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Tasmania's Labyrinth
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Tasmania's Labyrinth

For a small island, it might surprise you to find there are more caves in Tasmania than anywhere in Australia – and Tassie has the deepest, longest and wildest of them all.

At 394 meters below ground, Niggly Cave is by far the deepest. Exit Cave is the longest with a length of 23km and while the Kubla Khan cave is long, it's better known for its whopping 18 metre high stalagmite.

Although there are over 300 caves in Tasmania, most are not "tourist" caves. Separated into 'show' and 'wild' caves, most wild caves are restricted to avoid degradation. Not to worry, Tasmania still has some of the most beautiful caves on show. Park guides keen to show off these other-worldly caverns will take you on an underworld exploration into Tasmania's show caves, showing you how these extraordinary worlds form. But if you're tired of crowds and concrete paths Wild Cave Tours in the Mole Creek area can take you into wild caves and a world that few others see.

Gunns Plains

Gunns Plains

Tassie has the deepest, longest and wildest of them all

Hidden below Gunns Plains farmland in north-west Tasmania is a fascinating world of caves, sinkholes and underground streams. Gunns Plains Cave was discovered during a hunting trip after dogs fell into a hole forming part of the cave. Used as a show cave for most of the 20th century, it was carved out by an underground river that still flows, and is full of freshwater crayfish, fish and eel. Tours descend 54 steps and follow a 250 metre pathway deep into the cave to see shawls, flowstones and glow-worms.

Hastings Caves State Reserve

Hastings

Newdegate Cave is the largest dolomite cave in Australia open to tourists

The Hastings Caves State Reserve is the setting for a complex of caves discovered by timber workers cutting trees near the caves entrance.

Newdegate Cave is the largest dolomite cave in Australia open to tourists. Spot formations given names like Birthday Cake, Champagne Glasses and Headache Rock - aptly named because it's often struck as you make you way through the cave – keep a look out for that one.

After your cave exploration take a dip in the nearby thermal springs pool – naturally heated to 28 °C. You can hunt for the source of the springs on the Hot Springs Circuit Track, and touch the water where the hot thermal springs rise to meet the cool tannin stained waters of the river.

Mole Creek Karst National Park

Mole Creek

A world of subterranean adventures that would satisfy any modern cave explorer

Mole Creek is a town in the upper Mersey Valley in the central north of Tasmania. The name Mole Creek comes from a nearby stream which flows above ground and in portions underground through the caves underlying the area. The caves of the nearby Mole Creek Karst National Park are a world of subterranean adventures that would satisfy any modern cave explorer.

King Solomons Cave is relatively small and dry. The name of the cave was derived from the abundance of reflective calcite crystals, making it sparkle like the fabled treasures of King Solomon's mines.

Guides explain the difference between stalagmites, stalactites, shawls, columns and flowstones in Marakoopa Cave. See sparkling crystals, reflection pools, the Great Cathedral and glow-worms. For those not shy to belt out a tune, the dimly lit expanse of the Great Cathedral cavern gives a chance to test the vocals. And it's lights out in the glow-worm cavern. As your eyes adjust, the tiny larvae fill the pitch-black walls like city lights turning on at dusk.

Marakoopa

These unusual experiences invigorate the soul

Operating near Mole Creek, Wild Cave Tours can take as few as two people on half-day guided tours of stream caves, glow-worm chambers and honeycombed hills in some of these lesser-known wild caves. You'll be geared up from head to toe in overalls, and a helmet with head lamp and be led down horizontal caves, through streams into glow-worm caverns, coming out the other end for a gourmet picnic spread of local organic salads, homemade pickles and preserves and a selection of cheeses from nearby Ashgrove Farm.

Kathryn Leahy

Banner image: Rob Burnett

Images from top:  Rick Eaves, Pierre Destribats; John de la Roche, Wild Cave Tours