Hidden beneath the blazing tarmac of Caves Road, below the karri and marri forests, and under the undulating Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, lies a winding labyrinth of underground tunnels and echoing caverns. It’s a magical world for children to visit over the school holidays, and a treasure trove of geological gems for accompanying mums and dads.
You might be asking which cave to visit over the Easter break. A fair question, as they are all such unique experiences, but when travelling with kids, it’s great to start with Mammoth and Ngilgi. Younger kids and teens will love Mammoth Cave, where they can explore the chambers at their own pace with an audio headset acting as an on-demand guide. Mammoth Cave is also the most accessible of the caves for parents with little ones in tow. Kids will love searching for the fossilised jawbone of the Zygomaturas Trilobus (a snouted marsupial the size of a cow that lived around 50,000 years ago!)
Ngilgi Cave is an educational and physically challenging experience for school aged children, and definitely worth exploring. A guide will take you on the initial walk into the cave, then leave you to to discover the fairytale formations at your own pace. Kids will love the ‘tunnel of doom’ – a special secret passage for little explorers. For keen teenagers, don helmets and head torches for the adventure tour.
Got some adventurous older kids to amuse over the holidays? Well Lake Cave and Jewel Cave would be the way to go. Lake Cave will take you down 325 steps past towering karri trees, into the sanctuary of the forest floor, where you’ll find the stalectite formations reflected in a subterranean lake. The interpretive centre gives kids a further educational experience upon departure.
Head south towards Augusta if you have dedicated cave enthusiasts travelling in your brood. Jewel Cave is the largest show cave in Western Australia and will deliver a good lot of physical activity combined with some seriously memorable artifacts. Children of all ages will get a real kick out of seeing tree roots spiralling down through the roof of the cave, as well as the longest straw formation in Australia (at 5.43m long!). And you can’t leave without solving the mystery of how the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) came to perish in the cave!
Did you know?
Before you kick start your underground adventure with the family, get clued up on some fun facts:
- Mind the Gap – Frances Bussell, daughter of pioneer Alfred Bussell, first stumbled upon the opening of Lake Cave while out searching for cattle in 1867. It took another 30 years before it was explored and developed for tourism.
- Supersized Species – Palaeontological evidence shows that the animals living in Margaret River during the pleistocene (the last 2 million years) were typically 30% bigger than their closest relatives today.
- Whopper Wombat – Weighing in at 100-150kg and measuring 1.7m long, the giant wombat (Phascolonus Gigas) found in the caves, was a bit of a heffalump and twice the size of wombats living today!
- Tongue-tied – The giant echidna (Zaglossus Hacketti) had a sticky tongue that was half a metre long – all the better for licking up termites with!
- Fantastical Formations – Cave formations are called ‘speleotherms’ and are formed when acidic water dissolves the limestone forming calcium carbonate solution. It gets redeposited as calcite crystals in the form of stalactites (the formations that hang from the ceiling) and stalagmites (the ones that climb up)