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Seek out subterranean adventure in the island’s darkest depths.

 

Turn to damp places in the chill of winter. Tasmania is where abandoned railway tunnels transform into fertile mushroom farms and atmospheric bike trails. A little lower beneath Tasmania’s surface is a hidden network of caves, caverns, gushing waterfalls and mirror-still reflection pools.

In the island’s north, Mole Creek Karst National Park alone has more than 300 known caves, carved out of the rugged limestone landscape – a realm of glittering glow-worms and dark-dwelling cave spiders and beetles.

It’s here that Deb Hunter runs Wild Cave Tours, leading caving adventures into the untamed caverns and passages of the national park and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

In the Off Season, these subterranean labyrinths are transformed by water.

A figure walks in the base of a rocky cave system illuminated by the light of an overhead opening.

“Who cares if it’s wet and cold? I'd rather be underground in winter than anywhere else,” Hunter says.

Winter in the caves is when everything comes alive – the animals are more vibrant in the caves and the nature experience itself is authentic.

Stepping into the belly of these wild and undeveloped caves is like walking into an alternate universe. Within minutes, the light fades, the air fills with earthy aromas, and the sound of water flowing over rocks replaces the wind in the trees above ground.

An opening in the roof of a cave illuminates the rocks and ferns growing in it's floor.
Tasmania’s caves are alive with specialist plants and animals that thrive during winter.
Tourism Tasmania

"We know there’s going to be water in the winter, but we might end up going 30m down, or only 20m, and popping in and out of holes watching waterfalls and seeing all this water running in the passages below,” Hunter says.

"There might be snow on the mountain above the caves one day, and then the rain comes and washes it down through the cave."

Hunter’s wild winter water caves tour is a portal into an underground realm that most people never experience. Hunter has been caving here since the 1970s, and her skill and passion shine brightly in the inky darkness.

On the tour, which is open to people with no caving experience, Hunter shares her extensive knowledge of the caves and their natural and cultural values. She delves into science, palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) culture, environmental conservation, fossils and fauna, as she deftly leads small groups through narrow passages, across flowing streams and into dark nooks.

We will take you deeper into nature than you ever knew was possible.

A portrait of Deb, wearing a hardhat with light and dressed in hard-wearing clothing.
Deb Hunter of Wild Cave Tours.
Tourism Tasmania

“It isn't for the faint-hearted. This is a serious undertaking.

“It's such a different world that it's inhabited by specialist animals that are found nowhere else… The walls of this cave are festooned with fossils that lived in warm shallow seas 450 to 500 million years ago.”

Hunter’s energy and enthusiasm for this remarkable part of northern Tasmania is contagious.

“What I love about winter is the whole package. If we get wet and cold in the caves, we're going to retire to a warm eating place and a warm bed at night, and then get up and do another adventure in the morning,” she says.

“I'm privileged to be able to live here.”

It’s not just Hunter who’s thriving below ground this Off Season. About a 70min drive north-west of Mole Creek are Gunns Plains Caves. Descend into the caverns and relish the atmosphere: trickling water mingles with majestic live music, echoing within the limestone walls.

Immerse yourself in the underground world for a few hours – a place of unexpected beauty, curious creatures and otherworldly Off Season ambience.

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