Welcome to Victoria’s Premier Caving Area
From Melbourne, Buchan is an easy 4.5 hour drive east through Traralgon, Sale, and Bairnsdale. From Bairnsdale it is sign posted the whole way. All the roads are sealed. My only advice is that once you turn off the main highway, slow down a bit as kangaroos and wombats often appear on the roads.
Not a huge town, until you see beneath it!
There is a roadhouse, general store, the pub, and some touristy shops but that’s about it. There is a mechanic in Buchan although you’d be lucky to see him on the weekend. The local footy team are called ‘The Cave Men’ – it’s good that they have a sense of humour.
Buchan is without doubt the most significant caving area in Victoria. Buchan itself has caves in the township (in the camping reserve – the show caves as well as a number of gated wild caves) but this is the tip of the iceberg. Buchan is surrounded by pockets of limestone, so when we say Buchan we are actually refer to a number of areas, most notably Murrindal, East Buchan, New Guinea Ridge, The Basin, Gillingall and several other small ones with only small or small numbers of caves, not visited often.
Old, Hard, Solid Limestone.
Buchan’s popularity perhaps comes from the fact that it has the oldest limestone in Victoria, and also the deepest, so the caves are deeper and well decorated. There is nothing long or deep by international standards but in terms of decoration many of the caves are world-class. I spent 2 years caving in the United Kingdom, in systems over 300m deep and 50kms long, and never saw the quality of decoration that some Buchan caves have. Chambers such as Christmas Hall in Scrubby Creek, and The Vaults in Trog Dip are just mind blowing, you won’t believe the beauty – shimmering pristine crystal coating everything!
The history page will say more, but Buchan has been explored since the early 1900s, but amazingly new caves are still found regularly – especially by the Victorian Limestone Caving Team who have the advantage of having 2 members that live in Buchan, who know every single nook and cranny in the whole place – amazing amount of local knowledge and access to much of the stuff on private property.
Homeleigh – The heart and soul of Buchan’s Cavers
Buchan is also made convenient by the existence of the caving lodge “Homeleigh” which is very comfortable and cheap to stay at. Homeligh was the original Buchan pub but was purchased 40 odd years ago by a co-operative named Rimstone which was mainly made up of cavers. Over the years it has slowly been renovated and is now looking more and more like a hotel. It sleeps over 60 people at full capacity, has 2 kitchens, a toilet block with great hot showers, 4 fridges, and pillows are supplied. The guest rate is $25 per night, but if you join the Rimstone Co-Operative the cost is reduced to $12.50 a night. Note: To stay at Homeleigh there needs to be a Rimstone member present. See the links page for Rimstone’s address. It is very comfortable and great value for money!
The Buchan Campground – Amazing
The camping ground in Buchan is absolutely gorgeous! You will see kangaroos, emus and heaps of other wildlife, and the 3 tourist caves are on your doorstep. There are several good walks too, including one to a majestic waterfall. There is a camp kitchen and BBQ facilities, plus the kiosk to buy tickets. Also, in Buchan there are several other accommodation options including some log cabins that are nice. But most cavers stay at Homeleigh. Homeleigh is also where the ‘intentions board’ is, which is where all cavers must register where they are going and what time they will be back by. This is very important, even if you have other people around that know where you are.
Buchan and surrounds probably has 1000 or more tagged ‘karst features’ most of which are not caves or at least not significant caves, but I would estimate there would be 100 or so caves worth looking at in Buchan and surrounds. As stated in the ‘Access’ menu, private property has been a problem in the past, so this limits how many caves you can actually do.
Buchan as a beginning point in your caving career
In some ways Buchan is seen as a training area for more serious (longer, deeper, wetter, more technical) caves, which is really talking about the caves in the southern part of Tasmania (Junee Florentine, which reaches nearly 400m depth), or overseas. New Zealand has caves reaching nearly 1000m in depth, and Europe has even deeper caves including the deepest at 2.3kms (approx) deep.
The Buchan caves give you all the training you need in lots of small caves, which you then use in serious caves elsewhere. I did hear that Buchan is one of the world’s largest collections of ‘micro-karst’ features, although I can’t confirm this.
I’m not saying that Buchan and Victoria in general don’t have challenging caving – there are PLENTY of challenging features that will get your heart beating, but they aren’t deep or long in an international context. The Buchan caves are no more than 120 or so metres deep (this may change with new exploration) and no longer than about 4kms.
See the ‘Top Ten Caves’ in the ‘Caves in Victoria’ Menu
If you want to come to Buchan from interstate feel free to email VSA or even email myself and we will try and arrange a guide. Usually someone will be happy to come to Buchan and either come caving or at least take visitors to the entrances and provide a survey or description.
The nice thing about having lots of smallish caves is that navigation is rarely an issue. But – there are enough free access caves to do to fill an entire week, as long as you are SRT proficient (quite a few of the good caves need some SRT).
I would invite you to come down to Victoria and have a look – from Canberra it is only 6.5 hours down the Monaro Highway or a day’s drive from Sydney or Adelaide. We really do have caves that compete with areas like Jenolan and Bungonia. And remember that we also have other caving areas including lava tubes. Setting up a trip with a guide from VSA also means we could apply for a permit for you, to see some of the rarer caves.
Anyway, this should give you a guide to what’s on offer in Buchan.