Imagine wandering into the Australian bush and coming across strange, giant animals that are long extinct: a 5-metre striped snake strangling a wallaby in its coils, a massive-sized koala, a marsupial lion with long, sharp teeth and claws… In the Wonambi Fossil Centre you walk through a simulated forest and see dioramas of extinct animals recreated from the fossil remains found here at Naracoorte Caves National Park. Once you have seen how the live animals must have looked, tour the Victoria Fossil Cave and see their real skeletons lying in the red dusty soil where they have lain for hundreds of thousands of years.
Entry to some caves by guided tour only; check times (usually operate twice a day); other caves open daily for self-guided tours
■ The model of an extinct giant malleefowl and its nest-mound. Kids are allowed to play on the mound!
■ The tour of Victoria Fossil Cave – for the best understanding of why this is a World Heritage area. You’ll see dazzling stalagmites and stalactites as well as fossils.
The reason there are so many fossil bones here is that the caves acted as pitfall traps. For over 500 000 years, any unfortunate animal to wander into the area would fall inside a cave and die, and its bones eventually became fossilised. Scientists now use these fossils to try to unravel the mystery of Australia’s evolutionary history.
■ Entry to Victoria Fossil Cave is only available through a one-hour guided tour that departs from the Victoria Fossil Cave carpark, 1.5 kilometres south-east of the Wonambi Fossil Centre.
■ A 1.3-kilometre World Heritage walking trail leads from Wonambi Fossil Centre to Victoria Fossil Cave. Signage explains the World Heritage values of the park.
■ Alexandra Cave is an easy half-hour guided tour into three beautifully decorated chambers. It departs from the front of the Wonambi Fossil Centre. This tour is ideal for families with small children.
■ In the Bat Cave/Blanche Cave tour you don’t go inside Bat Cave because visitors would disturb the thousands of rare bent winged bats, but you watch the bats via a camera link-up. In winter you can see bats in Blanche Cave clinging to the roof, and in summer, you can take a night tour to see bats exiting Bat Cave to feed on insects.
■ Wet Cave is an easy self-guided walk, with an automated lighting system. It has two chambers. The first has a large ‘window’ and the natural light coming through encourages the growth of tree ferns. The second chamber is dark and mysterious and you leave from here to start your Adventure Tour.
■ Adventure Tours are only available by prior booking (minimum 4 people, minimum age 8 years). The Stick-Tomato Cave (entered from Wet Cave) is the most suitable for families, as the tunnels are larger and the squeezes into small gaps optional. Overalls, helmets and kneepads are provided, and you are taught safe caving techniques before you start.
■ Bring sturdy, closed footwear and warm clothes (the cave temperature is a constant 17 degrees Celsius).
■ There are barbecue and picnic facilities, a cafe and campground in the park.