It looks bloody scary, but that’s only because you’re being told to swim towards the light. They tell you it’s only 3 metres, but when you put your head underwater and peer into the gloom, you can’t see anything. You can’t see how far, how wide, how deep – you only know that you have to keep swimming until you reach the light the guide is holding and taps you on the head to tell you you’re safe.
The Sawa-i-Lau Caves are on one of the last of the Yasawa islands, and a trip there is possible from most of the surrounding resorts. This was my second trip to the caves and so I knew what to expect, but I did feel for those visiting for the first time – I could see the look of uncertainty on their faces and I know that was definitely me the first time!
A short concrete flight of stairs takes you past the rocky formations of the island and into the cave. You can leave your belongings at the mouth of the cave before diving into the waters of the first cave. This cave is open at the top and swimming inside is easy.
It’s the next bit that separates the men from the boys. At high tide, you need to dive below a ledge and swim underwater into the next section of the caves that requires a guide with a torch. When you look into the gloom, it seems like a huge leap of faith, but you really only need to be able to swim a few metres underwater and it’s really not that bad. They tell you only to take your mask but take your flippers as well!
Once on the other side you start feeling like an intrepid adventurer and could be forgiven for cranking out your best Pavarotti impersonation while waiting for everyone to arrive – the acoustics are pretty good!
The guide then takes you through the caves and explains a little of the local folklore. If there are Australians in your group you will be subjected to an chorus of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”. Note that leaves and other bits and pieces do make their way in here, so before you do your best pretzel impression trying to get the ‘thing’ off you, it may not be a killer eel 🙂
Once you make your way back to the beginning and look out towards the open cave, you can see that what you had to swim under was actually just a rocky ledge that looks a little like tonsils, and you feel a bit silly for being so scared at the beginning.
Afterwards you can browse through the sulus and tapa cloths the local woman have brought over from neighbouring islands and take a few snaps of the gorgeous scenery. I only brought my underwater camera with me, but our boat did have an area protected from the water so if you really wanted to bring your SLR you could. To take it right into the caves though, would definitely need underwater housing of some description.
The caves are an easy excursion from anywhere in the northern Yasawas and the boat trip there and back takes you past more stunning Yasawan scenery. Ask about the time of day your trip is scheduled for as these caves are pretty popular, and you don’t want to be in the caves at the same time as every other tourist in the Yasawas!