Caves in the Parks Victoria Caves Reserve (And camp ground)
These caves are on the Parks Victoria Buchan Caves Reserve, which very near the middle of Buchan township (the turn off into the reserve is on the left as you drive through, and the caves (both the show caves and some wild caves) are a kilometre or so up the road. This is where the three Buchan show caves are – Federal Cave, Royal Cave and Fairy Caves.
Federal Cave is not always open but there are tours in Fairy and Royal Caves daily. See http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/buchan-caves-reserve for more information. The friends of Buchan Caves group are constantly working on Federal cave, which is open to the public on holiday periods and special days.
Getting access to the gated permit caves on the reserve:
All of the wild caves on the Caves Reserve are gated. Recently Moon’s Cave was off-limits due to a platypus in residence. To enter any of these caves you need several things:
All team members need to have some experience, absolute beginners generally not allowed. All members need to be aware of and have read the relevant ASF documents especially on minimal impact caving.
The trip should have a purpose other than just recreational caving. Checking for damage, surveying, and photography are better reasons, and a trip report should always be written with the results, and forwarded to Parks Victoria ASAP for their records. Its fine to enjoy your caving but Parks simply want cavers to help take care of the caves too, and carrying out a task while you are underground is a small price to pay.
The application needs to come from the secretary of the caving club you belong to on official club letterhead.
If you are an interstate club, a local guide is highly desirable. You’ll need someone to at least show you where the cave is.
You are much more likely to be granted a permit in the off-season (Winter) and also make Parks aware that you will be as discreet as possible when getting ready / finishing up. Dukes is totally off-limits in Summer as it feeds the swimming pool which gets muddy if cavers enter the cave. In Winter the pool is kept empty and just needs to be cleaned after the trip. Permits are never granted for any caves on the reserve on or directly around holidays. Don’t even ask.
If you don’t have a local guide, then research the cave. Obtain a survey and a description of the route from a local. Its iffy, but Parks might give you a permit if you can prove you can self guide. A character reference from a local caver would help. The VSA and VLCT have surveys and information on every major cave in Buchan, but it is not dispersed freely – in fact you need to be a full member for unlimited access to the VSA records, and it can take up to 2 years to become a full member.
Bring some WD40 – These locks don’t open frequently and sometimes need some coaxing.
The reserve is also the camp ground for Buchan. It is a beautiful space with amazing flora and fauna including numerous kangaroos and other wildlife. It is really one of the most pretty camp grounds I have ever seen. There are also several spectacular walks that can be done, which is a nice break in between a big weekend of caving.
The Show Cave System – Royal, Fairy, Dukes, Federal
The show cave system is made up of Royal, Fairy, Federal and Dukes Caves. It is somewhere between three and five kilometres in length, although I have been unable to find an exact figure. Dukes is the outflow for the system. A through trip through the system is possible, first achieved in 1976, by bailing out a sump but permits for that are not given often.
Royal and Fairy are fantastic show caves. Whilst there are few large chambers the decoration is world class. In wet conditions the caves are reasonably damp with nice rimstone pools and active fresh decoration abundant.
The gated caves in the reserve are all very old and some of the first ever explored in Buchan, and for a long time had no gates, so as such they are all in pretty average condition. Still it is worth protecting them, if nothing else then to stop them from getting any worse.
Descriptions of the main significant caves on the reserve:
Spring Creek (B-1)
Spring Creek is an ex show cave. It is horizontal apart from one five metre pitch which needs a ladder (or a gnarly free climb – not recommended). The whole cave can be seen without doing the pitch by doubling back, but the nicest way is to rig the pitch first from the other side and then do the entire cave as a circuit. It is an extremely easy cave, suitable for beginners. There is a fair bit of exploring potential in side passages and leads, and to do the entire cave will take you about four hours. Like all the caves on the reserve it is gated and needs a permit for access. Access is not tight though as the cave has been used extensively and there is little pristine cave left. There is extensive graffiti in the cave including signatures that claim to be from the early 1900s. RATING: 2
Duke’s Cave (B-4)
Duke’s is the stream outflow of the show cave system. As you drive into the reserve you will see a swimming pool on the left side of the road. Look at the right rear side and you’ll see the cave entrance with the stream coming out into the pool! Yes – The cave water is what you’re swimming in. Cool huh? This is a prime reason why permits for the cave are only granted in the low season. When Victoria was in serious drought they diverted the water from the cave outflow and the town drank cave water for a couple of years!
This is an excellent stream cave. Extensive decoration and stomping stream passage, with lots of water. There is nothing technical apart from one or two greasy climbs, but no gear is needed, beyond a wetsuit or some way of keeping warm. Buchan cave water is not cold in comparison to Tasmania but Dukes has sections of full immersion so warmth is a consideration. It is a Buchan classic and should be high on your list. VSA have visited Dukes regularly over the last few years.
Whale Cave (B-20)
Whale Cave is a reasonably straight forward horizontal system with a short ladder pitch of about 10 metres at the entrance. There is also a pitch down a confined tube which takes you to the very bottom of the cave, which when I was there had a short section of stream visible through a squeeze that was not passable. Whale has not got much by way of decoration but is interesting with lots of scope for exploration. Permits are given fairly easily to Whale Cave.
Moons Cave (B-2)
Moons has an obvious gated horizontal entrance on a hill. This leads to a stream passage. This system includes an inflow in wet weather at B32 and a through trip is possible, but has not been done in years. A platypus lives in the Moons system and this stopped the last trip I attempted into the cave, although I believe access is still possible. It is a good and straight forward cave but well used, like the other caves on the reserve.
All of these caves are well used as they were the first found and closest to the township, which is indicated by some wear and tare. But they all have merit and are worthwhile, especially Dukes which is a great cave for those who like water.