While a typhoon crossed Jeju, I was looking for a good place to go in the rain, and that place was Manjanggul, which is part of Geomunoreum system, which UNESCO says is “the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere” and is a World Heritage Site.
I met an Italian guy at the hostel I stayed at in Jeju City, and we decided to go to Manjanggul together since, due to the weather, our options for site-seeing were limited.
I was responsible for getting off at the right stop since the Italian guy wanted to sleep on the bus, and unfortunately I got us off too early and we had to walk a little in the rain. At least he was a good sport about that.
Even if we had gotten off at the correct stop, we would have still had to walk 20-30 minutes to get to the cave entrance … but once we reached the turnoff for the road heading to the cave, there was a taxi driver waiting to take tourists from the bus stop to the cave. Since we had enough of walking in the rain, we decided to split the taxi fare (which was low since it was only a 5-minute drive).
Manjanggul itself has two levels, and multiple entrances where the cave meets the surface. Tourists may only enter and exit by the second entrance, since that leads to the only section of the cave (which is on the lower level) which is open to the public.
I brought a headlight. The Italian brought he smartphone. We had a little debate about whether my headlight or the light from the smartphone was better. I pointed out that my headlight was much less expensive, that it could keep the light going longer on a single battery charge, and that since it was on my head I could keep my hands free.
The Italian said he has a smartphone anyway, so why not use it as a flashlight too? He said that the light from his smartphone is as useful as the light from my headlight, and he attached his smartphone to his body so that he could also keep his hands free.
I mostly avoided the flash setting on my camera, instead using light from my headlight or the installed lighting for my photos, but for just one photo I did use flash, shown below.
The flash photo does not convey the experience of being in the cave nearly as well as the photos taken without flash.
The cave is full of various geological features made of lava, and then formations made by mineral deposits made by water, a bit like a limestone cave mixed with a volcano.
This cave was originally the path of liquid lava flowing out of Hallasan, the volcano in the center of Jeju Island (in fact, Hallasan essentially created Jeju Island). When Hallasan stopped producing liquid lava, the tube became empty, leaving behind this cave.
Hallansan is shield volcano, and I learned that lava flows tend to run on one axis of the shield volcano, and not so much on other axises. This explains why Jeju Island is shaped like an oval, and not a circle.
Though I’m trying to capture some of the feeling of the cave with these photos, it’s really not to same as being able to explore and observe all of the details yourself.
I dimly recall that the rock formations in the following photo are known as ‘lava pillows’, but I may be recalling incorrectly.
I had been to a number of limestone caves, but I had never been to a lava tube cave before, so I really enjoyed seeing a different kind of cave.
Manjanggul has the largest number of living creatures of any cave on Jeju Island, including the Jeju Cave spider, and the largest known colony of bats in all of Korea.
And finally, we reached the end of the route open to the public, and the most impressive single feature of Manjanggul…
This lava column, at 7.6 meters in height, is the tallest lava column known to humankind!
Since it mostly stopped raining, the Italian and I decided to walk back to the main road, and stop on the way at Gimyeong Maze Park.
It’s a pretty staightforward hedge maze. Both the Italian and I managed to get out of the maze and ring the bell, though he did it first. I had fun, and he seemed to have had a lot of fun.
After our exploration of one of the world’s most awesome lava tube caves and a diversion at a hedge maze, we walked the rest of the way back to the road to catch a bus going back to Jeju City.