Grotta Donini
Saturday, 21 June 2014

This was recommended by Lyndon as an excellent little through trip in Sardinia. It is effectively an underground canyon, that takes the water for, and runs parallel to, Codula Orbisi (a classic Sardinian canyon ‘ itself dry at this time of year).

There was a little confusion over the exact start point for us due to mixed translations from various sources, but effectively is found by following a dirt road for a really long way, past a washed-away bridge until the very end at an obvious car park and turning circle. We parked too soon due to a dodgy translation from descente-canyon.com and had to walk an extra couple of km on the way in.
The entrance was fairly easy to find once we actually found the Orbisi stream-bed ‘ this is itself easy to find, being just over a small ridge running along the East edge of the final car park area. Walking down the stream-bed for a few hundred meters, the entrance is in a little hole in a grike up on the true right bank of the river (I think the entrance was tagged). We kitted up with full wetsuits on the
surface in the blazing heat, hoping desperately that there would be water in the cave.

A couple of short pitches led down to a low passage with lots of gour pools. These were mostly empty and we were starting to get a bit worried about a lack of water (as we were very hot and VERY sweaty by now) but soon a slightly longer pitch drops into the first of the lakes. This was deep and cold, and looks like it would take a lot to dry out so this cave is possibly okay all year round (except rainy season). Lots of swimming through lakes, and beautiful pools followed, interspersed with occasional short pitches.

After a couple of hours from the entrance, the cave becomes a pronounced canyon shape, becoming more lit up with glorious sunshine as we progressed through. This section ends at a 3m jump into a deep clear pool, now almost in full daylight. Here we bumped into a party of Sardinian cavers who were in the process of descending the final pitch. They kindly let us use their ropes here. This is an incredibly spectacular pitch down a waterfall, out of the cave resurgence which is 50m up the side of a huge cliff, with spectacular views across the valley and down towards the Gorropu Canyon.
The climb back out was a little obscure, but the friendly Sardinian cavers showed us the way. In wetter conditions it may be possible to follow the water down a canyon that soon re-joins the Orbisi canyon, but these were all too dry ‘ the pools full of green pond scum and insect larvae. The walk out from the exit involves following the edge of the stream down to the Orbisi Canyon, then crossing this underneath the foot of a waterfall (dry at this time) and another cave entrance in the cliff above (apparently this is a short cave that also runs parallel to the Orbisi which can be descended as an alternative route down the canyon from the final pitch). On the far bank (West side) a very faint path follows a hard to see line of cairns up to a main footpath that runs up the ridge and back to the carpark. Here the Sardinians kindly gave us a lift back up to the van.

A brilliant tourist jolly, not technical, difficult or long, with a spectacular finale. We had a great time and would highly recommend to any Sardinian cave-holiday goers.