Grotte de la Salamandre

Aven de la Salamandre


Useful Information

Location: Near Méjannes le Clap, about 45 minutes from Avignon. Belongs to the town of Saint-Privat de Champclos, but is only accessible from Méjannes le Clap.
From Méjannes le Clap follow road to Plage du Roy, after 3 km parking lot. 700 m walk to the cave.
(44.258123, 4.3402)
Open: Mid-MAR to APR daily 11-17.
MAY to JUN daily 10:30-18.
JUL to AUG daily 10-18:30.
SEP daily 10:30-18.
OCT daily 11-17.
[2021]
Fee: Visite Libre: Adults EUR 13, Children (6-14) EUR 9, Children (0-5) free, Family (2+2) EUR 38.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 10.
Le Belvédère: Adults EUR 9.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 9.
Grand Rappel: Adults EUR 42.
Groups (13+): Adults EUR 35.
Les Coulisses de la Salamandre: Adults EUR 42.
Groups (17+): Adults EUR 35.
Special educational tours for School groups.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System LightColoured Light
Dimension: Ar=150x100 m, HD=100 m, A=300 m a.s.l., T=13 °C.
Guided tours: Visite Libre: L=500 m, VR=20 m, ST=60 down - 85 up, D=55 min.
Le Belvédère: self guided, D=30 min.
Grand Rappel: D=1 h, VR=50 m, MinAge=12, plus Visite Libre.
Les Coulisses de la Salamandre: D=2 h, MinAge=10.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: Only observation platform.
Bibliography:  coloured light
Address: Grotte de la Salamandre, Serre de Barry, 30430 St-Privat de Champclos, Tel: +33-466-600600. E-mail: contact
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.

History

1965 first explored by cavers from Uzès and Nîmes.
2009 begin of development.
APR-2011 first access tunnel completed, second tunnel a few months later.
01-JUL-2013 opened to the public.

Description

The Grotte de la Salamandre (Salamander Cave) is located in the Cevennes, just west of the Rhone valley. All those hills are composed of limestone and full of caves. Some areas, like the Ardeche valley, are well developed for tourists and full of show caves. This area had no show cave before this cave was developed and opened to the public in 2013. Grotte de la Salamandre is one of the youngest show caves in France. It was created as environment friendly as possible. Thus the cave is not only equipped with modern LED light, it is also powered by solar energy. The parking lot is 700 m away, to avoid traffic in this tranquil forest. Only handicapped are allowed to drive to the cave.

Grotte de la Salamandre is located in a dense forest. It was known for a long time to local woodcutters, but because of the technical difficulties, and probably also because of superstition, they never entered the cave. This is what French call an Aven, an abyss or pothole, the cave starts with a 50 m deep entrance shaft. The exploration started with a group of speleologists from Nimes. When they abseiled into the pit, they discovered a fire salamander with its typical black and yellow colouring at the bottom. So they named the cave Aven de la Salamandre. The salamander is not the only cave visitor which was discovered in this cave. There are bats, dormice, and even toads. A true troglobiont is the beetle Diaprysius mazauricus, which was also found in the nearby Aven d'Orgnac.

The cave has a normal show cave tour through the speleothem-rich fossil parts below the abyss. The cave is entered and left through two artificial tunnels. There are numerous extraordinary speleothems in the cave, like curtains, disks, and helictites. The tour is grouped into 12 stages, which show different interesting aspects of the cave. But despite all the wilful intents, the cave is equipped with coloured light which is pretty annoying. On the other side the tour takes as long as the participants like, the guide accompanies the groups and answers questions, but there is true time restriction. That's why it is called Visite Libre (free visit) and is a rather cool idea.

As the normal tour has lots of stairs, it is not wheelchair accessible. Handicapped visitors may visit the museum and the Belvédère at the rim of the aven. The tunnel is almost level and has no steps. From here The Grand Rappel starts, which is a simple abseil 50 m down into the cave. Abseiling and caving equipment is provided. This tour includes the normal guided tour and takes about two hours. Then there is a true cave trekking tour named Les Coulisses de la Salamandre (Behind the Scenes of the Salamander). It shows the parts of the cave which are not developed. It is offered only between June and September. Including the normal guided tour it takes about three hours. Three more cave trekking tours of different levels are available.

There are numerous events in the cave. During the summer there are regular concerts including classical, baroque, or folk a ethno music. There are also numerous art projects, for example Jean-Pierre David with his Aeroplume, a one person hot air balloon. He was silently flying through the enormous chamber navigating with big wing-like paddels. There are YouTube videos with this and other events.

The forest surrounding the cave is a Sensitive Natural Area and in the Natura 2000 zone. As a result it is not possible to walk and enter the forest, there are no trail. As a compensation, and tro make the 700 m from the parking lot to the cave more interesting, the Sentier d’interprétation de la Grotte de la Salamandre (Salamander Cave Interpretation Trail) was created along the path. On nine explanatory signs various aspects of the garrigue, its animals, plants, and the geology of the area are explained.