Highlights of Jenolan Caves

In May we headed to Jenolan Caves for a few days as a getaway.  That was almost two months ago, but time has sure flown since then.

We drove down to Jenolan on Thursday, and had two cave tours booked for the day.

After arriving mid-morning, we soon headed to our tour of the Lucas Cave, where spectacular calcite crystal formations awaited our viewing pleasure.

Image: Shawls of the Lucas Cave

Shawls of the Lucas Cave

These incredible calcite crystal formations are called shawls.

Developing over hunderds of thousands of years, rainwater seeping through cracks in the limestone rock follows the surface of the rock shelf and grows outwards, layer upon layer, forming delicate and often wide shawl structures.

One of the other feature formations in the Lucas Cave is called "The Curtain".

Image: The Curtain

The Curtain

One can see why this amazing, ancient feature is so named, as it very much resembles the subject of its title.

No visit to the Lucas Cave is complete without seeing the Broken Column, which is one of the iconic sights at Jenolan Caves.

Image: The Broken Column

The Broken Column

This feature is incredibly difficult to photograph, as the chamber is very dark and the lights highlighing the column are exceedingly bright relative to the dark surrounds, thus causing parts of the feature to blow out where the light reflects most strongly against the calcite crystal.

In a perfect world, one would use a tripod and shoot seven to nine exposures to blend using HDR techniques, but alas, as tripods are not permitted inside the caves, all of my cave photography was achieved hand-held with fast lenses and higher-than-comfortable (for me) ISO settings.

After our visit to the Lucas Cave, I took the opportunity during some free time to photograph the lounge inside Caves House, where we stayed.

This is one of the views inside the warm and welcoming lounge:

Image: Caves House Lounge

Caves House Lounge

In this interior image of this magnificent Edwardian building, one side of the lounge can be seen, featuring the piano in the corner.

The lounge also includes some other tables and chairs and a warm fireplace — a perfect place for a rest with a glass or two of fine red wine after a day out exploring the caves and bush trails in the area.

This is another view of the lounge at Caves House:

Image: A Place to Relax

A Place to Relax

In the corner is a fireplace which was kept running by the staff, providing for a nice place to relax after a day of cave exploration.

During the late part of the afternoon, we headed outside for our second cave tour, which took us inside the Temple of Baal Cave, a cavernous and highly decorated cave, and one of my favourite.

Here is a view of the elaborate calcite crystal formations inside the Temple of Baal Cave:

Image: Temple of Baal Cave

Temple of Baal Cave

Later during the tour, we got to see the main attractions of the Temple of Baal Cave — Michael's Sword and Gabriel's Wing — both of which are positioned in close proximity within one of the larger chambers in the cave.

Image: Gabriel's Wing

Gabriel's Wing

Our first day concluded some twilight photography followed by dinner at Chisolm's restaurant where a delicious steak and a fine shiraz were enjoyed.

The next day, we had three cave tours ahead of us.

Friday began with breakfast in Chisolm's Restaurant, followed by a walk in the mountains, where we saw Carlotta Arch, the Devil's Coach House, and the Blue Lake.

Our first cave tour on Friday morning was the Orient Cave, one of the popular show caves at Jenolan Caves.

This magnificent cave chamber, adorned with calcite crystal stalactites, is one of the highlights of the Orient Cave.

The stalactites are formed by slowly dripping water over thouands and millions of years.

Image: Chamber of the Orient

Chamber of the Orient

Our second cave tour of the day was inside the Chifley Cave.  This was the shortest cave tour, and photographically, it did not offer as much as the other caves.

After this tour, we had lunch and a few hours before embarking upon a tour of the Diamond Cave.

One of the most interesting features is a formation I call "City Walls".

Image: City Walls

City Walls

This city-like arrangement of stalagmites appears inside the Diamond Cave.

The Diamond Cave, which is one of the show cave tours, consists of the Imperial Cave (itself a separate show cave tour), plus an extra 30 minutes inside what is called the Diamond Cave.

In this image, the formations in the foreground resemble a mountain ridge on the outskirts of an ancient city whose walls appear deeper in the image.

After our tour of the Diamond Cave, at twilight I had planned to re-visit the location where I had photographed Caves House on the previous evening, as the timing of our late afternoon cave tour meant that I arrived at the tail end of twilight, by which time most of the royal blue colour in the sky had faded.

Our Diamond Cave tour finished 30 minutes earlier than our tour on the previous afternoon, so I scrambled back to our room to fetch my gear, and headed outside into the cold night air, where I captured this image of Caves House:

Image: Edwardian Twilight

Edwardian Twilight

We had dinner reservations at Chisolm's Restaurant again, so I headed inside and a fantastic dinner was soonafter enjoyed.

Saturday, our final day at Jenolan Caves, saw only one cave tour, followed by the long trip home.

Our last cave tour was also the longest in duration, and most physically demanding of all of the show cave tours: the River Cave.

This cave requires lots of stair climbing, which we did not mind at all.

The River Cave features a stunning formation called the Giant Shawl.

Image: The Giant Shawl

The Giant Shawl

This calcite crystal formation, called a shawl, has been named the Giant Shawl, and is one of the main features of the River Cave.

Shawls develop over hunderds of thousands of years, whereby rainwater seeping through cracks in the limestone rock follows the surface of the rock shelf and grows outwards, layer upon layer, forming delicate and often wide shawl structures.

The Giant Shawl is quite a few metres in height, and in this beautiful backlighting, the rich colours, affected by iron, can be seen.

Later during the River Cave tour, we saw the main highlight of this cave: the Pool of Reflections.

Image: Pool of Reflections

Pool of Reflections

The water inside the River Cave system is so still that it produces a mirror effect.

On our way out of the River Cave, we got to visit this scene again, and soonafter, our Jenolan Caves getway had reached its conclusion.

I hope readers enjoy this pictorial account of the several relaxing days we spent there, and Jenolan Caves is a place I would recommend visiting and photographing.

As tripods are not permitted, all photography must be conducted hand-held, with the use of railings for support.  Thus, I recommend bringing fast lenses (I shot all of my images with my 35/1.4 and 85/1.2) and using higher ISO settings to achieve sharp images, as the caves, despite the bright feature lighting, can be difficult to photograph.

Published on Sunday, 13th July, 2014.