|Location:||E411 (Brussels-Luxembourg), exit 23 (Wellin). Han/Lesse is 5km further. Very well signposted.|
|Open:||not yet open. |
|Fee:||not yet open. |
|Address:||Grottes de Han et de Rochefort, rue J. Lamotte 2, B-5580 Han/Lesse, Tel: +32-84-377213, Fax: +32-84-377712. E-mail:|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|01-APR-2015||cave development plans released on a press conference.|
|2016||opened to the public for spelunking tours.|
The Grotte du père Noël (Cave of Santa Clause) is located close to the famous show caves Grottes de Han. This is said to be the most beautiful decorated cave in Belgium, and until now it has been only accessible to cavers. When on the 1st of April 2015 the story was published that this cave would soon be open to tourists we first thought this was an Aprils Fool. But actually the news is correct and the operator of the show caves plans to open this cave for cave trekking or spelunking tours. This means the cave will be open for guided tours, but the visitors will get caving gear and there will be no development except for security cables and a rope bridge in the most difficult parts.
This cave was discovered on the second day of Christmas in 1964, so it was named the cave of Santa Clause. The cavers went to the Trou Picot cave on this day to study bats. They discovered a strange sight on this cold winter day, a foggy cloud. The humidity of the cave air emerging from a formerly unknown cave entrance was condensing in the cold air. The entrance would never have been discovered otherwise. They entered the new cave and were overwhelmed by its beauty. Soon they explored a cave system with a length of two kilometers and eight beautifuly decorated chambers.
The cavers were aware of the danger, in which the cave was. When people heard of the cave they would come and visit it, destroying the delicate speleothems or even breaking them to take them home as souveniers. So they decided to keep the discovery secret and closed the cave entrance with a gate.
During the exploration it became clear that this cave is a part of the cave system of Han. So they informed the responibles from the Domaine des Grottes de Han. They agreed to proceed with the protection of the cave, so it was safe for the last 50 years. The cave was accesible only to speleologists and scientists.
The Grotte du père Noël was explored mainly by Guy Deflandre and Professor Yves Kinif. They erected a small hut at the entrance and made an interesting pollen analysis of pollen found in concretions. So they could determine the climatic situation while the speleothems were formed.
The caves were almost unchanged for decades, but even the rare tours by cavers were slowly destroying the speleothems. Modern cavers tend to mark trails on the floors so the destruction keeps to an area as small as possible. The owners of the nearby show cave were looking for a place to offer spelunking tours to their visitors. This is an increasingly popular form of touristic cave visits. So they decided to use this beautiful cave for the tours. In the wish to keep the cave as undisturbed as possible they offered to install only very few security relevant cables and a rope bridge to cross a gap. Also the trails used by the groups will be marked and thus restricted.
There are several good arguments for opening the cave like this. The carfully guided tours obviously fulfill a need in the public to explore caves. The people are able to see a cave in its natural state while keeping the impact as low as possible. The explanations increase the awareness why caves should be protected and the practical experience increases the identification with caves. During the last century so-called sacrifice caves were open to the public. They were sacrificed to the destructions and the vandalism. During the last decades the intententions have changed. Instead of teaching the people vandalism, the cavers started to teach awareness and responsibility. So - while not really liked by the cavers - such cave tours are acceped as a positive development in cave protection.