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Published April 1st 2016
Adventure Caving, Mega Marsupial Fossils & Limestone Caves
South Australia's town of Naracoorte is home to Fossil caves that formed following the early Miocene Epoch, geologically speaking up to 20 or 25 million years ago. After upheavals and subsequent rise and falls of the ocean, the caves were lifted above the water table.
The caves became animal traps and fossilised remains accumulated for perhaps 500,000 years. Naracoorte Caves National Park is a World Heritage listed fossil site, which says plenty about the scientific importance of the place, and along with adventure caving, cave and fossil tours-it is an attraction that cannot be missed.
A marsupial lion fossil; scientists ascertain its skull design indicates more jaw power than modern day lions, and standing at a meter high and being a relative of the possum-one may think there really was a drop-bear
The visitor centre hosts Wonambi Fossil Centre Walk, which boasts an interesting and informative collection of mega fauna-and is named after a species of non-venamous snake Wonambi Naracoortensis, which grew to 5 or 6 metres in length. During this geological period, there were large wombat like creatures, kangeroos ate leaves and had round faces, and meter high possum like creatures were carnivores, and you would not want one in your torch beam when camping. Should we even mention 6 metre long goannas? These beasts come to life with a recreated jungle-like environment and audio effects to simulate reality. Funnily the beasts have mechanical movement and might turn to look at you-no need to run, they don't chase you. The effect of the place makes you imagine being on some lost world with strange and amazing creatures. The centre has wheel chair access as does the Bat Teleview Centre.
The visitor centre is the first stop for maps and information, and perhaps a quick drink or snack before exploring
There is a great licensed cafe next to the visitor centre-set in peaceful garden surrounds. There is plenty of seating to cater for large groups, and you can see their opening times here. You can eat in or bring a picnic lunch and sit in the grounds, or groups can be catered for in the grounds. After refreshments, there are a number of caves to explore, which are accessed with well built walkways, ladders and platforms. The lighting is good and that makes photography easy. There are a multitude of caverns and interestingly formed rock features. The hole in the roof of the fossil cave is a trap for animals, and if they manage to survive the free-fall, they become forever lost and join the fossil list for the future. The staff catch and release wildlife topside whenever possible.
A reconstructed marsupial lion named Thylacoleo Carnifex-one mean looking relative of the possum
The Wet Cave, Wonambi Fossil Centre, and Victorian Fossil Cave are probably a great combination if you only have a few hours to spare, but to take it all in and see Bat Cave, Alexandra cave, and do one of the Adventure Caving tours, I would allow most of the day, if not a weekend. There are great tour group options, it may be best to speak to staff regarding large groups. Here are the tour options and prices. You can also wander the National Parks tracks and take in the local fauna and flora and imagine the valleys and ridges being sand dunes as they were in the past.
Wet Cave-one of a number at Naracoorte Caves National Park
When you have completed your tour, you will be armed with a fascinating look at how our ecology changed 120,000 years ago, and the inland seas receded and the climate across Australia changed dramatically. Many species died-out and some evolved into today's species. The fossil collection dates from 15,000 to 400,000 years ago. The fossil cave closed over and the supply stopped. There are holes that form from cracks in the cave ceilings, and water dissolves the limestone over time, and they become tubes that filter the new supply for fossilisation. The currently known caves extend for about 5 kilometres to date, new sections have been discovered since the first explorers found Victoria Fossil Cave in 1969. The fossil cave is the greatest assemblage of Pleistocene Epoch fossils known today, spanning a period from 1.8 million years ago until about 11,700 years ago, when the most recent Ice Age occurred. Learn more about the fauna and caves and how Australia developed over millions of years.
Caves holes that entrap animals-don't stand there too long or you will wear that drop bear or a large snake
Adventure caving begins with Stick-tomato Cave for the novice 'caver', and tours are lead by experienced cave guides. All equipment including helmets, headlights, overalls and knee pads are supplied. Each cave is of little development is mostly horizontal and no rope work is necessary. You will be fully trained in cave safety ad techniques before departing for the tour. The advanced tour into Star Burst Chamber, in part of Victoria Fossil Cave is for those of at least reasonable fitness. Access is a considerable crawl and you will pass through high-ceiling chambers, wide passages, and wonderfully decorated areas. Bats hibernate here in winter and you may see groups hanging from the ceiling, and fascinating fossil deposits too. Do you love a little adventure?
A reconstruction of Diprotodon, a giant wombat like creature
Accommodation is available in Naracoorte or you can camp or stay near the Fossil Cave, there is accommodation at Wireanda Bunkhouse and there are dormitory facilities for up to 49 people. The camp area has 13 powered sites and a large area for tents with plenty of shade. There are toilet and shower facilities with disabled access. There is a free barbeque and token operated laundry. There also have a communal camp fire pit for use between May 31st and October 31st- please remember to BYO wood. For camping and accommodation fees click here. There are plenty of other attractions and accommodation options locally, see the local Tourist Information office for more.
A 200kg round faced kangeroo-named Procoptodon Goliah
The carpark at the Visitor centre is huge, and accommodates buses, campers, and cars with trailers. Narracoorte is located about 100 kilometers north of Mount Gambier, South Australia and is 145 kilometres west of Horsham (just north of the Grampians). Naracoorte is a good sized town with all facilites including a supermarket and service stations. There is a grand old pub in the main street for counter-meals, cafes, and a bakery too. Why not venture a little further.