The Limestone Coast - Day 2

Caves of the Limestone Coast

Today we were up earlier then we expected and found a bakery to get much needed coffee and hot chocolate. We were driving to Mt Gambier to check out some sinkholes and more caves. It was a really pleasant drive out to the first stop of the day which was Tantanoola caves. We drove through fields of grass, wineries and sheep it was really pretty.

We arrived at Tantanoola caves just in time for our 10.30am tour. Our tour guide met us and explained that this cave was found by a 16 year old boy who sent his ferret down a hole to look for a rabbit. He and his brother went in and found this amazing cave. Apparently they also found the ferret.

We were then taken into the cave and walked down the ramp with all the lights off so we could be surprised when she turned the lights on. When she turned on the lights, what we saw was very beautiful. Tantanoola was a wet cave and therefore was covered in heaps of stalactites and stalagmites. It was stunning. We were then given time just to wander around and enjoy the cave. The main column of the cave is called the chocolate fountain which is accurate as that’s what it looked like. The tour guide also let us hold and touch a piece of cave which had fallen off. It had rings like a tree. This was well worth the drive to see such a beautiful cave.

After the tour we had seen some signs for the Tantanoola tiger and looked up what this was all about. Apparently it started from the fact that in 1800s a Bengal tiger escaped the circus in Tantanoola. It was never found and then 11 years later a man apparently shot a tiger which wasn’t really a tiger but more like a wolf. This tiger-like wolf is apparently stuffed and lives at the hotel in the area. However due to the hotel being closed we will never know the truth of this tiger like wolf.

Disappointed by not seeing our tiger-like wolf we headed on a scenic drive along the wind farm tourist route. This followed the wind turbines on the farms. There were heaps of sheep and old houses and it was very pretty.

Next stop was a drive into Mt Gambier proper to see Blue Lake. Blue lake is Mt Gambier’s main water supply and is situated in two extinct volcanoes. It was really pretty. We also had the luck of the rain stopping long enough for us to get out and see the lake. Thanks weather!

We headed to lunch and found a little Vietnamese joint which was packed full of people. We ended up betting Banh Mi and it was pretty good.

Walking back to the car we stopped at Cave Garden which is a sinkhole literally in the centre of town. It is a really green sinkhole and normally has water cascading into it. Drew and Dani wandered down to get a closer look while we just hung around the top. It’s amazing to be in the cave garden and see the town hall and other buildings right next to this giant hole.

We had another cave tour at 2pm. This one was at Engelbrecht cave. This cave system is amazing and at the same time holds stories of the stupidness of humans. This cave system is mostly full of water. It stretches 1.35km underneath the township of Mt Gambier running underneath the major highway and a lot of houses. Only a small part of the cave system can be accessed by foot and most of the cave system is explored by divers. The part that is now open to tourists has the sad history of being used as a rubbish dump and waste disposal system. This is also a dry cave which means it does not have stalagmites and stalactites.

We explored the east side of the cave first. This was used as a rubbish tip until the lions club decided to send volunteers in to remove the rubbish. Luckily this was before plastic was a thing so the majority of the stuff has been broken down. Down the end of this east end is a crystal clear lake bed. This is where the divers enter this side. It looks super shallow but it is an optical illusion due to how clear it is. The bottom is over 6m deep. The divers can go through here to get to another giant air chamber.

We went to the west side next and this has an even more yuck history. The solution channel, which is a hole that connects the cave to the ground, was used by locals to deposit the waste from the meat shops and whisky distilleries. There are old bones and items from this still in the cave. The hole on the roof is also very stained and bigger due to the erosion from throwing stuff down it. Nowadays it has been cleaned out and this offers another entry for the divers to explore the cave. This side has much thinner diving tunnels however this side recently got explored further and they mapped out another 750m more of the cave.

It’s such a shame that these caves have been damaged and used for such stupid things but at least they are now being used for much better things.

After a quick bubbletea stop we made our way to the last stop of the day, Umpherston sinkhole is just a really pretty garden in a very large sinkhole. We wandered around and look a few photos but there were a lot of people there.

It was getting late so we decided to head back. We saw the most beautiful rainbow on the way home. What a wonderful day exploring.