Before the Margaret River Region became know for its great surf, delicious wines and its yummy tasting Margaret River trails, tourists from Perth use to come down to see the natural 500 000 year old formations of the Margaret River cave system. The closest of which to explore was Ngilgi Cave (pronounced Nil Ghee).
On our recent small family holiday to Busselton my partner Steve, our 8-year-old son Lewis and I take a day trip to see Ngilgi Cave and discover why this original tourist attraction still draws hundreds of visitors every day.
Ngilgi Cave Review
Our semi guided tour of Ngilgi Cave begins with our guide explaining the history of Ngilgi Cave.
History of Ngilgi Cave
Ngilgi Cave is named after the Aboriginal mythological legend – the good spirit “Ngilgi” who defeated the evil spirit “Wolgine” thus restoring prosperity to the region with lots of water and vegetation.
In 1899 a European settler Edward Dawson discovered the cave by chance when looking for stray horses. He became a tour guide of the cave from 1900-1937. Back in the day tourists from Perth would catch the train down to Busselton, then take a 35km horse-drawn cart to the Ngilgi Cave entrance (at that time known as Yallingup Cave) where they would then descend down a rope ladder to explore the cave by candle light or lanterns.
Tours of Ngilgi Cave in the 21st Century
Today we are much more fortunate. There is an electric light system, board-walks, staircases and railing. However this is still not a cave for the faint hearted to explore.
The main show cave plummets 37 metres below the earth’s surface, holding a steady temperature of 20°C, with humidity and high carbon dioxide levels, additionally there are no wheel chair ramps or lifts. Before we head off to explore at our leisure our guide remind’s us to take it easy and if we become breathless to stop and rest.
Exploring Ngilgi Cave
We start by heading down into the theatrette that has fantastic acoustics – so good that there have been several recording made here and even the famous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba performed inside Ngilgi Cave. We all test the acoustics whilst we are down there.
Next we head over to the main chamber we make our way slow and steady along the wooden stairs, boardwalks and in parts even on the original steps carved out of the stone floors of the cave. We pass by stalactite, stalagmite, helicitite, straws and shawl formations. Many years ago my mother taught me a way to remember which was which ” the mites are trying to grow up and the tites come down 😉 “, the straws are hollow like a straw, the shawls well look like a shawl and the helictites grow at odd angles as if gravity has not affected them at all.
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There are beautiful mini caves and chambers all lit up with varying colours and some with fun little stories like Cupids Corner, where back in the day honeymooners would take a day trip to Ngilgi Cave (over a 16 hour round trip) and they would nip off into this secluded corner for a romantic moment.
Apart from all the visual beauty of Ngilgi Cave there is also an information/interpretive stop where you can get the chance to learn about all the different cave formations and handle some of them.
There are also signs about to educate you on the various areas, history and animals that once lived in Ngilgi Cave.
We also make use of the little seats dotted about along the board-walks as we need to catch our breath at times and we get to enjoy the amazing sight.
To finish off Lewis slides down the “tunnel of doom”. He is eager to go again but some adults have gone ahead and cause a blockage due to the confines of the tunnel, I imagine the tunnel would give you a feel of the more adventurous tours Ngilgi Cave has on offer – where you crawl through narrow tunnels wearing hard hats.
It is little wonder why a Ngilgi Cave tour is still so popular; it is not just strolling through a cave to look at some pretty rock formations but it is one of adventure with a colourful history.
If you would like to visit.
Ngilgi Cave Info
- Adults $22.50
- Kids $12.00
- Family $58.00
Website: Ngili Cave – Your Margaret River
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- PLEASE NOTE: We visited at our own choice and cost.
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