Ranger Tips: Naracoorte Caves National Park

Ranger Tips: Naracoorte Caves National Park

Get insid­er tips on the best places to vis­it and must-do activ­i­ties from park ranger Bri­an Robins.

Nara­coorte Caves Nation­al Park is locat­ed rough­ly 350 km south-east of Ade­laide in the Lime­stone Coast region of South Australia.

The park is South Australia’s only World Her­itage list­ed site and along with the River­sleigh fos­sil site in Bood­ja­mul­la (Lawn Hill) Nation­al Park in far north-west Queens­land, forms the Aus­tralian Fos­sil Mam­mal Sites World Her­itage Area.

These sites are list­ed for their fos­sil records, which have pro­vid­ed researchers with an insight into the evo­lu­tion­ary his­to­ry of Australia’s unique fauna.

The park is most famous for the 28 caves that sit with­in its bound­aries, some of which are avail­able for tours.

Want some point­ers about what to see and do on your next vis­it? We’ve asked park ranger Bri­an Robins for some insid­er tips. Here’s what he had to say:

What is Nara­coorte Caves Nation­al Park’s best-kept secret?

The best-kept secret at the Nara­coorte Caves is watch­ing the south­ern bent-wing bat emerge from Bat Cave in the evening dur­ing summer.

Thou­sands of bats fly out of the cave around sun­set each evening, with sev­er­al hun­dred often fly­ing out with­in a few min­utes of each oth­er. It’s an amaz­ing spectacle!

How many days should vis­i­tors spend at the park?

You can com­plete all the cave tours with­in a day, or you can spread them out over a few days if you’re stay­ing locally.

There’s also the option to stay in the park, in the Wirre­an­da Camp­ground.

The camp­ground has pow­ered and unpow­ered sites that are suit­able for tents, camper trail­ers, car­a­vans, motor homes and camper vans.

There’s also a shared ameni­ty block that pro­vides hot show­ers and acces­si­ble toi­lets. Vis­i­tors can also make use of the free bar­be­cue and the com­mu­nal camp­fire pit (out­side of fire dan­ger sea­son, of course), and the token-oper­at­ed laundry.

The Caves Café is also open dai­ly, and pro­vides hand-made food with as many local­ly sourced ingre­di­ents as pos­si­ble. The cof­fee is pret­ty good as well!

What’s involved with the cave tours?

There are sev­er­al dif­fer­ent tours on offer at the Nara­coorte Caves. Tours are run every day of the year except for Christ­mas Day, with extra tour times being added dur­ing peak periods.

The Alexan­dra Cave tour is a 30-minute tour that focus­es on the geol­o­gy of the caves and the process of speleo­ge­n­e­sis, or how sta­lac­tites, sta­lag­mites and oth­er cave dec­o­ra­tion forms in the cave.

Ranger Tips: Naracoorte Caves National Park

The Vic­to­ria Fos­sil Cave tour is 1 hour long and main­ly focus­es on the fos­sils found in the caves and the research that has been con­duct­ed on-site.

Stick Toma­to Cave and the Won­am­bi Fos­sil Cen­tre are the site’s self-guid­ed options, allow­ing vis­i­tors to wan­der through a cave at their own pace, or take a step back in time and see what sev­er­al of the extinct megafau­na species that have been found in the caves may have looked like.

There are also a few spe­cialised tours on offer, such as adven­ture cav­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy tours and a World Her­itage Tour that focus­es more heav­i­ly on the palaeon­tol­ogy of the site.

Ranger Tips: Naracoorte Caves National Park

What’s your favourite tour?

My favourite tour is one I haven’t men­tioned yet – the hour-long Blanche Cave and Bat Obser­va­tion Cen­tre tour.

First, we vis­it the Bat Obser­va­tion Cen­tre, where we use infrared cam­eras to observe the crit­i­cal­ly endan­gered south­ern bent-wing bat in Bat Cave – one of only 3 mater­ni­ty caves the species is known to use. The cam­eras pro­vide a live view into the inter­est­ing envi­ron­ment the bats call home.

Ranger Tips: Naracoorte Caves National Park

Next, the tour takes you through Blanche Cave, which was the first cave dis­cov­ered in the park.

Blanche Cave is a very big cave with sev­er­al open­ings to the sur­face allow­ing nat­ur­al light in.

Blanche Cave has been used for pic­nics, per­for­mances and fos­sil research dat­ing back to the mid-1800s, so it has a rich history.

If you want to find out more, you’ll just have to come to the park and come along on the tour!

What is the best time to visit?

The Nara­coorte Caves can be vis­it­ed all year round.

Dur­ing win­ter, the caves often feel warm, while in sum­mer they feel cool.

It’s often bet­ter to vis­it in win­ter when the park is a lot qui­eter and the tours often run with small­er num­bers, mak­ing for a more per­son­al experience.

Park of the Month

Through­out March, Nara­coorte Caves is being cel­e­brat­ed as Nation­al Parks and Wildlife Service’s Park of the Month.

There are plen­ty of activ­i­ties on offer across the month, includ­ing a Wel­come to Bun­gan­ditj Coun­try Nature and Cul­ture Walk. Check out the web­site for all the details.

Want to learn about more of South Australia’s her­itage sites? Here are7 that you might not know about.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living