Underwater Cave Elephant, is located in the Drepano Akrotiri area and outside the bay of Souda. The cave was discovered in 1999 and the Palaeoanthropology and Speleology Ephorate organized the first cave exploration mission on 31 March 2000.
The finds were amazing, as, besides the fantastic beauty of the cave, bones of elephants and deer were found in it.
The cave has been opened to Mesozoic limestones. The entrance of the cave is at a depth of 10 meters from the sea surface and continues in a tunnel of about 40 meters in length. The remaining section, 125 meters long and 25 meters wide, which is the main hall of the cave, due to its morphology is partly flooded by water. The depth of the bottom in this room varies from a few centimeters to 4 meters, while the height of the roof above the surface of the water exceeds at some points the 10 m.
Access to the Elephant Cave is only possible with a boat and the entrance to its main hall takes place after a 40-meter swim in an underwater tunnel. The cave is full of stalactites, reddish color, due to the aluminum and iron content of the cave rocks.
The sediment study carried out showed that the cave was dry in earlier years. Additionally, the air inside the cave is breathable.
One of the most important findings was the palaeontological material found, which consists of elephant and deer bones. From the measurements made, it is a new species called Elaphas chaniensis. Its size differs from that of the current elephant species. Its height was 3 meters, with thicker bones and more rigid body. His age so far is estimated at 50,000-60,000 years. The migration of these species to Greece is determined to have occurred 15 million years ago when there was a single land from the Ionian Sea to the coasts of Asia Minor.
With regard to the research carried out on deer’s bones, they were accustomed to belonging to deer of the standard size but also to herd deer, of 30 centimeters. It is believed that the excessive increase in the deer population has greatly reduced food stocks, leading to the disappearance of the elephants in the area. This is confirmed by the fact that in the cave, the bones of elephants were found in lower layers than the deer and other smaller mammals.
Diving takes place in the cave, through diving centers that start from Koutala beach and the experience is truly unique.
Today the Elephant Cave is a refuge for the monk seal Monachous monachous, the world’s rarest seal species and one of the six most endangered species on our planet.