When you think of caves in the popular Margaret River Region, the names you often hear are Jewel Cave, Lakes Cave or Mammoth Cave. Lesser known than some of its contemporaries is the Calgardup Cave, a short drive north of Mammoth Cave on Caves Road. And it has a unique point of difference.
Unlike many of the others, Calgardup Cave is not lit from within by any electric light sources. Instead, visitors are given hard hats and torches and must do their own discovering.
Despite this, the cave is fully boardwalked and there are plenty of stairs and walkways. No off-roading in this cave.
Although the brochures say it is appropriate for any ages, I would be cautious about bringing anyone younger than five, anyone who is not confident and sturdy on their feet, and anyone afraid of the dark. The stairs are very steep, and often slippery due to the high moisture content in the cave, and the boardwalk through the gungiest looking 'water' in the region, only has a barrier on one side.
The cave splits at the entrance allowing two separate adventures. Both halves of the cave have sections where the roof drops to a matter of feet, necessitating the hard hats, as you have to double over to get through the section. If you are very pregnant or have a bad back, I'd say give this cave a miss because you cannot avoid the low sections.
There are two sections where the roof is only about 4 feet high
But for kids it is fantastic, and mine surprised me with their enthusiasm. Not a single whisper about being scared of the dark. At the very end of one section, is a round bench seat, and signs encourage you to turn off all your torches, lights and cameras and sit in absolute darkness and silence. We had four kids under nine. We couldn't manage more than five seconds without someone giggling or playing with their torch or pretending to be a cave monster, but it would be a great exercise if you had an older group. Pure darkness is almost impossible above ground, and it is a fascinating sensory deprivation experience if you can get it.
There is an easy walk through the bush to get to the cave's entrance
Like most caves there is a bush walk to get to the cave, but the one at Calgardup Cave is boardwalked and quite short. There is also the option of abseiling into the cave through a natural hole in the roof, which throws an ethereal beam of light onto the floor of the cave.
Prices are a bit cheaper than some of the other caves: $16 for adults and $8.50 for kids. One welcome discovery was that kids under six were free. Brilliant.
Although not the most beautiful cave in the region, its point of difference and price make Calgardup Cave a good place to put on your itinerary. We had taken our kids to Mammoth Cave in the morning, their first ever cave experience, and it was probably a good thing to show them a lit cave first, before taking them into the dark bowels of the earth.