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Published August 10th 2015
A caves tourist attraction for over 140 years
At Capricorn Caves, around 23kms north of Rockhampton, tours run on the hour so we have a comfortable start to the day and arrive for the 10am tour. Our guide is a young man called Lucas. These caves are above ground and are dry caves. We walk along a path to the entrance in the side of the mountain where roots from trees at the top have crawled down the rock face. Some have split the rocks; such is the strength of the plants.
At the bottom of some wooden steps we enter the first of the caves, Lobby Cave. Lucas explains how the caves were created and tells the tale of their discovery by the Olsen family in the late 1800's. The Capricorn Caves were opened for visitors in 1884 and are one of the longest running tourist attractions in Queensland.
We move through the caves via boardwalks and stairs.
Small bats are squeaking overhead. Lucas points them out and explains how the oil on the bats' bodies, just as the oil on our hands, stains the rock. He shines his torch on an area on the cave ceiling, coloured dark brown from constant contact with the bats. The floor beneath our feet that appears as well trodden dirt is actually compacted bat poo.
We move through to the Rhinoceros Cave, so named because of a limestone formation that, with a little imagination looks like a rhinoceros, a small stalagmite representing its horn. We negotiate the caves on stairs and wooden walkways and have to duck our heads a couple of times. There are only a few stalactites and stalagmites as these are dry caves.
Cathedral Cave where they hold weddings and operas.
Finally we arrive in the most well known of the caves, Cathedral Cave. Weddings and operas are performed here. The acoustics in the cave are excellent and since Lucas cannot coax any of the tour group to sing he plays a CD to demonstrate. We sit listening to the music play and as we do Lucas dims the light progressively until we are in complete darkness. Early visitors to these caves made their way by candlelight.
There is an optional exit where visitors squeeze sideways through a zigzag of rocks onto a swing bridge. Some of the tour group is adventurous but we choose the more conventional walk out.
Following the tour we enjoy scones and jam with coffee. In a garden next to our table an Australian Bush Turkey scratches about in the dirt. These are not a pretty bird, their face looking somewhat prehistoric.
Before returning to Rockhampton, we wander along a walking track through a dry rainforest, which lacks the lushness of a tropical rainforest but nonetheless contains a rich diversity of robust trees and woody shrubs. Small information boards identify the plant life and we come upon some beautiful butterflies and more bush turkeys.
The Capricorn Caves are at 30 Olsen Caves Rd, The Caves, Queensland, 4702, 23kms north of Rockhampton off Highway 1. Find directions here. They can be contacted on 07 4934 2883, by email at email@example.com or via their website. The cathedral cave tour is a one hour guided tour with a wheelchair access option and departs daily on the hour from 9am to 4pm except Christmas Day & New Year's day. The cost of the tour as at August 2015 is $30 adults, $15 child (5-15 years), $27 Seniors (must present seniors card), $75 Family (2 adults, 2 children).
You write such great and interesting articles. I want to tour Australia so much and every time I read one of your articles, it increases my desire to travel. The caves are on my list now. Great photos too.