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Attraction : Capricorn Caves

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The Capricorn Caves are only 30 minutes north of Rockhampton and are Queensland’s longest running tourist attraction.  Set in limestone that formed millions of years ago, the caves have been open for exploration since the 1880s.  Marvel at hanging fig tree roots that have split rock in search of water, glistening limestone formations that have formed over thousands of years, or enjoy the acoustics of the Cathedral Cave.


Our tour of the caves started on the right foot, with plenty of light hearted jokes from our tour guide.  She was knowledgeable and fun, answered all our questions about the caves, and we especially enjoyed our self-guided adventure out of the cave.


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The History

The caves were discovered in 1882 by the sons of a Norwegian man named John Olsen while they were out looking for some runaway horses.  They told their dad, and John soon opened it as a tourist attraction.  People from near and far would dress in their finest attire and go into the depths of the cave to explore with a lantern.  Later on, the caves were mined for guano.  Some chambers had over a metre of compacted guano and about 6 tonnes was taken out and sold as fertiliser.


In 1988, the Olsen family sold the property to Ken and Ann Augusteyn, who applied for an environmental management policy to protect the caves.  The Capricorn Caves has an advanced ecotourism certification and has won several Queensland tourism awards.


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The Caves

The limestone in the caves is 390 million years old and was originally growing coral under the sea.  When the limestone was exposed, acidic rain created cracks and dissolved the calcite in the limestone to form caves.  The airflow through the caves makes them evaporative and therefore relatively dry, which means it takes stalactites 100 years to grow just one centimetre.  There are more than 1.5 kms of underground passages connecting the caves together.


The various wildlife inside the caves includes butterflies, moths and microbats – sometimes even ghost bats and pythons that come in to eat the micro bats.  There is also a rare fern – the tectaria devexa – that calls the caves its one and only home.


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The Cathedral Cave is the most popular chamber – so popular in fact that they hold around 30 weddings there every year.  There are pews lined up with an aisle that the bride can walk down, and many singers have visited the cave and commented on how perfect the acoustics are – comparable to the Sydney Opera house.


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Another beautiful feature of the caves is the gentle beam of light that shines into the largest chamber.  During the summer solstice, the sun lines up perfectly overhead, projecting a beam of light into the cave.  It’s seen as a magical event – some people bring crystals to recharge, while others propose to their lovers, and occasionally, a disco ball is spun in the sunlight.


The Essentials

Capricorn Caves is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 8:30am to 6pm.  The Cathedral tour runs every hour from 9am until 4pm, but if you’re after something a little more daring, they also offer adventure caving, abseiling and rock climbing.  There’s even a high ropes course and geo tour.


They’re available for functions such as weddings and parties, and there’s a van park onsite for visitors wanting to spend the night.  For more information, visit their website:


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Cutta Cutta Caves

Natural Wonders : Cutta Cutta Caves

Cutta Cutta Caves


On our way out of Katherine, we stopped by the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park.  While we had seen plenty of caves and sinkholes down in South Australia, we hadn’t really heard of any in the Territory so we were curious to find out more.


Our tour guide, Ethan was very friendly and super knowledgeable about the caves, and we soaked up as much information as we could.


Cutta Cutta Caves


The History

The main cave was accidentally discovered in the early 1900s by cattle drover Mr Smith, who was leading his cattle across the land when a few disappeared down a hole.  In the 1940s, soldiers would enter the cave and use the stalactites as target practice, but it wasn’t until 1967 that the area became protected and named Sixteen Mile Cave Reserve.  In 1979, the area was renamed the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park and there are a total of 52 caves in the park.


The traditional owners of the land that the caves are located are the Jawoyn people, but there is no rock art or signs that they ever lived in the cave.  Apparently, living in the cave was seen as a bit of a taboo for local indigenous folks – probably because the caves would’ve been pitch black at night, echoes may have been mistaken for evil spirits and if any animals had fallen in and died the cave wouldn’t have smelt very nice.  The words Cutta Cutta mean place of many stars, probably named so because of the twinkling of the calcite crystals.  It was believed that stars would hide in the cave by day and explode into the sky at night.


Cutta Cutta Caves


The Caves

Cutta Cutta Caves are Australia’s first cave system to be lit by solar power, which we think is pretty cool.  The cave are in a subtropical climate, and as the main cave only has one opening, there is no ventilation so the atmosphere inside is quite dry and warm.  On our way to the main cave, we passed a large depression, and when it eventually collapses, will change the atmosphere within the cave completely because it will create another opening.


The caves are made of 570 million year old tindall limestone, which is only found in NT, but the actual caves are only 350 million years old.  The main cave is 650m long and reaches the water table at the far end, but the tour only takes you in 250m because going any further in would be very dangerous.  Our tour guide Ethan is an experienced caver and has been all the way to the far end.  He told us that the passageway gets so narrow at some points that you have to crawl through on your stomach, there are sinkholes that are 80m deep, and the ammonia from the bat droppings further in is enough to make you pass out!




Each chamber of the cave has its own microclimate; it was cool at the entrance and got more humid as we got deeper in the cave.  The spectacular cave contains the usual features – stalagmites, stalactites, columns where stalactites and stalagmites have joined up – but there were also flowstones that look like melted ice cream, pretty shoals, and super thin straws.  These formations are formed with calcium carbonate and water combine and dry to become sparkly calcium crystals.  In some places, tree roots have made their way into the ceiling of the cave by releasing a weak acid that dissolves the limestone.


The Critters

There are about 300 bats that live within the cave, including ghost bats, aka false vampire bats, are one of Australia’s biggest bats and can have a wingspan of over a meter. They have big eyes and huge ears that point upwards from their face.  When we first entered the cave, we saw a brush trail rock wallaby.  There are a few other microspecies that live within the cave too – mostly insects, but also pythons, tree snakes and huntsman spiders, as well as the occasional visit from echidnas.




The Essentials

The Cutta Cutta Caves are open from the 1st of April every year – they close during the Wet Season because the cave floods (from the bottom!).  Entry is $20 per person but if you have a group of more than 10 people, discounted entry can apply.  The tours run daily at 9am, 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm.  Allow an hour for the tour and also a bit of time to check out the information in and around the office.


Phone number: 08 8972 1940


We found our time at Cutta Cutta Caves really enjoyable.  It’s a great way to learn more about limestone caves, how they were formed and used, and eventually protected so that everyone can enjoy them.  We’d also like to thank Ethan for showing us around and answering all our questions.


The Pinnacles

Experience : The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles

Within Nambung National Park is a landscape covered with thousands of limestone pillars up to 4 meters tall.  Some are jagged, some are smooth, and they all contribute to an eerie panorama that resembles somewhere light-years from earth.



The Pinnacles are located about 17km south of Cervantes and are definitely worth stopping for.  There is a discovery centre where you can learn about the formations and animals that live in the area, as well as a scenic drive and walking track.  Being the immature idiots we are, we set out to find cock rock but were distracted by the variety of shapes and textures, and the overall strangeness of the Pinnacle’s existence.


While the formation of the Pinnacles is still shrouded in mystery, it’s clear that they were made from seashells thousands of years ago which eventually created a variety of limestone called Tamala Limestone.  Over the years, the Pinnacles have been covered and uncovered by shifting sands, and it is assumed that one day, they will be covered by sand once again.