These caves are the highlights of the caves in the outlying limestone areas nearish to Buchan.
‘Buchan’ also refers to some other outlying areas, all within 45 minutes’ drive.
The Basin is North of Buchan and takes about 45mins drive to get to. The road to the basin is unsealed but fine for 2wd vehicles. The road does go through active properties, so please remember to close the gates after you go through. There are two significant caves there. These are:
Another classic beginner cave on its own small reserve.
This is a very popular horizontal system – probably the most frequently visited after Wilson’s and Honeycomb, although it has an 7-metre entrance pitch. It is a very easy cave apart from one or two bits, and apart from the ladder pitch requires no gear at all. On the entrance pitch there is a ledge though at about 4 metres that you can step onto and free-climb easily from there. A big column makes a brilliant anchor for ladder & belay.
Slocombe’s is a classic Buchan beginners cave as it is very easy. It has some spectacularly large chambers and a lot of random cave to explore. Slocombe’s is on its own small caving reserve so no permission is needed. Rating: 2 due to ladder pitch and one tricky/acrobatic squeeze called the keyhole. Navigation is a little tricky and if you miss a very miss-able lead, which doesn’t look like the way on, you will not see the good bits of the cave. If you don’t find a very large muddy chamber, you have missed the lead.
Rating 2 if you decide to do the infamous MFC (Mindless F%cking Crawl) – you’ll know you’ve found it when you climb up an embankment and find the lead with a tape attached to get you to the top of a small drop. From there you can drop down a few metres and do a horribly tight round trip of 50 odd metres – but that’s not the hard bit. Getting out requires a 90-degree bend whilst being in a tight squeeze, a really hard exit and I have had to pull cavers out more than once. The MFC not recommended for large cavers or total beginners.
This is a vertical cave near Slocombe’s. A 25 metre-ish pitch, well decorated and spacious. This cave is often mistaken for Slocombe’s as they are close together. It is highly visible from the car about 200m before the real Slocombe’s, hence the frequent confusion. If it doesn’t have a sloping easy pitch head to a 7m pitch about 10m in, and a big round column perfect as an anchor, it is BA-2. Good for some SRT practice if you’ve got time after Slocombe’s. NOTE: Despite being so close to the road and to Slocombes BA-2 is actually on private property. I have done the cave with permission, so it is possible, but make sure you ask first.
Rating: 2 due to basic SRT being needed.
There are other caves at The Basin but the author has not been in them, and they are not frequently explored. This is probably because they are on private property. The other caves are also apparently very overgrown.
There is only one enterable cave at W-Tree. WT-1 which is a short cave with no vertical development and is trashed from years of people abusing it. It is probably only 30 odd metres surveyed length and apart from getting up close and personal with Wombats there is no point to doing the cave. The end of it is mildly interesting with a slot at the end that obviously takes significant water in wet weather, but it is too tight to get into. There are 3 other blind dolines nearby.
At the bottom of the limestone paddock there is a dam, with an area that has been blocked with stones that may have at some stage been a resurgence for the caves, but to dig it out would be an epic task, and the limestone at W-Tree is simply not deep or large enough to uncover a cave of much significance. The water immediately out from the rocky resurgence is free of all weeds and growth, suggesting that it gets washed through regularly – the rest of the lake has algae and various weeds on the banks. It is a little intriguing, but ultimately as I stated due to the geology of the area not worth the effort. My hunch is there is a small cave from WT-1 to the resurgence which probably wouldn’t be big enough for humans. The drive to get there is far more interesting than the cave. Property borders on a Buddhist centre which looks cool.
New Guinea Ridge – A great overnight camping area
NG-1 (New Guinea Cave)
This is a Buchan Classic and should be on your must do list. Also in the top 5 free access caves. This is only accessible by properly driven 4WD and the track is totally closed even to 4WDs in Winter. Walking in takes 2 or so hours up and down steep hills from the final point not gated in Winter. The track starts off as volcanic but soon turns to greasy limestone and even the sturdiest of 4wd vehicles will get stuck if it is wet. Many people have had to camp overnight due to rain. So beware, and always have 2 4wds going down so one can tow the other if bogged.
The actual cave is fantastic. It is a long, dry ex-stream cave. Contains bats, good decoration, and classic stomping cave passage. There is a flattener about 3/4s of the way in which is very low and puts many people off, you literally have to swim through the stones and mud by pushing it aside and making a channel for your body, it is that tight! But it is worth the effort as the best part of the cave is beyond the flattener.
I have heard reports that in wet weather the cave does collect some water, but I have not found this on any of my trips there. This cave is not really suitable for total beginners (unless they are naturals at caving and proved themselves somewhere else) but only contains one or two climbs that might put people off, as well as the flattener. NG1 was until recently the deepest cave in Buchan region, but due to the fact it is such a gradual descent you don’t notice that you are actually 90 odd metres down by the end (an un-spectacular ending of a little hole in the mud and a few tree roots). The karst index states it is 110m deep, but this is disputed by most. The surveyed depth by Rudi Frank is 78m. Be prepared for a lot of crawling.
The cave has been followed on the surface and the end of the cave is only metres from the surface. Proven by the tree roots at the end of the cave. Digging it out would make a good through trip but would be cave vandalism and is really not needed. Visit this cave if you can.
NG-5 (Nuigini Namba Faiv Cave)
Another very good cave, and awesome to do on the same day as NG1. This is an active stream passage cave, probably about 150m long which leads at one end to a spectacular chamber. Stream turns into a roof sniff in very wet weather but there is normal ample air space to get through comfortably, but you will be totally immersed in water, so dress appropriately. The cave is a little hard to find. A hand line is recommended for a 3 metre climb near the entrance. Another great reason to brave the dodgy road. Many people camp nearby at a good bush camp site. RATING: 2 due to water and 3 metre climb. Also a bit hard to find.
There are several small caves here of little significance. Don’t know much about it.
Several caves including Gaping Gillingal (Vertical). The Karst Index lists Gaping Gillingall as having a 50-metre pitch, but I think this is greatly overestimated as that would make it in the top 10 pitches on the mainland! And the longest single pitch in the whole of Buchan. I doubt that. There is a hill there however that is solid and probably cave bearing limestone, and it is theorised and likely to contain a significant cave. The VSA have called it ‘Gillingal Hall’ but despite some digging and surface work over 30 odd years have never found a way in. A concentrated effort might pay off in a big way at Gillingal.