I'm a freelance writer living in Perth. Having 2 young kids with endless energy, we are always on the lookout for new outdoor activities.
Published May 1st 2012
Ever since we were old enough to read Enid Blyton's Famous Five, many of us have had the dream of having an adventure in dark underground tunnels, preferably underneath a crumbling castle by the ocean. How we wished we were George and her dog Timmy in one of their adventures. Well, nowadays you can have your dream come true at Fremantle Prison.
I was first attracted to the tour when some overseas visitors arrived and I was trying to find unique and exciting experience they could enjoy while staying in Perth. So one weekend morning we brought the whole group to the Fremantle Prison, however was sorely disappointed when told that all sessions for the Tunnels Tour for that day have been fully booked.
We quickly learned from that experience and called ahead the second time around to book/ pay the tour. Based on two out of two times that we did it, it turned out that if you book one of the early tours on a weekday, chances are, your group is going to be the only participants, and that means you would literally have your own personal tour guide.
So we arrived happily one weekday morning, picked up our paid-for tickets from the souvenir shop, and met our guide at the prison gate. He produced a suitably imposing key to open the locked gate, and guided us over the prison ground to where we would start our tour. We started by watching a short video in which we realised our guide played a part--we had a good laugh about it afterwards.
Then we were ushered into the dressing room where we were told to don our safety gears, which include disposable coveralls, hard hats and plastic boots that make us walk like ducks. The overall verdict was definitely unattractive. However, we didn't miss the chance to take each other's photos in those gears, especially since cameras were not allowed down the tunnel.
Once ready, we attached ourselves to the million dollar safety link and started down the stairs. For those of you who were afraid of heights, not looking down is a sound advice. Just keep moving your foot down one rung at a time and before you know it, you're 20m below the floor.
From there on, we just let ourselves absorb the new experience, followed our guide, and asked hundreds of questions. The no camera policy turned out to be a good thing as we needed both hands in many situations (including guiding our boat in the narrow tunnels). And I think having a camera would make us too busy taking pictures to actually enjoy the whole experience whole-heartedly, cause often when we take pictures we are worrying about composition, red-eye, etc, and with the blink of the shutter, we would miss the moment.
Almost two hours passed by and we just didn't know where the time went. If not for my growling tummy, I wouldn't want to go up back into the real world again. Climbing up the ladder turned out to be easier than going down, and we felt we were such experts as we easily slide and turned our safety links.
If not for the cost, I'd do this tour again and again and again. But at almost 60$ per person, it is probably something we can't afford to do every other week. If you have never done it or want to impress visitors though, it is definitely the go-to tour.
I have done the Fremantle Prison tour but did not know of the tunnels.
There is a tour in Sydney, the Tank Stream Tour, which the tickets are by ballot only. There are two tours on consecutive days in May only.Many applicants apply and the cost is about $45 per person. Two tickets for the successful winner and limited to about 20 visitors. I enter the ballot every year and have so far been unsuccessful. I think it's on many a 'bucket list' of things to do.
By Gloria - reader Tuesday, 2nd of April @ 07:01 pm