Saturday, January 28, 2017

When Water Does Wonder in Jenolan Cave

There are some attractions to enjoy in The Blue Mountains. You can choose to do leisurely relaxing activities like cafe-hopping and shopping in Katoomba or Leura, strolling in Everglades Garden, or just sightseeing at Echo Point. You can also choose to visit Scenic World, enjoying the rides and the scenery at the same time. Or you can camp, visit the caves, find the glow worms, etc. etc. etc.

I asked my man what he wanted and he chose to give Jenolan Caves a go. We got the return coach transfer from Katoomba and two cave visits for AUD 115 (~SGD 125). We were required to be at The Trolley Shoppe at the opposite of Katoomba Station by 10:30 a.m. The journey to Jenolan Caves took approximately 1.5 hours. Each of the cave visit is about 1 to 2 hours. By 03:30 p.m. we should be back to the bus parking area to be transferred back to Katoomba. By 5:00 p.m. we finished our journey.

Just find this shop opposite Katoomba Train Station

Jenolan Cave is multi-tiered 40km limestone cave formation with more than 300 entrances. The cave is said to be the oldest discovered open cave in the world, estimated to be 340 million years old. The exploration to know more about Jenolan Cave has been ongoing ever since 1830s.

James Whalan was said to be the person who discover Jenolan Cave in 1838. Over the years, he and his brother Charles Whalan discovered more openings into the cave and people who were interested in the exploration were getting more. Elder Cave and Lucas Cave were discovered during this period.

In 1866, the cave was taken under the purview of the government of New South Wales and Jeremiah Wales was appointed as the keeper of the cave. He continued the exploration and found more openings into the multi-tiered cave. Imperial, Chifley, Jersey, and Jubilee Cave were found as the results of his exploration.

J.C. Wiburd was made the keeper of the cave since 1903 and he discovered 5 more caves, i.e. River Cave, Pool of Cerberus Cave, Temple of Baal Cave, Orient Cave and Ribbon Cave.

Public are allowed to enter some of the caves by guided tours only. The list of the guided tours can be found online or at Jenolan Cave Reserve.

The parking area, ticketing office, eatery, and Hotel Jenolan

It looks like the only available tours are Lucas Cave, Imperial Cave and Chifley Cave

Village directory

Our first tour was Chifley Cave. The group size was not too big and the tour guide started the tour on time. He was engaging to the crowd while explaining the science behind the rock formation, the history, etc.

Our tour guide

Entrance to Chifley Cave

Chifley Cave is one of the smallest and oldest cave in the Jenolan Cave system. It was discovered in 1880 by Jeremiah Wilson. Before renamed as Chifley Cave as a tribute to Prime Minister Chifley in the twentieth century, this cave was long known as Left Imperial Cave.

Although Chifley Cave tour is shorter and less streneous, it covers almost all rock formations that Jenolan Cave is famous for.

Cave is formed as a result of dissolution of limestone due to weak acid formed by rainwater and carbon dioxide that travels through the rock joints, bedding planes and fractures. Over time, the limestone is weakened and a hole is formed. Some holes are big enough to be called a cave.

The rainwater keeps seeping through the rock into the cave. The rainwater carries calcium carbonate that dissolves the limestone. When the seepage reaches the cave, the calcium carbonate precipitates leaving calcite crystal deposit. It built up over time to form stalactite and stalagmite. Stalactite is an icicle-shaped formation hanging from a ceiling of a cave, usually with a pointy end. Stalagmite is a flat-tipped formation building up at the floor of a cave. When stalactite and stalagmite joined each other, a rock pillar is formed.


Rock pillars

Chifley Cave was the first cave getting lit by electric light in 1880. During that time, electricity was rare, thus people travelled days and weeks to visit this cave, not to see the rock formation clearer but to see the light bulbs. Perhaps that time, it was kind of personal satisfaction to see the latest technology development.

The light bulb

Another amazing rock formation here is the shawl. Shawl is a thin sheet of calcite hanging at an angle from the cave wall, usually formed by the trickling water depositing narrow strip of calcite crystal. It is almost translucent white and copper colour. It's just simply beautiful. When the calcite crystal is deposited at the floor of the cave, the formation is called rimstone.

The curtain of the cave, stunning!
This rimstone formation looks like Great Wall of China to me

Straws are thin-walled hollow formation hanging at the roof of a cave. They are called straws obviously due to their physical resemblance to drinking straws. The calcite crystal is deposited in ring shape with length reaching a few centimeter.


The temperature in the cave is constantly 15 degree celcius year round. The wind at near the entrance is quite strong due to the cooler air being pushed into the tunnel. However, in the middle of the cave, it is just right.

I am grateful to witness the magic water can do

Upside down mountain range

We completed the Chifley Cave tour at 01:30 p.m, had about half an hour to simply munch our prepared lunch and continued with another tour. We made use of the half an hour to explore Blue Lake, at the outside of Jenolan Cave.

Outside Jenolan Cave

Blue Lake is actually a river where the flow from the northern and southern cave system merge. There are many wild life here. During our short stroll, we spotted a snake, a giant lizard and some ducks. It is said that a platypus can also be spotted swimming here.

Water source from the northern cave system, River Styx

Can you see where the merge occurs?

Water from Jenolan River
The dam

Our next schedule was to visit Lucas Cave, the biggest cave in Jenolan Cave system. Found in 1860 by George Whiting and Nicholas Irwin, it was named after the politician John Lucas who fought the protection of Jenolan Cave. Lucas Cave tour is 90-minute long with bigger crowd as compared to Chifley Cave tour.

There was hiccup when we were there. The tour was supposed to be 15-minutes apart at 01:45 p.m. and 02:00 p.m. but the tour guide for the earlier tour did not show up. When the guide for 02:00 p.m. tour reached the cave entrance, she was shocked to see so many people waiting. She then cluelessly walked back to the office and got back with another tour guide. This new tour guide then led more than 100 people into the cave.

It was terrible actually to enter the cave with so many people that keep stopping to take pictures and with some kids who cried and shouted continuously.

People who were in front me, not mentioning the big crowd behind me

The one thing that only Lucas Cave has is the cathedral inside the cave. It is 54m high that said to have the best acoustic for any performances. This place is often used for wedding, concert, theatre, mass, etc.

The cathedral of Lucas Cave

It is the highest chamber in Jenolan Cave

In Lucas Cave tour, we climbed up to the entrance, walked along the cave (mostly descending) to the exit at the bottom. Throughout the journey, we saw many beautiful rock formations, a broken pillar, and River Styx.

The famous Broken Pillar

Broken Pillar and the stalactites
Does it look like a rhino's head?

Pretty pretty shawls
It reminded me of the formation in Silver Cave in Guilin
Looks like a Chinese Warrior on top of the hill

Keep descending

River Styx

At the end of the tour, we were shown two things. First one is the fossil of a giant wombat found during one of the explorations. The second one is part of the cave being lit by colourful LED lights, like what China does to their caves. According to the tour, it was implemented about 20 years ago but the decision to let the rock formations in the cave being lit by natural colour is no brainer. Colourful LED lights actually hide the true beauty of the rocks.

The fossil

Colourful LED lit cave

Love is in the air,
Little Feet

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