A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about caves

Margaret River

My return to an old playground

overcast 24 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

The Margaret River area is the south west toe of Western Australia about 3 hours drive from Perth. I had been there before on my previous visit to my cousins in Perth back in 2002 but definately wanted to go back there again as there was so much to see.

We started by visiting the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse situated at the most south western point in Australia which is where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. After the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and Cape Horn in South America this is one of the most treacherous capes in the world. The lighthouse was built in 1895-96 and is 132 feet (40 metres) high with walls 7 feet (2 metres) thick at its base - and 176 steps we had to climb to reach the top!

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse


The Lighthouse Lens at Cape Leeuwin

The Lighthouse Lens at Cape Leeuwin


The view of the rest of Australia from Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

The view of the rest of Australia from Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse


Me at the meeting point of the Indian and Southern Oceans

Me at the meeting point of the Indian and Southern Oceans

Next stop moving north was Lake Cave, the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge which is the backbone of the Margaret River Area is peppered with over 100 of them most of which have the most amazing natural cave formations. Lake Cave is considered the prettiest of them with an impressive colapsed cavern entrance known as a doline and its stalactites within reflecting in the stream that flows very slowly through it. From the karri trees growing in the entrance it is estimated the doline colapsed about 700 years ago and inside Lake Cave there is a very unusual cave formation known as as suspended table formed by the flowstone beneath columns being eroded away.

The impressive entrance down into Lake Cave

The impressive entrance down into Lake Cave

Stalactites reflecting in the water inside Lake Cave

Stalactites reflecting in the water inside Lake Cave


The suspended table inside Lake Cave

The suspended table inside Lake Cave


The deepest part of Lake Cave

The deepest part of Lake Cave


Day light again! Re-emerging from Lake Cave into its doline

Day light again! Re-emerging from Lake Cave into its doline

The Boranup Forest above the caves contains an amazing forest of karri and marri trees, driving along the Caves Road that runs along the spine of the area you are aware the trees are tall with similar sized trunks but all of a sudden the trees seem to be 3-5 times taller than they were previously - very belittling! Karri Trees are a very straight trunked hardwood tree with all its branches high up that can grow upto 200 feet (60 metres) high. The most famous karri is the 200 feet high Gloucester Tree near Pemberton about an hour's drive away to the east which is used as a fire lookout tree and can be climbed but I was quite happy keeping my feet on the ground!

The view from the Boranup Lookout across the Karri Tree Forest to the Indian Ocean

The view from the Boranup Lookout across the Karri Tree Forest to the Indian Ocean


Karri Trees line the track as we drive through the Baranup Forest

Karri Trees line the track as we drive through the Baranup Forest


To give an idea of scale, our car stopped on the track amongst the Karri Trees in the Boranup Forest

To give an idea of scale, our car stopped on the track amongst the Karri Trees in the Boranup Forest

Where the Margaret River enters the Indian Ocean is also world famous for its consistent surf and I remember a fun day on the beach there during my previous visit. Since then the shape of the coastline seems to have changed a lot and still shows the scars of a bushfire that ravaged the area a couple of years ago but as we stopped for old times sake we could still make out the surfers practising in the waves on Surfers Point for the annual Pro Surf Competition being held there starting at the weekend.

Surfers practice at Surfers Point, Margaret River

Surfers practice at Surfers Point, Margaret River


Lifeguard Notice at Margaret River Beach

Lifeguard Notice at Margaret River Beach


Surfers encampment at Margaret River in readiness for the Pro-Am Competition the following weekend

Surfers encampment at Margaret River in readiness for the Pro-Am Competition the following weekend


Scrubland at  Surfers Point recovering from the Bushfire that ravaged the area in 2011

Scrubland at Surfers Point recovering from the Bushfire that ravaged the area in 2011

However what Margaret River is famous for more than anything else is for being Western Australia's premier wine region so what else were we to finish our trip to the area but with a tour of a local winery? The winery we chose to visit was the Leeuwin Estate, one of the original wineries in the area when it was identified as an ideal place to grow grapes back in 1972 and which often hosts open concerts for famous entertainers such the London Philamornic and Sting. Our tour was given by a very enthusiastic guide and one of the senior growers and was very interesting and fun - honest I learnt a lot! We then finished off by sampling some of the different vintages before starting our long trek back to Perth.

The entrance to the Leeuwin Estate Winery

The entrance to the Leeuwin Estate Winery


The stage all set for the next open air concert at the Leeuwin Estate

The stage all set for the next open air concert at the Leeuwin Estate


Where the grapes arrive from the fields

Where the grapes arrive from the fields


Wine fermenting in the vats at the Leeuwin Estate

Wine fermenting in the vats at the Leeuwin Estate


Wine aging in oak barrels in the cellars of the Leeuwin Estate

Wine aging in oak barrels in the cellars of the Leeuwin Estate


Of course no tour of a winery would be complete without some wine tasting!

Of course no tour of a winery would be complete without some wine tasting!

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches trees lighthouses tunnels caves wine perth videos Comments (0)

Waitomo Caves

Home of mystical blue glowworms and Black Water Rafting

sunny 19 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

On the advice of nearly every New Zealand guidebook I have seen, I still had Waitomo Caves near the top of my "To Do List" despite it being just 10 days since I visited the impressive Lake Cave near Margaret River in Western Australia. What makes them special and different from other caves are their glowworms; which also makes this particular blog entry a bit of challenge as they are almost impossible to photograph!

Waitomo is 125 miles (202 km) south of Auckland and there over 300 caves mapped in the area. I visited the two most popular, starting with a 2 hour tour of Ruakuri Cave, the longest guided cave tour in Australasia. As seems to be the way in New Zealand there was a dispute over ownership of the original entrance and it was also a Maori burial ground so the cave is now accessed via a spectacular new 49 feet (15 metre) spiral staircase that felt like something out an old Doctor Who set.

Me stood at the entrance to Ruakuri Cave

Me stood at the entrance to Ruakuri Cave


The spiral staircase entrance down to Ruakuri Cave

The spiral staircase entrance down to Ruakuri Cave


The rock at the entrance into Ruakuri Cave at the bottom of the spiral staircase

The rock at the entrance into Ruakuri Cave at the bottom of the spiral staircase

Like all show caves Ruakuri has easily damaged cave formations and there is monitoring equipment by the entrance to ensure CO2 brought into the cave by tree roots or the breathing of visitors is kept within manageable levels. The path then meanders around cave formations and through fissures in the limestone deeper and deeper into the cave.

Cave formations and CO2 monitoring equipment inside the entrance to Ruakuri Cave

Cave formations and CO2 monitoring equipment inside the entrance to Ruakuri Cave


Flash photo in the darkness of the walkway ahead

Flash photo in the darkness of the walkway ahead


A wafer shaped stalactite by the walkway in Ruakuri Cave

A wafer shaped stalactite by the walkway in Ruakuri Cave


A delicate rusty coloured stalactite inside Ruakuri Cave

A delicate rusty coloured stalactite inside Ruakuri Cave

So far so good, Ruakuri Cave although extensive has been very similar to any other show cave this far. Then comes the mystical bit when we reach the glowworms and the lights are turned out to see them - photos aren't allowed (even if my camera was up to it!) so I have provided a link. Each glowworm is a the larvae of small mosquito like fly that has attached itself to top of the cave with 3-5 inch (10-20 cm) silk fishing lines dangling beneath it with a blue almost light at the end to attract larvae prey from the underground river flowing below.

The underground river is also where you can go Black Water Rafting and can get up close to the glowworms and this is suppose to be the ultimate cave experience and something I am sure I might have been tempted to have a go at if I had more time in New Zealand.

Watch out below! The darkness of the gorge beneath us where you can go Black Water Rafting

Watch out below! The darkness of the gorge beneath us where you can go Black Water Rafting


A cavern full of stalactites deep inside Ruakuri Cave

A cavern full of stalactites deep inside Ruakuri Cave

We then returned to the Waitomo Caves Visitor Centre and went on the more commercial feeling 45 minute tour of the Waitomo Glowworm Cave itself. Again we passed impressive stalactites and stalagmites as we made our way down to a large cavern known as The Cathedral which has such good natural acoustics that it has been used for concerts Dame Kiri Te Kanaawa and the Vienna Boys Choir amongst others.

However again it was the glowworms who stloe the show except this time we boarded a boat and floated down the underground river in the pitch black admiring the milky way of blue glowworm lights that adorned the cave's ceiling. Eventually we emerged from the cave and exited using a jetty.

Daylight as our boat emerges from Waitomo Cave

Daylight as our boat emerges from Waitomo Cave


View back into the Cave from our exit jetty

View back into the Cave from our exit jetty


Our guide goes back into the Cave to pick up the next group of tourists

Our guide goes back into the Cave to pick up the next group of tourists


A large trout loitering by the cave exit - apparently he'd been there for days!

A large trout loitering by the cave exit - apparently he'd been there for days!

Posted by FrancisRTW 03:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged animals caves nz_north_island external_links Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]