From a pleasant stroll along a meandering underground stream way, to the rope-work required in the most technically demanding vertical caves in Australia, Tasmania caves have it it all. There are approximately 4,000 known caves in Tasmania, including the deepest caves in Australia. We have horizontal caves systems over 20 km long with vast underground chambers, and we have deep vertical systems approaching 400 metres deep with single free-hanging drops or “pitches” up to 190 metres deep. Some are muddy cesspits, and some are perfectly clean washed limestone caused from regular flooding of the cave. There are constantly “new” caves being discovered, explored and surveyed, and know caves extended in length & depth.
Many Tasmanian caves are “Swallets” meaning they are stream sinks where water disappears underground. Therefore, you can expect to get dripped, sprayed, showered, or maybe even have to grovel or swim in the water, but alternately, if a nice easy stroll admiring formation or looking at glowworm displays is more your thing, there is plenty of that to be found in Tasmanian caves too! As an added bonus, many of our caves are also hidden in spectacular karst rainforest, so even walking to and from the caves can be spectacular. Some caves can require considerable bushwalking along cavers tracks and require “expeditions” to explore, but the vast majority can be fully negotiated in a single day.
Many of Tasmania’s caves are vertical caves. In fact, nearly all of Australia’s vertical caves are located in Tasmania, so it is not surprising that the many uniquely Australian deep-caving techniques have evolved in Tasmanian caves. The electron wire caving ladders that were used from the late 1940s to the early 1970s have been replaced by SRT (Single Rope Technique). Ladders are still used on occasion on small pitches for convenience and on beginner caving trips, but it’s fairly rare. Modern SRT Caving involves abseiling on nylon ropes (usually 9-10 mm diameter, but even down to 6mm) to descend into the caves, and using devices called “Jumars” that grip the rope when weighted to ascend back up the ropes.
There are many skills involved in SRT. Having the skills to know how to rig the ropes safely to avoid things like abrasion on the ropes, and also to keep ropes rigged away from waterfalls is essential. Due to the vertical nature of so many Tasmanian Caves, only cavers experienced in SRT are able to experience the thrill of reaching the bottom of the more demanding ones. STC hold regular SRT training days, as well as taking trips to the easier vertical caves where these SRT skills can be learnt. SRT Gear can also be hired through the club for those of you who would prefer to “Try Before You Buy”. Some caves are so technically and physically demanding, that there has only ever been one trip to the far reaches.
Tasmania contains some of the best caves in Australia. It certainly contains the deepest caves in Australia, and offers the only serious vertical caving the country has to offer.
The Mole Creek area contains some exceptionally beautiful and amazing caves. It is also home to the world famous Kubla Khan cave – a cave that every Australian caver should hope to visit. There is not much vertical caving in the area, but some of the best streamway caves that you will see in Australia.
Kubla Khan cave is an amazing cave. It has everything… pretties, HUGE chambers, the famous Pleasure Dome, and a really sporty section called the Stalagmite Shuffle.
Ghengis Khan cave is very close to the upper entrance of its bigger and more famous neighbour, Kubla Khan. It contains a lot of nice and delicate aragonite formation.
Croesus Cave is another great cave at Mole Creek. It is an extremely active streamway passage, with active gour pools, and even a boat ride.
Lynd’s Cave is fairly close to Croesus, but is a strikingly different cave. It is also an active streamway, but the floor is rocks and gravel, not flowstone and gour pools. It still has some great formation, though.
Marrakoopa Cave is the best tourist cave in the area. It also has some great stuff off the tourist track, and has the best leads currently in the area.
Wet Cave is one of the few non-permit caves at Mole Creek. It is generally a wide open streamway cave, with little decoration. There are, however, some bit of fantastic decoration, well hidden away from the main path.
The Junee Florentine area has Australia’s deepest caves. The deepest cave (Niggly Cave) is around -394 metres (someone correct me if I’m wrong), and contains an impressive 190m final pitch. The caves in this area are certainly some of the most serious and difficult caves anywhere in Australia. They tend to have many deep pitches, generally through streamways, and are of course, bloody cold.
Growling Swallet is the main inflow cave for the area. It takes an awseome amount of water, and sumps quickly. Bypasses to the sumps are slowly being found, but the going is not easy.
Junee Cave is the main resurgance to the area, where the water from Growling Swallet comes out. Unfortunately, it too sumps. It has been dived, but the force of the water is far too strong.
Welcome Stranger is one of the few horizontal caves in the area. It contains an active streamway, and lots of nice decoration.
The Ida Bay area really only has one major cave system – Exit Cave. However, this one cave is more than enough. It will certianly be the longest cave in Australia once it has been fully surveyed. It consists of huge river passage, and some areas of really good decoration. Other caves in the hillside tend to lead towards Exit Cave, with some of them connecting, and others not.
Exit Cave is a world class cave, with much decoration, huge streamway passages, and some of the most amazing vertical entrances to be found in Australia.
Mini Martin is one of the best vertical entrances to Exit Cave. A deep shaft in the rainforest floor… leading down to the huge streamway passage of Exit Cave, far below.
Midnight Hole is one of the few good caves in the area that does not require a permit. It is a series of 6 round shafts, that join up with Mystery Creek Cave. The trip is done as a pull-through, assuming you can get through the squeeze at the bottom.
Wolf Hole is another great cave in the area that doesn’t require a permit. It has a 30m entrance pitch that keeps people out, and goes on to some fabulous straws, gloopy mud, run-through rift passage, and to top it off, the largest underground lake in the area.