A recent family excursion to the magnificent Jenolan Caves took me well outside my comfort zone in the best possible way!
When my parents decided to celebrate their birthdays with a family get together in the NSW Blue Mountains the conversation turned to what fun things we could fit into our weekend. Exploring the Jenolan Caves was quickly suggested, agreed upon and planned, much to the delight of my father who had it on his ‘bucket list’.
The Jenolan Caves are Australia’s most outstanding cave system with kilometres of spectacular caves, underground rivers and crystal formations, and according to their website is among the finest in the world.
I had very limited experience with caving so I really didn’t know what to expect. On arrival to the caves though I was immediately blown away by the beauty of the location; to get to the buildings and car parks you first drive past a stunningly blue lake and through an immense cave. It is a spectacular welcome and really set the bar high for the rest of the day.
First up was the Diamond Cave tour, which included the easy Imperial Cave tour and the Diamond branch. Despite being one of the easier tours almost immediately I was second guessing my ability to handle being underground. Unfortunately for me the very first section is a tight little tunnel and straight away some claustrophobia kicked in. Internally I was freaking out and somehow this panic must have expressed externally because my husband grabbed my hand and began reassuring me!
Luckily though the rest of the tour had larger tunnels, open areas and solid walkways and my fears quickly disappeared.
The Imperial tour follows an ancient river passage including a “visit to the northern ‘Jenolan Underground River’ via a 66 step spiral staircase”. The water in the underground rivers was extraordinarily clear, which made the depth difficult to judge. We saw lots of stalactites, stalagmites, wave crystal and shawls or bacon as they are sometimes called.
After a quick bite to eat we decided to spend the rest of our break on the Blue Lake loop. It is such a stunning feature of the caves and worth exploring. We had some fun taking photos of all the water dragon we spotted by the shores as well as photo bombing each others holiday snaps!
Then it was time to tackle the River Cave. My mother had warned me this tour was listed as ‘strenuous’ and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our tour guide was sensational though and her calm voice settled any nerves I still had almost instantly.
This was my favourite tour of the day and while the pace was quick it never felt too tough. We explored the underground ‘River Styx’ and the Pool of Reflections; there were huge formations and we also saw the biggest column at the Jenolan Caves.
What made the tour strenuous was that there were almost 1300 stair steps to tackle and two steep steel ladders to traverse. But each obstacle was quickly overcome and the beauty we saw on this tour absolutely made it worth it.
We all left this tour feeling like we had achieved something and been rewarded with so many astonishing sights.
If the Jenolan Caves aren’t already on your list of places to visit then they should be!