Ghar Boumâaza

Useful Information

Location: Sebdou, in the wilaya of Tlemcen.
National road 22 between Tlemcen and Sebdou, cave portal is easily visible from the road.
(34.699986, -1.311361)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave KarstSeasonal Spring
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=18,400 m, A=1,070 m asl, T=13-16 °C.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Fouzia Bensaoula, Mohammed Adjim, Brahim Benazzouz, Khatir Othmane, Mohammed Bouchama, Mouni Harkat, Halima Fellah (2018):
Vulnérabilité et risque de pollution du système karstique de Ghar Boumaza (Monts de Tlemcen, Nord ouest algérien) Application de la méthode RISK
Colloque international de karstologie, Chambéry, France, June 2018. Français - French researchgate
Fouzia Bensaoula (2008): Exportation des carbonates et dissolution spécifique dans le système karstique de Boumaza (Monts de Tlemcen - NO algérien), Karstologia Année 2008 52 pp. 31-38. online
Dr. Ammar Boumezbeur, et al (2003): Grotte Karstique de Ghar Boumâaza, Wilaya de Tlemcen Ministere de L’Agriculture et du Developpement Rural Direction Generale des Forets. Français - French pdf
Address: Ghar Boumâaza
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.


1931 first exploration by Henry Marcel who was looking for water reserves for energy production.
1985-1986 explored by French-Italian speleological expedition.
06-APR-2003 recognized as a RAMSAR site.


Ghar Boumâaza is a river cave of the Tafna river, and one of the resurgences of the groundwater body. It is also called Rhar Bou Ma'za or Tafna River Cave. It is not developed as a show cave and a cave tour is quite dangerous, as it is an active water cave. But it also has a quite spectacular entrance portal and is easily reached. There is a gravel road from the national road to the cave portal. The portal is 50 m wide and 9 m high, with a massive horizontal layer of limestone forming the ceiling. The cave is actually quite popular with the locals during the wet season, because the spring reactivates and a river flows out of the lower part of the cave portal. During the dry season it is not active, but nevertheless huge parts of the passages are flooded. The cave river inside flows during dry season with a rate of 300-400 l/s to other, lower resurgences. The next perennial spring is located 500 m down the seasonally dry riverbed, it is the main permanent source of the region with a flow of 35 l/s. Even the entrance passage soon has water-filled parts, and most of the cave lies behind a sump which requires diving.

The cave has two fossil passages where the walls and ceilings are covered with aragonite and gypsum and where enormous stalagmites and pillars can be seen. The cavers called this part of the cave system galerie des touristes (Tourists' Gallery), as they felt that it could be developed as a show cave. However, there has been no development at all. And as the cave is now a RAMSAR site it is quite unlikely that it will ever be developed.

Algeria is a semi-arid country and any spring is of great importance for the supply with drinking water. Unfortunately this cave is very vulnerable for pollution and numerous springs of the cave system are not suitable as drinking water. The karst does not filter water, because it is normally not very long underground, there is simply not enough time. Also, the arid landscape does not offer the filtering of the water in the soil before it goes underground. The cave system extends over a limestone hill of Upper Kimeridgian dolomites, which has only sparse vegetation.

The cave was obviously known to the locals for a very long time. It was first explored by Henry Marcel who was looking for water reserves for energy production and for irrigation. In 1931, he visited the cave for the first time, and until 1959 numerous caving expeditions explored 4 km of passages and a depth of 242 m. The cavers were French, and after the Algerian War the French had to leave the country and exploration ended. Exploration was resumed in 1982 with more precise objectives aimed at studying the topography, hydrochemistry, and geology. There were expeditions in 1984 and 1985. At the end the cave system was surveyed to a length of 18,400 m, which makes it the longest cave in Algeria. The statement that it is also the longest cave of Africa is nonsense though.