There are two ways to explore Jenolan Caves.
1. Take a guided tour through one or two of the display caves and marvel at the beautiful rock formations (my choice).
2. Go climbing, scrambling and crawling in pitch black, muddy caverns, and squeeze through tunnels only slightly larger than you are (the kids unanimous choice).
Clearly it’s time we parted ways.
Which is exactly what we did. After booking ALL the kids on the Plughole introductory caving tour, we joined a tour of one of Jenolan’s prettiest cave: the Temple of Baal.
It’s not actually a temple of course – but being so beautiful it is used quite frequently for weddings.
The name was inspired by the limestone formations which reminded early cave explorers of the Biblical story of “Elijah and the Prophets of Baal”. (I must have missed that lesson in Sunday School).
We enter through a long man-made tunnel called the Binoomea Cut – and travel down the “Dragon’s Throat” on a winding staircase and through to two massive chambers.
One of the chambers is 42 metres high and full of beautiful formations including the “Angel’s Wing” shawl, one of the largest cave shawls in the world.
Right at the very top is Baal himself, looking down on all of us, and rather eerily, his gaze seems to follow you as you walk through the cave.
The tour includes a light and sound show that shows the formations off wonderfully while our guide talks about the geology of the cave and the history of its discovery.
An hour and a half well spent!
Meanwhile, on the other side of the valley, the kids are making their way through the Elder Cave on the Plughole tour, with a series of climbs, crawls and squeezes.
The only escape at the end is through the “S Bend”, a very narrow gap between cave walls that you need to shimmy through on your side at first on your left, and halfway through you then have to flip yourself over to shimmy the other way.
We finish our tour just in time to meet the kids as they emerge, triumphant and covered in mud.
There’s just enough time left to wander down to the Blue Lake to look for its resident people-friendly platypuses.
About Jenolan Caves.
Tickets can be purchased on site and there are a number of packages available making it better value to explore two to three caves.
The Plughole is 2.25 hours long and costs $90 per person. The minimum gae requirement is 10 years old.
There are also two longer adventure cave activities; the Aladdin, which takes half a day to complete (minimum age 12) and the Mammoth which takes a full day (minimum age 16).
More information: Jenolancaves.org.au
Where to load a few calories
The Lolly Bug is a little kiddie heaven on the drive from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. The biggest range of lollies you’re likely to see and even a fairy floss machine! Choose your preferred flavour and spin your fairy floss web yourself.
Where to stay
If you have a large family like ours, I highly recommend the Blue Mountains YHA. We stayed in a double room with an adjacent family room which sleeps five.
The Family Room was extremely spacious, so even with five kids’ possessions strewn all over the floor I could still see the carpet. The building itself is historical – the enormous communal lounge an old music hall, with stage and chandeliers still intact.
Each evening the kids had plenty to entertain them here, with a pool table, vintage arcade games and Foosball. They didn’t even venture down to the TV Room.