Monday, April 1, 2024

Meeting the locals: Australian cave fauna

It has always been a dream for me to meet the locals when I get a change to visit some caves during travel. The humans, of course, but also the ones that have been there even longer than we have, from the little critters to some bigger ones, and maybe even some plants. It turns out that dreams can come true, as I got to see some amazing things on my recent trip to Australia. But also, nightmares can come true, too...

Let's start with the snake. I had had nightmares about this, actually. And there I was, crawling in a tight tunnel in the Capricorn Caves when the person in front of me spots a snake where the tight spot opens to a room. Not in front of our noses and under our bellies, but .. too close for comfort. And yes, it was a Python so non-venomous and mostly non-dangerous. But .. eww. 

We should of course remember that we humans are the guests in these places. Snakes, bats, and everything else are the real owners, so we need to accommodate them. A memorable meeting, however :-)

Next up, something less scary, glow worms! Like these: 

No wait, those are some mutant glow worms, maybe early prototypes? These were spotted in the Tamborine Mountain Glow Worm Cave, which is the world's only artificial glow worm sanctuary. But there's no photo of their non-prototype glow worms, as there was no photography inside the living quarters of the worms :-)

However, in the Springbrook Natural Bridge there's not only a natural bridge (arch), but also a waterfall, underground waterfall, a cave, and ... glow worms in their natural habitat. Wonderful:

Back in the Tamborine Mountain, the signs also warned us about Water dragons. I don't think I would have chased any water dragons, even if I had seen one, but I didn't. And what is a water dragon anyway? Is that like a self-sufficient dragon that can both light and extinguish fires?

Then we move to Paradise. Paradise Caves, specifically. On a place called Sunshine Beach, I kid you not :-)

Here there's obviously a cave. Sadly, I was too much of a wimp to enter it, just because I didn't want to fall to the sea. But on the way back there was something interesting, namely a forest of Paper Bark Tea Trees. What they do I they color water flowing through the forest streams like tea. So here's a little tea stream flowing to the sea:

And then in Mt. Etna Caves National Park, there's a cave... actually many caves but I could find one in the limited time I had. This cave had probably hundreds of butterflies. So cute couple here:

And back in Capricorn Caves, we also spotted an owl. Apparently it consumes bats for food...

So obviously there were bats. A massive amount of bats! When bats fly, it is pretty quiet. But when a massive number of bats fly in the upper parts of the cave, you can clearly hear it. Thousands. But it was interesting to me that sometimes bigger bat species can eat smaller bats, here's for instance a bat cut in half. (Are bats then cannibals?)

The bottom of the caves was largely bat shit, by the way, but also remains of various smaller animals. Digging is going on to examine the history of what's been eaten here. Here are some small bones, for instance, from the years past:

A lizard was also spotted in the cave:

And then we switch gears a bit and go to flora. A fern is a nice thing, but a rare fern is even nicer. Tectaria Devexa is a rare fern that used to flourish in Capricorn Caves. However, a forest fire few years back caused the cave's climate to change, as the surrounding forest did not protect the cave as much from the sun and wind. This wrecked havoc on the ferns as well, at some point only four remained. Now they are growing again, partially first in controlled environments but the pots are now being brought to the cave, and they seem to be doing fine. Here's one of the four ferns:

And some in-pot-grown ferns have recently moved in as well:

Another interesting fact of Capricorn Caves was the number of tree roots. And their size and length. Massive halls would have tens of meters long tree roots sticking down, and almost every part of the cave had roots growing. When there's rain, the cave too will get wet as it is not very deep, and sits under a rather porous piece of rock above it. Here's some cave forms side by side with some roots:

More roots:

Also, there's a few sinkholes in the cave, with roots and/or trees growing there as well. Here's one example:

Finally, the local humans! The Mt. Etna Caves and Capricorn Caves are located in a village called The Caves. There's obviously a pub, as there should be in every village:

And beer:

Not to mention a school:

More information about the caves I visited can be found from my earlier articles:

Some of these visits were unsuccessful, however, I didn't dare to go due to conditions or being scared of the reptiles I might step on :-) The full list of possible caves around Brisbane and their coordinates can be found from my previous article here. I visited only a small fraction of them, of course.

Read more urban exploration stories from, and other underground stories from Read the full Planetskier series at, or all blog articles from Blogspot or TGR. Photos and text (c) 2024 by Jari Arkko, map picture is a snapshot from Google Maps. All rights reserved. 

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