Nature expresses itself in truly terrific forms. Its ability to awe us has never waned but rather intensified through the ages. One such peculiarity is the Baatara Gorge Sinkhole located in Tannourine, Lebanon, near the village of Balaa. It lies at an altitude of almost twelve-hundred meters.
History of Baatara Gorge Sinkhole:
Henri Coiffait, the French bio-speleologist discovered this waterfall and its accompanying sinkhole in 1952. Also known as The Cave of three bridges, or in French known as “Gouffre des Trois Ponts” this chasm was carved out of limestone by the melting snows of Mount Lebanon; created over a period of millions of years of erosion and rockfalls.
Baatara Gorge Sinkhole waterfalls cascade from a spectacular height of two hundred and fifty meters that is almost eight-hundred and thirty feet, down into the chasm. The town of Bala is named after this waterfall. Balaa means “drain”; a reference to the fact that the water disappears into the chasm, never to be seen again; or so it was originally thought.
Some Facts about Baatara Gorge Sinkhole:
These beautiful, naturally formed bridges are placed one above the other and are a magnetic tourist destination for mountaineers and hikers, all of whom come equipped with their climbing gear as they plot a course through the surrounding hills. But be warned, as with all things natural, it is not best suited to be navigated by human feet. The floor is wet and edges are incredibly slippery, so be careful. The bridges are also prone to collapse under the weight of too many people. There are plenty of warning signs around the area, urging caution to visitors, which are entirely ignored by aspiring daredevils. Well, all we can is say is, Your funeral.
The water that disappears into the sinkhole ultimately resurfaces at the spring of Dalleh in the town of Mgharet al-Ghaouaghir, which is also near Balaa. This was confirmed by the demonstration of the fluorescent dye test which was conducted in 1988.
The limestone is estimated to be at least a hundred and sixty million years old dating all the way to the Jurassic period. Jurassic Park fanatics will have an idea of how old that is. The middle bridge is thought to be created by a few rock collapses combined with erosion both vertical and circular in nature.
The waterfall is non-existent through most of the year and only comes into being near spring for only a couple of months when the winter snows melt.
The waterfall is located nearly eighty kilometers away from Beirut where most of the travelers arrive from. Most people plan a one day trip to and from Beirut. Since it is almost impossible to find a taxi in the village of Tannourine, it is advised that you should have pre-arranged transport. Don’t rely on the possibility of staying a night in Tannourine, because there are no Hotels. The nearest hotel is at Dourma.
It baffles belief that it took until the twentieth century for Baatara Gorge Sinkhole beauty to be finally discovered. If you’re an avid traveler, then don’t miss it.