Naracoorte Caves

We turned off the Riddoch Highway to go to Naracoorte Caves. We’ve never been there before and I was looking forward to it. Naracoorte Caves are listed on the World Heritage List and along with Riversleigh Fossil Fields in Queensland make up the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte).

The fossils of Naracoorte Caves have accumulated over 500,000 years during a time of a series of ice ages. The fossils were well preserved in the sediment of the caves. Over 110 different species of animals have been identified with 25 of those being extinct and the others being around at the time of European settlement. Many of those have since become extinct. Excavation and exploration is ongoing at the caves and who knows what they will find next.

We arrived around noon and went to the Wonambi Fossil Centre where we booked a couple of cave tours and a visit to the Megafauna display. We had time for some pumpkin soup at the cafe before our first tour and it was delicious.

Our tour of Alexandra Cave commenced at 1.00pm from the Wonambi Centre. Our tour guide was a ranger called Gav. Alexandra Cave was discovered in 1908 and was opened for guided tours in 1909. Our 30 minute tour became 45 minutes as Gav’s enthusiasm for the cave bubbled over. This cave has some very fine examples of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, curtains and flow stone. It’s not the prettiest caved I’ve ever seen but still is amazing.

We then did the self-guided tour of Stick-Tomato Cave. This cave is very different from Alexandra Cave as it is much drier. The formations in this cave are covered in a white chalky substance. The ones close to the large entrance are covered in green algae, a result of being in too much light. There was one really interesting formation on the ceiling of this cave called Avens. This is where the roof is formed into lots of hollows by the water dripping into the cave absorbing carbon dioxide and becoming acidic and it dissolves the limestone into these amazing shapes.

Next we went back to the Wonambi Centre to visit the megafauna display. In the entry to the centre is a great display of fossils that have been found including the massive skull of a Diprotodon, the largest creature to have ever lived in Australia. This massive creature could grow to 2500 kgs and was a giant herbivore.

Inside is a re-creation of what the Naracoorte area may have looked like 200,000 years ago based on years of research by palaeontologists. They have been able to reconstruct skeletons of these extinct animals and work out what they looked like and what they ate. The life-sized animated models have been built as scientifically accurate as possible. This group of very large extinct creatures are know collectively as ‘megafauna’ and they roamed Australia alongside many of the animals we still have today. It is still not know why the megafauna disappeared but it was around 50,000 years ago and could be linked to the arrival of Aborigines. Aborigines may have hunted the slow moving megafauna or altered their habitats by burning. Or maybe it was climate change. Australia has experienced several ice ages over the last million years so maybe climate change wiped out the megafauna. Who knows?

Next to the Wonambi Centre is a fantastic children’s playground. It includes tunnels, rope climb, swings and is all made with natural materials such as timber logs and stone. Our grandchildren would just love this place.

Leaving the caves we decided to go and check out their campground and found a lovely little campground with about 12 flat powered sites and a large grass area for tent camping. There was a large group of children camped in tents. Looked like a school group. There is an amenities block and a tennis court. We thought it looked like a great place to bring our grandchildren one day.

We had a great day out at Naracoorte Caves in spite of the weather being miserable, raining and very cold.


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