Grotta di Bue Marino

Cave of the Sea Cows

Useful Information

Grotta di Bue Marino, Sardinia. Public Domain.
Location: Visited by boat from Cala Gonone.

(40.249361, 9.623514)
Open: APR daily 10, 11, 15.
MAY daily 9, 10, 11, 15.
JUN to SEP daily 9-16, hourly.
OCT daily 10, 11, 15.
Fee: Boat trip from Cala Gonone: Adults EUR 6.
Cave: Adults EUR 12, Children (3-10) EUR 6.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=17,400 m, T=18 °C.
Guided tours: L=1,000 m, VR=10 m, D=60 min.
Bibliography: F. Lo Schiavo (1980): La Grotta del Bue Marino a Cala Gonone, in Dorgali, documenti archeologici, Sassari, Chiarella, 1980, pp. 39-45;
F. Lo Schiavo (1984): Dorgali (Nuoro).Loc.Cala Gonone, in I Sardi. La Sardegna dal paleolitico all'età romana, a cura di E. Anati, Milano, Jaca Book, 1984, pp. 195-197.
Address: Coop. Ghivine del G.r.a., Viale Colombo n° 32, Dorgali (Nu), Tel: +39-338-8341618. 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.


1940 archaeological excavation by Giovanni Lilliu.
1950s north branch, Grotta Nuova opened to the public.
1970s last seals leave the cave.
1977 engravings discovered.
1980s north branch closed.
2017 north branch opened and closed again.


The Grotta di Bue Marino (Sea Ox Cave) is probably the most famous cave of Sardinia, because of the location right at a beautiful cove. High and bright white limestone cliffs above the turquoise water of the Mediterranean Sea, and a cave at the foot of the cliff. The boats from nearby Cala Gonon, the harbour of Dorgali, land right here at the cave entrance. But for less adventurous there is also a footpath through a tunnel down the cliff from the parking lot above.

This cave was named after Bue Marino, the Mediterranean monk seal or sea ox. It was famous for colony of those seals, but they have vanished in the 1970s, the last sighting in the area was in the 1980s. Some say as a result of tourism, but scientific research found some circumstantial evidence, that they naturally move their location now and then. Probably they will return, especially as the area is now part of the Golfo di Orosei National Park.

The cave is famous for its huge passages and chambers, which are of impressive height. The first hall is lit by the reflection of the sea, and so it has an otherworldly shimmering. The effects of the seawater on the entrance section of the cave is clearly visible. The rock has been dug out by the erosion of the waves and an overhang has formed at a height of 8m above sea level. The mixing of sea and sweet water also caused intensive solution, a process which is called anchialine solution. Other halls show prehistoric engravings, which show that this cave was used by man for ten thousand years. The cave has a northern branch, Ramo Nord, which is fossil, the southern branch, Ramo Sud, is an active river cave, and the middle branch Ramo Mezzo is underwater, a series of sumps which was explored by cave divers. Strangely the river cave is developed as a show cave.

This cave is rather weird concerning its operator, which is officially Coop. Ghivine, a non-profit association. Its unclear who actually operates it as this association is obviously only responsible for the guiding. Someone has to pay the bills, do the work, develop trails and replace broken light bulbs. Even their website is quite vague, including the history, that's why we have listed so many 1950s, 1980s asf. We read in reviews, that there is no possibility to reach the cave by land, though there is a trail. The problem is that it is gated. We strongly recommend to book a boat tour which is synchronized with the cave tours at Cala Gonone. The 15 minutes boat ride will bring you to the cave, the tour of the cave will take either 30 minutes or 1 hour, and the boat will bring you back. This is actually not satisfactory but the best we have at the moments. Send us your experiences if you visited the site.

The cave was first opened in the 1950s by fishermen and shepherds who guided tourists on the Cala Luna trail through the fossil northern branch. There was not much development, only a footpath on the cave floor. The northern branch was closed to the public in the 1980s and the tours visited the newly developed southern branch. It was equipped with trails and electric light. The northern branch has been equipped with modern trails and opened to the public in 2017. It was closed again after a short time, for unknown reasons, and there are rumours it will be reopened, so far to no avail. Our guess is that there are conservation issues because of the archaeological remain.

The Bue Marino Cave was surveyed to be 17,400 m long, which makes it the longest cave on Sardinia and the 15th longest cave in Italy [2023]. But lately there was the news that it was connected to the Karst complex of Codula Ilune, Bue marino, Su Molente which extends over 70 km. This would make it the longest cave of Italy. However, currently it is not officially listed on Bob Gulden's page.