Limestone Caves – Margaret River Region

One of my lifetime goals is to experience places of interest which are not necessarily the most popular.

If I can think of any better example of this desire, it is with the Limestone Caves in South Australia and Western Australia.

Calgardup Cave

Calgardup Cave Map
Calgardup Cave Map

Calgardup Cave, in the Margaret River Region of Western Australia is a prime example. It is a lovely cave, with many very interesting formations and features. Whilst it is not as popular as the Giants, Ngilgi, Mammoth Caves it certainly got my attention, and whilst we were there we had plenty of time to look.

The problem was, we took too long, and the cave managers came and asked us to leave, having seen only half of the cave I have another reason to come back to this region.

This cave is not one of the highly recommended caves. In all the brochures we saw, this cave did not feature prominently at all. To me, this makes it a great candidate for a visit.

We arrived to find an office with a number of staff, all too eager to assist and provide us with helmets, lights, and a brief set of instructions so that we knew where to start.

Entrance Steps
Entrance Steps

This cave is made up of two parts, left and right, east and west you decide, we chose the left cave as the first cave to explore. The steps going down were quite steep, a little slippery and at times quite narrow. It does not look too bad in the pictures but believe me, it can be quite difficult.

It is quite interesting to see an unmolested cave. Tree roots were hanging down, up to 15 metres and these are a vital food source for various animals in the cave. The balance of the food chain is delicate and any change to the conditions inside the cave can have a dramatic impact on these delicate animals.

When looking at the food chain, it becomes clear in a cave scenario, that one small change can totally devastate the environment of these microscopic creatures.

What was the major impact for me?

Fumbling around the cave, always on the path, there were so many things which were interesting, such as:

  • Marri Tree Roots
    Marri Tree Roots

    Marri tree roots – We were at least 30 metres down into the cave when I first noticed the tree roots hanging down. These did not reach our position but were at least 15 to 20 metres below the surface. Isopods (commonly called slaters) are tiny cave dwelling animals which feed from these tree roots. Some animals suck the sap from the tree roots, whilst others eat the fungi on these roots. When these animals die they become food for other animals on the floor of the cave.

 

  • fresh running water – not much interest here, we all know about water, however the source of the water appeared to be through the limestone, as I could not see any obvious cracks – just an observation.
  • Coloured Walls
    Coloured Walls

    the colours of the walls – you will see by the picture here that the colours of the walls are absolutely stunning. Once you shine your light onto the walls, you will see vivid colours, amazing!

However, the one thing that stands out in my mind is the absolute darkness of the cave once you turn your torch light out. I would stress that you are confident that you know where the on/off switch is because you cannot see your hand, even if it was right in front of your nose!

And then hope that it turns back on, it would be an interesting walk back to the cave opening it you had no torch.

Other creatures living in the cave

These are the other main creatures which live in the caves:

Isopod
Isopod
  • Millipedes,
  • Isopods,
  • Spiders,
  • Pseudoscorpions,
  • Centipedes.
Cave Spider
Cave Spider

A lot of us have a dislike for these small creatures, especially spiders but we did not see one in the cave. So I guess they saw these large figures and went hiding.

The diagrams of these little critters look scary, but Millipedes, Isopods, and even the spiders are harmless. Centipedes can give a bit of a sting and the Pseudoscorpions look menacing and ugly.

Where did we go in the cave?

Once you reach the bottom of the entrance stairs, which are fairly steep, the option to go left or right is presented to you. We chose to go left, but we made a mistake, as we decided to take our time and have a really good look.

In the sense of timing, this was our mistake, because we only got to do half the cave. Normally the guides allow an hour for the whole cave, it took us that long for the left side!

Entrance Steps
Entrance Steps

Now we have an excuse to go back there, well at least I do, I can’t vouch for my travelling companion on this one.

The guides arrived to collect us as we were starting the second half. It was an early close that day, and we lost sense of all time.

Feel free to look at other parts of the trip, or read about special interest stories as they are written, I am sure there will be something of interest for everyone.

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