Tayos is an expedition exploring the Cueva de los Tayos; a vast and extraordinary cave system in the south-eastern rainforests of Ecuador through art, music, photography and neuroscience.

Help us to build a global network of guardians for this rare and fragile landscape and secure a future for the cave's rare ecology - free from the threats of mining, deforestation and human harm.

The Tayos team will explore the geological, ecological, cultural, historical and phenomenological landscape of the caves, using art, music and neuroscience research to tell the story of this unique place and support the bid to recognise Cueva de los Tayos as a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Jon Hopkins . Mendel Kaelen . Eileen Hall . Tamsin Cunningham . Eoin Carey 

Dr Theo Toulkaridis . David Villagomez . Francisco Heredia

Help us in working towards raised awareness of and greater protection for Cueva de los Tayos and its rainforest environment.



Cueva de los Tayos

Stretching to almost 5 km of subterranean passages and vast chambers, Cueva de los Tayos ("Cave of the Oilbirds") is a vast cave system located in the south-eastern rainforests of Ecuador, on the eastern slopes of the Andes mountains. Cueva de los Tayos form part of the territory of the native Shuar tribe, who have long used the caves for collection of the fledgling Tayos birds which give the caves their name. Home to rare flora and fauna, the caves lie at the heart of intense speculation on how ancient civilisations may have shaped this extraordinary landscape.

We feel that building awareness of the caves through creative as well as scientific work is vitally important in reaching new audiences and bringing fresh insights on the extraordinary nature of this otherworldly landscape.

Through exhibition, publication and performance, we hope to tell the story of this superlative environment, its exceptional natural beauty and why it deserves protection. The Tayos creative expedition will take place in August 2018.


1976 Expedition

Cueva de los Tayos have been the subject of intense research, exploration, speculation and myth-making since the 1970s when Erich von Däniken first published his book ‘The Gold of the Gods’. Von Däniken’s claims that explorer János Juan Móricz had discovered unusual sculptures and a ‘gold library’ within apparently artificially carved passages, sensationalised the caves and planted the Cueva de los Tayos in the minds of many readers across the world as a site of mystery, conspiracy and power.

One such reader was Stan Hall; a Scottish civil engineer, who, inspired by Von Däniken’s claims, left his engineering job on the east coast of Scotland and in 1976 set about mounting the first major scientific expedition to Cueva de los Tayos.

One of the largest cave expeditions of its time, the 1976 expedition involved over 100 people including Ecuadorean and British government officials, joint special forces, and top scientists and speleologists of the time alongside astronaut Neil Armstrong who took the role of Honorary President of the expedition. A team of experienced cavers were employed in mapping the extensive network of passages and chambers and various zoological, botanical and archaeological findings were recorded. Of Von Däniken’s gold library no evidence was discovered.

Since then numerous research expeditions have taken place to the caves most recently in August 2017, with the next research expedition proposed for August 2018 in tandem with the Tayos creative expedition. The caves continue to reveal on each visit the exceptional nature of the subterranean landscape, its formation and the plants and animals that reside within it.

After Stan Hall died in 2008, his research and exploration work was carried on by his Scottish-Ecuadorian daughter Eileen Hall who will co-lead the Tayos creative expedition.



Tayos Expedition Team

The multi-disciplinary Tayos team is composed of artists, musicians, photographers, architects, film-makers and scientists led by co-founders of the Open Close arts collective Eileen Hall and Tamsin Cunningham.

The Open Close Collective is a group of artists, architects, musicians, academics, scientists and makers united by an interest in how we can creatively redefine overlooked or undervalued places and spaces. By exploring peoples’ emotional connection to place through multi-disciplinary art, architecture and sound installations, Open Close aims to promote and encourage greater engagement with both the urban spaces and natural landscapes around us.



Protection of the caves

Moves are now being made to designate Cueva de los Tayos as a UNESCO World Heritage site: assisting the Shuar in their guardianship of the caves and galvanising the 3D mapping, geological and speleological research being carried out. The campaign for UNESCO designation is spear-headed by Dr Theo Toulkeridis (geologist, volcanologist & Coordinator of Geosciences at the University San Fransisco de Quito) who leads the annual research expedition to Cueva de los Tayos.

From their experiences and observations in the caves the creative team will produce work to be exhibited and published as part of the drive to raise awareness of the UNESCO World Heritage bid.




Join us in building awareness and appreciation of Cueva de los Tayos and helping to secure a protected future for this unique subterranean landscape.



Whether you are an individual or a company your support for the Tayos project will make a big difference. Help take the team to Tayos and aid us in our mission to raise awareness of this beautiful and fragile environment. 100% of your donations go to funding expedition expenses for the Tayos creative team and delivering the creative work to be produced as part of the UNESCO World Heritage bid in 2020. We are deeply grateful for your support in helping us to raise awareness of the Cueva de los Tayos and galvanising the call for their protection.


Follow the Tayos story

Join us on our journey towards greater protection of the caves. Sign up to receive information on the art, music, photography and neuroscience work being produced for the Tayos project, the latest developments in the bid to secure UNESCO World Heritage status and how you can help support the campaign and scientific research on the caves.