Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jenolan Caves - Nature's Art Gallery

Oberon to Jenolan took us about 35 to 40 minutes.

Day 2 of our Easter Escapade took us to Jenolan Caves. Having spent the night in Oberon meant we did not have a long drive ahead of us to get there. Plus we did not have to travel the same route as tourist buses. Yay!

After a 35-40 minute scenic drive that included a glimpse of wild kangaroos making their way across the highlands, we arrived at Jenolan Caves Carpark 2 at 10:55am. Mr H had purchased our tickets for Orient Cave tour online earlier and we had to be at the agreed meeting point by 11:10am (tour is for 11:15am). Twenty minutes should give us ample of time to make our way there.. except it was not. Haha. Unknown to us, it was a good 15 minute brisk walk from the car park to the main area of the caves. Thankfully for us, it was downhill all the way.

Carlotta Arch.
Our walk began at Carlotta Arch. It is part of Carlotta Arch Walk (Shaping Waters) bushwalk that will take you about 45 minutes to complete (level of difficulty: moderate). We completed half the route as we came back the same way instead of making a loop. Unknown to us, there was another way up to this arch that is accessible from one of the other trails which we only realised after crossing paths with a group of boys we met earlier. Anyways this walk has many stairs making it not suitable for strollers and wheelchairs. 

Pic (left): Can you see glimpses of the Blue Lake from Carlotta Arch?

Pic (below): Caves House, the main "town" of Jenolan Caves - the ticketing office, administration office, accommodation, cafes and tour starting points are here.

From Carlotta Arch to here is a 15min walk.
After 15 minutes, we arrived at the main area (Caves House) and headed to the ticket office to collect our tickets. It was a blessing Mr H purchased our tickets online as we did not realise it was a long weekend AND school holidays. Many were disappointed at being turned away as the Orient Cave tour were a sell-out for all 3 sessions!

Our Orient Cave tour started at 11:15am on the dot. There are two ways to access the cave - take the original route consisting of 1000 (stair)steps or the route used today consisting of 94 steps. Needless to say, we all opted for the latter. Haha. We had a short briefing upon reaching the entrance to the cave tunnel: 
  • Food and drinks not allowed except for water. Smell of food and drinks attract wild animals and we do not want them to come out and seek the source. They could end up being trapped in the cave and start to do damage in there.  
  • No touching of crystals. The oil and minerals from our palms will disturb and damage them.
  • Photography with flash permitted.
Once inside, we had the option to leave our jackets and handbags at the racks available. The temperature in the cave is bearable and jackets were not required. Leaving them behind meant we could navigate within the tunnel easier and had our hands free to hold on to railings etc when required. Strollers are also not allowed inside.

The tour itself is 1.5 hours and child friendly (minus stroller). If you are claustrophobic, this might not be the tour for you. The pathways are narrow and sometimes you will need to walk up stairs with the "ceiling" just above your head. Having said this, it was not stuffy or smelly either (no guano smell). I have been on several cave tours before and this tour would be classified as pleasant :). 

Orient Cave has 3 main chambers - Egyptian, Persian and Indian. Each chamber has its own attraction. I only took pictures with my iPhone. Am not sure if the iPhone camera does justice to the pictures but then again, even with a better camera I cannot seem to capture the beauty of a scene. Haha.. Although the chambers have lights installed, it will be turned on one by one for a more dramatic effect.

Crystal formations in Orient Cave
The highlighted formation is called a shawl
Reminds of corals I see when diving.

Upon completion of the Orient Cave tour, we went on a self-guided audio tour at the Nettle aka Devil's Coach House Cave as it was part of the ticket price paid earlier. All we needed was an acoustic guide, a device that resembled the early generation of mobile phones - big and bulky. I loved this as we could do the tour in our own time. All you needed to do was enter the corresponding numbers into the device, hit play and place the speaker to your ear and listen to the explanation.

This cave is an easy to explore, even for the claustrophobic. I consider this an open cave - high ceilings and ample of light coming in. Apparently this cave was a favourite among those interested in nature photography in the early days, way before today's advanced technology due to the amount of natural light that entered the cave. This is another tour that is suitable for families with children minus the strollers.

Pic (left): "Mouth" of Nettle Cave. For a bush walking experience, venture into the greens onto McKeowns
Valley Track (Healing Waters).

Pic (below): The stair structure up the cage. A huge stalagmite on your right as you walk up the steps.

Before heading back to Oberon, we did our final bush walk - Easy Blue Lake Loop. Unfortunately we completed half the loop as the other half was closed for upgrading work. The Blue Lake is actually a man-made dam. The colour is a result of the mixture of natural minerals available in the water. Depending on the weather, the colour differs. On a clear day, the water turns blue, hence the name.

Clear blue waters

One side Blue Lake, the other side river like.

The rock formation backdrop against the Blue Lake

Although we barely covered 50% of the attractions at Jenolan Caves, we reluctantly made our move after 4 hours. With many more caves (guided and self-guided) and bush walks to explore, I definitely want to make a return visit. My tip for you would be to arrive early (as early as 9am) and leave as late as you can. Even better if you could spend a night there to allow you an early start the next day.

If you are making a trip soon, my recommendations:
  • Be there as early as 9am (7:30am if you're up for their buffet breakfast). The longer time you spend there, the more you can explore.
  • Purchase your admission tickets online especially for the popular cave tours.
  • Bring your own drinks or water bottle (can be refilled for free). Else be prepared to pay steep prices (approx $4 for a bottle of coke or water. sometimes it's sold out at the vending machine).
  • Apply sunscreen, wear a hat/cap and sunnies for the bushwalk.
  • Download Jenolan Caves iPhone app before arriving.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes - thongs/slippers not recommended.
  • Wear layered clothing as it tends to get warm with all the walking.

The purpose of my review is to relate my experience when visiting Jenolan Caves. For the nitty gritty details, visit their website at

We purchased our tickets online from Experience Oz + NZ and price includes

  • admission to the Orient Cave (1.5 hour guided tour), 
  • admission to the self guided Nettle Cave tour, 
  • souvenir guide booklet 
  • up to 50% of the price of more show cave tours for 12 months (excluding Jubilee, Ribbon & Pool of Cerberus Caves)
Download Jenolan Caves iPhone app before arriving there.

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