The Story Of Ngilgi
Ngilgi Cave is associated with a rich Aboriginal dreamtime story describing a battle between a good and an evil spirit. The local Wardandi people tell the story:
Whenever there was a fierce storm at Yallingup and mighty waves crashed up the beach with reaching arms of white foam looking as if they were trying to make their way up the valley, our old people would look out across the ocean and memories would return to them of the past and what was told to them many, many years ago and told to the Elders before them. They would re-tell the story of Ngilgi (a good spirit of the ocean), the spirits of thunder, lightning, rain, waves and wind and Wolgine (the bad spirit who once lived in the cave).
The story goes like this – a long time ago the entrance to the big cave at Yallingup was near the ocean where the little brook comes out. Food was plenty and the Aboriginal people use to collect their water from the entrance to the cave. Then an evil spirit called Wolgine began lurking in the cave. Wolgine caused the water hole to dry up, food to be scarce and drew unwary people into the great hole of darkness – never to be seen again.
Ngilgi was a good spirit who lived in the ocean and always kept a watchful eye on the tribes of Aboriginal people in the area. Feeling how sad his people were by the loss of their loved ones and seeing the suffering of his people, Ngilgi, decided to do something about Wolgine. He spoke with other good spirits of the ocean and together they planned to rid the district of the evil spirit Wolgine.
So the spirits of the waves, the wind, the rain, thunder and lightning joined together and made the most terrifying storm. Thunder and lightning went rolling and flashing across the sky and the fierce wind and rain went racing across the sea. The ocean formed itself into the biggest and highest king waves ever. The wind pushed the huge waves along and the sea rose up and up into the entrance of the cave. Never before or since had there been such a storm.
A fierce battle followed – Wolgine was frightened. He was driven further and further into the cave with the sea following him. Finally, driven to the end of the cave he knew he was beaten and begged for mercy. The spirits, being good and kind, agreed and stopped the storm. Ngilgi told Wolgine he could go providing he never came back to the area again. So Wolgine burst out of the cave (creating the entrance as we know it today) and ran away as fast as he could – never to be seen again.
Ngilgi decided to make his home there and it became known as Ngilgi’s nurilem mia or cave house. Food once again became plentiful and in thanks, the Aboriginal people would come to the cave in the morning and leave bardies, yams and choice foods at the entrance and leave in silence.
But the storm had done damage; the old people would say the deep valley where the creek now runs was part of the cave. This part of the cave that once went from the sea and up the hillside to where Wolgine came out had collapsed – leaving only the cave we know today.
History of Ngilgi Cave
A solitary figure is lowered into the pitch black of a dank, mysterious underworld. For the first time light penetrates the dark of an environment formed over eons to reveal beautiful shapes and formations.
We can only imagine how that lone figure must have felt and that experience in 1899 proved to be the catalyst for the beginning of formalised tourism in the South West of Western Australia.
So taken was he with his find that Edward Dawson began to set in motion plans to open the cave to the public. The caverns at Yallingup were opened for public inspection in 1900.
There are a number of stories of how Yallingup Cave was found. The most common story tells of how Edward Dawson was out looking for stray horses and came upon the present entrance, curiosity got the better of him and the next day he returned with two friends, who assisted with the initial exploration on October 11, 1899.
Edward Dawson began conducting tours through the cave in 1900 and served as its head guide until 1937. The popularity of the tours conducted by Dawson resulted in the establishment of the Caves Hotel in 1905.
In 1903, Yallingup Cave was the first cave in Western Australia to have electric lights installed. It has been the site of two world cave sitting records, numerous weddings and it is believed that Dame Nellie Melba gave a concert before she went on to become a world famous opera singer.