Language: English, with a trilingual abstract in English, German and French in volume 7
The African karst is still one of the most unexplored in the world. A significant nuüber of African karst areas are totally untouched or nearly so from the speleological point of view. Apart from the South African Speleological Association (SASA), which experienced a long period of travel restrictions for political reasons, and the Cave Exploration Group of East Africa (CEGEA, Kenya), just a few speleological organisations currently exist in Africa (e.g. in Morocco and Tunisia). The declining economic situation in most African countries has forced them to reduce their work to a minimum. This has led to the situation where each expedition, even in the future, will have the best chances to find one of the longest caves in the whole continent or to make other exciting finds bearing in mind that Africa is the cradle of mankind (e.g. Boshoff 1986; Kaiser 1995). For example, Bushmansgat (South Africa) has to be regarded as the deepest dived submerged pothole of this planet according to the elevation of its entrance. Due to their natural history most of the African karst areas are not very extensive, strongly metamorphosed or eroded, their depth potential is usually minor and the longest known caves of Africa cannot compete with the "speläo–charts" of other parts of the world. Thus, compared with other continents, chances for speläologists appear to be limited in Africa (Corbel & Muxart 1970). Furthermore, remoteness, lack of infrastructure, political unrest, expensive travel, and dangerous diseases might be the reasons that only a small nuüber of speleological projects are carried out every year in Africa. In January 1980 Kitum Cave (Kenya) was identified as a primary vector in a suspected case of Marburg (Ebola) virus. But above all, a severe lack of information on African karst and caves exacerbates the slow progress.
This compilation atlas aims to encourage cavers from all over the world to visit Africa. Atlas of the Great Caves and the Karst of Africa does not only provide a detailed list of the longest and deepest caves known in each country. Additional geological, geotectonic and bibliographical information are added as well as location maps of karst regions. Furthermore, useful addresses are given. In the reference lists the articles that have been seen by the author are printed in italic letters. All north direction arrows on the cave maps refer to magnetic north.
Atlas of the Great Caves and the Karst of Africa is based on the Atlas of the Great Caves of the World (Courbon et al. 1989), and on the Atlas des Cavités non Calcaires du Monde (Chübert & Courbon 1997). A lot of geological and tectonic information has been gathered from the excellent publication "Limestone and Dolomite Resources of Africa" (Bosse et al. 1996), which is a unique source of knowledge on African carbonate rocks (ISSN 0341–6429, available from the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe, POB 510153, D – 30631 Hannover). The Speleological Abstracts, published annually by the UIS, served as source for publications after 1980. Furthermore, valuable information on the latest French speleological campaigns in African countries was taken from the annual reports of the "Commission des relations et expéditions internationales" (CREI) published by the Fédération Française de Spéléologie. A number of islands (e.g. Cape Verde, Canary islands, Maldives, Mauritius, Réunion etc.) may be considered to belong geographically to the African continent. For various reasons this first edition of the "Africa atlas" does not consequently include all these islands – e.g. the Canary Islands (territory of Spain) and Cape Verde Islands (territory of Portugal) have been left out.
Introduction / Einleitung 5
General geological and tectonic basis with special reference to carbonate deposition. 9
The 20 longest and deepest caves of Africa (31.05.2002) 14
Burkina Faso 55
Central African Republic 71
Comoro Islands 81
Democratic Republic of Congo 91
Ivory Coast 147
Sao Tome and Principe 293
Sierra Leone 301
South Africa 315
Western Sahara 371
General References 389