Abîme de Bramabiau

Gorge of Bramabiau

Useful Information

Location: At Camprieu. 50 km south of Florac.
Open: APR to JUN daily 9-18.
JUL to AUG daily 9-19.
SEP daily 9-18.
OCT to 12-NOV daily 10-17.
Fee: Adults EUR 5.70, Children (12-18) EUR 3.50, Children (-12) EUR 2.30.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 3.50, Children (12-18) EUR 2.30, Children (-12) EUR 1.80.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Speleologyriver cave.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=12,000 m.
Guided tours: D=90 min. V=40,000/a [2000]
Address: Abîme de Bramabiau, F-30750 St Sauveur Camprieu, Tel: +33-467826078, Fax: +33-467826078
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.


27 + 28-JUN-1888 explored by ExplainE. A. Martel.
1890-1895 exploration continued by Felix Mazauric which made the known cave 6 km long.


engraving of the Abîme de Bramabiau from E. A. Martell (1888): Les Cévennes et la région des causses. Public domain.

The Bonheur (Happiness) river has its spring near the observatory Mont Aïgoual at the border of the Cévennes. This area is not karstified, as it does not consist of limestone, and the river flows on the surface. After 6 km it reaches the small karst area Causse de Camprieu and immediately enters the underground. The river vanishes in a huge cave and forms a subterranean gorge. It reappears after 500 m as the crow flies, and now the name of the river has changed, it is now called Bramabiau. Bramabiau is a word of the local dialect meaning Boeuf-qui-Mugit, the roaring ox. This is a very old name, and describes the roaring sound the water makes during times of high water, when a spectacular waterfall leaves the resurgence.

This situation is really typical for karst areas. The river Bonheur forms a so called KarstPolje, a valley without a surface drainage. The drainage is underground, by a KarstPonor or swallow hole, which swallows the water of the river. Later the water reappears in a huge resurgence.

In this case the whole cave is really spectacular. Both entrances of the cave are huge and easy to see, well known to the locals for a very long time. But despite some prehistoric remains in a side branch, it seem the cave was never really explored. The wild water prohibited this. At least until the end of the 19th century, when ExplainE. A. Martel started his cave explorations. He was on a holiday trip in this area, and was curious about this spectacular cave, and so he persuaded some friend to explore this underground gorge with him. He visited several caves before, but this was the first speleological tour. This day, the 27th June 1888 is called the birthday of modern speleology.

Martell first tried to follow the river uphill, from the Bramabiau entrance. This worked rather well, until he reached the waterfall number six. Here his equipment was not sufficient to climb it, and the party turned around.

The other day another attempt was made. This time they tried it from the Bonheur downhill, and soon they reached waterfall six, where they turned around the day before. From this side it was easier to follow the water, but nevertheless it was dangerous. And it was the first time someone did something like this. It was the beginning of a long list of discoveries, by Martell and others.

Today the underground gorge is equipped with a comfortable path, today's visitor does not have to walk through the water. Still it's a walk, first down into the valley of Bramabiau, then following the river upwards to the cave entrance. Inside the cave a path follows the gorge, then upto a higher and dry level of the cave and back to the entrance. The tour does not cross the cave, as Martell did, but it is easily possible to visit the other side of the cave. In summer, when the river has little water, it vanishes in the ground before it reaches the cave entrance, and it is possible to follow the cave for a few meters.

The cave is one of the most famous caves on earth, because of the Martell story, at least among speleologists. But it is also a very impressive tourist destination, and well worth a visit.