Located at the entrance to Lake Cave is a very interesting and informative display called Caveworks and is ideal for those with a mobility disability who would otherwise be unable to enter and enjoy the caves - Jewel, Lake and Mammoth. There are over 300 steps and some are slippery with the ever constant dripping of water. Visitors need to walk almost crab like in some of the walk ways underground whilst avoiding overhanging limestone formations. Jewel Cave has an atmosphere that some visitors may find distressing.
Entry to Caveworks is included in the entry price to the caves, but can also be accessed by payment of a $5 entry fee and has re-creations of some of the beauty to be found underground. There is also interpretive display panels on the history - indigenous and early European settlement as well as information on some of the caves found in other parts of Australia and overseas too. There is a kids experience of caving exploration tunnel and some caving memorabilia.
Suggest a visit of one hour and also there is a gift shop and cafe as well as ample parking and visitors toilets.
We wanted to visit one of the caves open to the general public and locals suggested that as we only had the time to 'do' one, then Jewel Cave was the obvious choice - glad we heeded the advise.
There are hundreds of caves in the Margaret River region, but only 3 are open to the public, with tours with a guide at Lake and Jewel Caves and self guiding with an MP3 player of Mammoth Cave.
We arrived at the visitor centre for Jewel Cave, paid for our seniors entry and almost immediately went to the meeting point for the tour. We were met by a vibrant young woman who gave a brief run down on what to see and expect and she gave a timely warning; there are many steps in the cave and the atmosphere is different to outside air (constant 17 deg Celsius, 98% humidity and CO°2 level higher) - those who wished to quit were free to do so (not sure if refunds would be given). We went down a ramp and then entered the security door for the caves and then the first of many steps into the bowels of the earth.
We arrived at a large landing and saw a glimpse of the beauty. Limestone formations of almost every conceivable size and shape as well as the 'traditional' stalagmites and stalactites. We were led deeper into the earth and in some parts we had to walk almost crab like to avoid overhanging and dripping formations - I was glad I wore my hat as it offered some head protection. The caves are well-named as Jewel Cave as some of the formations were glistening with water and the nearby lights gave them a jewelled appearance. We were shown some formations that with only a little imagination looked like vegetables - carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and the like as well as a ghostly white image.
Further into the cave we were told of the skeleton that was found of a Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger - formally ranged over most of Australia and became extinct in the 1930's in Tasmania). Later tests identified the animal had died some 10,000 years earlier. We were shown a skeleton of a 500 year dead possum and thought of the terrible ending to both animals - lost and in complete darkness and slowly dying of starvation.
The Jewel Cave used to have a lake, but has now dried up. Seems the water levels have changed since the advent of agriculture in the MR region, in so doing robbing the caves of some of their beauty.
Warning; the caves are totally unsuitable to visitors with mobility disability as there are over 300 steps and many are steep - suggest a visit to 'Caveworks' as an alternative.
Tour Times: 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm
Costs: Adult $19.50 Child $10.00 Family $50 (2 adults, 2 children extra child $6.50). Seniors card holders discount. Entry to 'Caveworks' included in price.
Savings available: There is a combined pass to Jewel Cave and the other 2 caves open to the public - Lake Cave, Mammoth Cave as well as Caveworks and the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. The pass is valid for 7 days and offers a considerable savings over individual visits - seniors and child discounts available as well as a family pass for 2 adults and 3 children