Harrison’s Cave, Barbados

By Philip H. De Turk
This item appears on page 15 of the October 2019 issue.

Philip H. De Turk posing outside of Harrison's Cave, Barbados. Photos by fellow <i>Prinsendam</i> passenger Ronald McDonald

Often, a cruise ship heading to Florida will stop at Barbados, the most easterly of the Caribbean Islands. This was the case on my return from an around-the-world cruise in 2009 and again when my “South America Grand Voyage” was returning home on March 18, 2019. I was on the Prinsendam, which was making one of its last cruises as a Holland America Line-owned ship.

In Barbados, I took the “Harrison’s Cave Experience.” While I had signed up for about seven shore excursions before the cruise, I did not sign up for Harrison’s Cave until a few days before we arrived there. The price, $99.95, was the same, but by waiting until on board to book, I had taken a risk that the tour might have been sold out.

Our venture began when a small bus met us at the ship terminal.

About 700 feet above sea level, the caves were discovered in the 18th century, but a hole in the ground required extensive development to become a tourist attraction, so this complex was not opened to the public until 1981.

The general area with caves is smaller than its US contemporaries, such as Ruby Falls cave at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve, but it is worth a visit.

Stalagmites grow from the floor of Harrison’s Cave.

My own experience with caves (and I have visited about 20) is that — except for Waitomo in New Zealand, where we were transported by boat on the underground river to see glowworms — one walks or crawls.

Upon arrival at Harrison’s Cave, our group entered a small hall where pictures were on display and historical facts were posted. Soon we were ushered into a theater to watch a film about the work that was necessary to make the caves into what they are today. After the film, the 24-odd tour members were led to electric trams to be driven through the cave.

As our journey into the cave area began, I had a feeling of being in Disneyland; the polished rocks seemed unreal. As we progressed and the water from the outside rain began to drip on our conveyance, this thought ended. We were in a real cave.

We rode to various locations, viewing stalagmites, and into different caverns, the tallest of which was 15 meters. The temperature remained a steady 82°F.

Stalactites and stalagmites in Harrison's Cave, Barbados.

The beauty is in the seeing. Our tram stopped twice for us to alight, take pictures and stretch, avoiding overhanging obstacles. At one of these stops, there was a pond with a waterfall. Even though we were wearing hardhats, there was little danger of hitting our heads.

We ended the trip with a modern elevator ascent to a gift shop, where a nice, cold can of Bank’s Beer was available for $2.

Our trip to the cave and our trip back to the ship were on separate routes, allowing us to view different towns, including one with a historic church. Several had modern shops with dresses in their windows.

We did not go into the capital, Bridgetown, which 10 years earlier I found to be a likable city.

Pinehurst, NC

A grotto within Harrison's Cave, Barbados.

Stalactites hanging from the ceiling of Harrison’s Cave, Barbados.