Cutta Cutta Caves Katherine

imageAbout 30 kilometres south of Katherine on the Stuart Highway is the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park.

These caves are set within a karst limestone landscape, but it is very rare to find that type of geology in the tropical north of Australia, and so the Cutta Cutta Caves are much older than most of the world’s best known caves given that the limestone from which they are formed is extremely tough, and very old, with a calculated age of 1.8 billion years.

The karst landscape contains many nooks and crannies which shelter wildlife during the heat of day. It provides protection for fire sensitive plants and rainforest species, such as the Hairy-fruited Banyan. Rainforest plants are able to grow in a seemingly dry landscape because their roots find moisture in the humid air of caves below.

Some of the plants look to be half hidden, as if they’ve been partially swallowed by the ground, but it is just that their roots are able to search out moisture from below rather than depend on rain from above which gives them their odd shapes.

You can only visit the caves as part of a ranger escorted tour, and tours leave mostly on the hour, apart from 12 noon when there is no tour.

The approach to the caves is via a 650 metre woodland walk, which is sporadically dotted with information signs which explain various aspects of the surrounding landscape, the flora and fauna of the region, and of how the caves developed over time.

The ranger meets the group at the cave entrance, which is at the bottom of a slight depression, from where you descend via stairs a further few metres to the floor of the cave.

Progress is made easy by the installation of a level metal floor and basic lighting, but just enough to allow you to find your way and to see the cave properly. There are no coloured lights to enhance the experience, which I liked as you could appreciate the cave in its natural state.

Although the cave is 750 metres in length, the walkway will only take you 250 metres into the cavern as the rest of the way is both narrow and low, but you do still spend a considerable time inside the cave.

A couple of rare species of bat make the cave their home,and a type of brown snake also finds it to be a comfortable place to live. Apparently the snakes are quite expert at capturing low flying bats.

Although the cave is quite large, experts argue that it has grown over a very long time, and they have measured its growth at just 0.01 millimeters per year. The limestone once formed the floor of a shallow sea, but because the rock is so old there are no fossils there.

Visiting Cutta Cutta Caves is a great experience, and because it is not well known chances are there will be few people on your tour, so you do get a personal perspective of the cave.

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