices. The cave named “Sfentoni Hole” is the only cave where there is infrastructure for receiving and touring visitors. It is situated one km northeastern of Zoniana region in the location “Mironos”, on the steep southern slopes of Chalepa hill. A bit further from the cave, in the location “Skafidia”, there is a picturesque spring with gurgling water.
The exterior of the cave
The exterior of the cave is impressive. Precipitous slopes, of up to 50 m. height, stand up like a natural wall on the northwest side of the parking lot and recreation ground. The massive rocks, which stand suspended as if someone has just put them there, dominate the place. Inside their small cracks, thyme, oregano, astivides (sacropoterium spinosum) and other plants try to live with remarkable patience and persistence. From reception, the view is unlimited. From there, a paved path leads to the cave.
Pictures from the exterior of the cave
The cave has a length of 145 m. in a straight line and takes up a surface of over 3,000 m2. Its main development extends to the north and it has been created by the slow corrosion of the calcareous rocks. The thickness of the rocks that are higher is 25-50 m. The accessible part takes up almost two thirds of the main size of the cave. The length of the touring path of the visitors is about 270 m.
The entrance of the cave was even smaller in the past than it is today. The opening was hardly more than 1 m2. The first chamber is 23 m. long, 9 m. wide and 4 m. high. At its end there is a block of stone full of a number of stalagmites. Going past if from the right, there is a very narrow hole which leads to a blind and narrow chamber, 17 m. long, the so-called “The Sanctuary of the Fairy”. Then follows “The Antechamber of the Harmonies” of 18 m. long, 12 m. wide and 3.5 m high, at the end of which there are massive pillars. Going past it there are walls made by stalagmitic material. Passing through the widened passage, we find ourselves in a chamber called “The Palace”, whose décor is even richer. The crystals of the calcium carbonate reflect the light thus making the lithomatic décor glitter. The distance from the entrance is about 70 m. From this point on the cave becomes labyrinthine due to a plethora of stalagmites and pillars which create walls. The dimensions of “the Parthenon”, the chamber which follows, are 30 X 30 m. and is full of stalagmites and successive rows of pillars up to 6 m. high. The touring of the visitors ends here not only for reasons of accessibility but also for security reasons.
Due to a tectonic incident during its long history, the roof collapsed and today there are only narrow passages among enormous blocks of stone. The roof which exists today in this area is full of breaches, some of which are full of asbestic matter while some others are open. Major collapses had also taken place in the last, big chamber, especially in the eastern part. Its existing floor is made up by the blocks of stone which have fallen from the roof. In many places, where it is possible for someone to see below the blocks of stone, there are still the old stalactites. The length of time which has gone by since that incident is so big that both numerous and massive stalagmites, stalactites and pillars have been created. The dimensions of this last chamber are 40 X 40 m and its height ranges from 1 to 8 m. It is also divided in chambers from the lithomatic décor. In the middle, the scenery justifies entirely the name “Panorama”. A bit on the right, in the “Cathedral”, the décor is impressive, while on the left the lithomatic flows of the floor remind of the “Fossilized Waves”. In the northern part of the cave there is the last chamber, the so-called “Chamber of the Lost Child”.
Ôhe miracle of life
Life has even penetrated the interior of Mount Psiloritis by creating adaptable forms of life, a fact which enables them to survive and reproduce in places eternally dark and with scant food. Inside the utter darkness and the absolute quiet, the animals living in caves, walk softly or crawl inside the endless galleries created by the cracks of the subsoil seeking for the scant food and a mate to couple. Sfentoni cave, like all the other caves, is the place where the underworld meets the eartlhy world. Many species of land-dwelling animals use them for nesting or accidentally enter them and not being able to find their way out, they die. The organic matter from their faeces and dead bodies substitutes the main source of food of the animals living in the caves. Thus, if they might find a cave during their lonely underground wandering, they dwell in it and develop relatively large populations. The propagation of these species is exceptionally limited. Many species become known to us from one and only cave! Its entrance is the livelier part of the cave since many small animals (such as night butterflies, flies, mosquitoes, etc.) go in and out all the time. Many spiders make their webs there, patiently waiting for some insect to get caught in it. The bats and the mice are the miracle of life, the main transporters of organic matter inside the cave. The bats produce large quantities of faeces because every night they eat as many insects as their weight. All three species that nest in the cave belong to the family of rhinolophoids, whose main characteristic is the morphologically peculiar nose. When, during daytime, sleep upside down from the roof of the cave, are wrapped with their membranous wings in order to limit the loss of warmth from their bodies. Inside the cave other mice nest as well, mainly rats. The remains of their food, such as the skin of acorns, when they go mould, become important food for the saprophagous, cave-dweller animals. Various species belong to the invertebrates of the cave. The most important of them are the isopods, the pseudoscorpions, the diplopods (millipedes), the diloura and the snails. Have you observed that all of them are tiny, slightly-built, colourless and blind? None of them can live outside the cave since they cannot bear the climatic changes. They perceive their environment with their exceptionally sensitive tactile and chemical sensory organs and can survive throughout long periods of starvation. The geographical propagation of these species is very limited, they produce very small populations and constitute the biocoenosis of the cave.
A child, no one knows which or when, got into the cave and got lost in it. It must have wandered many hours –maybe days- inside his labyrinthine chambers without ever being able to find his way out. His skeleton -covered with stalagmitic material- was found intact by local people a few decades ago, deep into the cave, just outside the last chamber, “The Chamber of the Lost Child”. A lower jawbone and a few other bones –mainly fragments- all of which are covered by stalagmitic material- are the only testimony of that tragic incident which will never be solved.