In an increasingly accelerated world the need to snap out of our wifi-induced comas, ignore the urge to check emails, and seek relief from busy routines has never been greater. Heading somewhere unexpected and unknown is just the prescription you need to relieve the boredom and stresses of modern day life. The medicine – nature. But not the nature you might expect.
With our lives so caught up with what’s going on above ground, we don’t give a thought to what lies beneath. An underworld separated from the rush above, where you can sink deeply into yourself and listen to your truest thoughts. Taking a moment to stop and appreciate nature makes you feel connected to a tiny part of a massive universe.
Deep you go, beyond the surface to a land submerged under a shallow sea. Where time is measured by drips of water, and things glow brighter without light. Caves that came into being when Tasmania was still a part of the supercontinent Gondwana. Shaped when glaciers grew, and melted, and burrowed into the limestone leaving behind the cave systems you see today.
For a small island, it might surprise you to find more caves in Tasmania than anywhere in Australia – and Tassie has the deepest, longest and wildest of them all. At 394 meters below ground Niggly Cave is by far the deepest. With a length of 23km Exit Cave is the longest. The Kubla Khan cave is long, but it’s better known for its whopping 18 metre high stalagmite.
Tasmanian caves have a better natural integrity. Rivers still flow through them and keep them active. Stalagmites form in front of your eyes, although if you stop to watch them you might not notice – growing at a rate of ten centimetres every thousand years. You can also expect the temperature to drop to about nine degrees when you step through a cave entrance. You could liken it to walking through the entrance of a David Jones store and being greeted by a blast of cool air conditioning. It makes you feel alive.
Although there are over 300 caves in Tasmania, most are not “tourist’ caves. Separated into “show’ and “wild’ caves, most wild caves are restricted to avoid degradation. Not to worry, Tasmania has some of the most beautiful caves on show. Park guides keen to show off these otherworldly caverns will take you on an underworld exploration into Tasmania’s show caves, showing you how these extraordinary world’s form. But if you’re tired of crowds and concrete paths Wild Cave Tours in the Mole Creek area can take you into wild caves. Tailoring adventures in a world few see.
Hidden below Gunns Plains farmland in North West Tasmania is a fascinating world of caves, sinkholes and underground streams. Gunns Plains Cave was discovered during a hunting trip after dogs fell into a hole forming part of the cave.
Used as a show cave for most of the 20th century it was carved out by an underground river that still flows, and is full of freshwater crayfish, fish and eel. Tours descend 54 steps and follow a 250 metre pathway deep into the cave to see shawls, flowstones and glow-worms.
Hastings Caves State Reserve
The Hastings Caves State Reserve is the setting of a complex of caves discovered by timber workers cutting trees near the caves entrance.
Newdegate Cave is the largest dolomite cave in Australia open to tourists. Spot formations given names like Birthday Cake, Champagne Glasses and Headache Rock (aptly named because it’s often struck as you make you way through the cave – keep a look out for that one).
After your cave exploration take a dip in the thermal springs pool – naturally heated to 28 °C (82 °F). You can hunt for the source of the springs on the Hot Springs Circuit Track, and touch the water where the hot thermal springs rise to meet the cool tannin stained tannin waters of the river.
Mole Creek Karst National Park
Mole Creek is a town in the upper Mersey Valley, in the central north of Tasmania. The name Mole Creek comes from a nearby stream which flows above ground, and in portions underground through the caves underlying the area. The caves of the nearby Mole Creek Karst National Park are a world of subterranean adventures that would satisfy any modern cave dweller.
King Solomons Cave is relatively small and dry. The name of the cave was derived from the abundance of reflective calcite crystals, making it sparkle like the fabled treasures of King Solomon’s mines.
Guides teach the difference between stalagmites, stalactites, shawls, columns and flowstones in Marakoopa Cave. See sparkling crystals, reflection pools, the Great Cathedral and glow-worms. For those not shy to belt out a tune, the dimly lit expanse of the Great Cathedral cavern gives a chance to test the vocals. It’s lights out in the glow-worm cavern. As your eyes adjust, the tiny larvae fill the pitch-black walls like city lights turning on at dusk.
Operating near Mole Creek, Wild Cave Tours expert crew can take as few as two people on half-day guided tours of stream caves, glow-worm chambers and honeycombed hills in some of these lesser-known wild caves. These unusual experiences invigorate the soul.
You’ll be geared up from head to toe in overalls, and a helmet with head lamp and be led down horizontal caves, through streams into glow-worm caverns, coming out the other end for a gourmet picnic spread of local organic salads, homemade pickles and preserves and a selection of cheeses from nearby Ashgrove Farm.