9. Cagliari: Full-Day Tour of Cala Luna & Sea Oxen Grottoes
Here, once reigned “sea oxen” as the locals used to call monk seals due to their tapered shape and tame behavior like that of an ox. These magnificent mammals, now (maybe) extinct, gave their name to a marvel of nature: the Sea Oxen Grottoes (Grotte del Bue Marino), since the 50s one of the main attractions of the Gulf of Orosei, in particular Cala Gonone in Dorgali territory. Today, it is a favorite destination among nature lovers, and the ideal union between sea and mountain, as they are part of the karst system of Codula di Luna, Italy’s largest 70 kilometer of tunnels in the bowels of Gennargentu. Its majestic entrance, formed by two arches over the sea, is located 2 kilometers away from splendid Cala Luna.
The marine caves are 15 kilometers long in total and divided into two main branches. The northern branch, fossilized due to the interrupted karstic activity, is not accessible to the public. However, you will also be able to visit the southern branch thanks to illuminated causeways for about 900 meters. Speleologists are allowed to explore an additional 4 kilometers (of the overall 5 of this branch). Seawater penetrates the wide hall, and countless little ponds of sweet water from subterraneous rivers abound, separated from sandy beaches filled with concrete formations. The tourist itinerary among stalactites and stalagmites will offer an extraordinary color spectacle, thanks to the light beams penetrating it. You cannot help but gasp in awe at the long shadows projected onto the waters of a subterranean saltwater lake with more than one square kilometer of surface.
The cave is also famous for esoteric rock paintings, dated back to the Neolithic, illustrating a circle of people around what is supposedly a representation of the sun. The walk finishes in the seal beach – these sea mammals once came here to mate and have their cubs. The visit will be led by expert guides and last about 1-hour. Leaving the Cala Gonone Harbor for an amazing boat tour until the caves. After the visit, it will be possible to stop at the Cala Luna for swimming in this little slice of paradise.