Went swimming in Australia’s ancient lava tubes

We didn’t get the chance to walk through the Undara Lava Tubes, we got to swim through them instead.

The Undara Lava Tube system is Australia’s longest, and one of the oldest Lava Tubes in the world. More than 50 caves have been found in the park, and it is thought the lava flowed at a temperature of around 1200 °C. It is also believes the tubes were formed when rivers of lava confined to a valley, crusted over and formed a roof.

What we didn’t know, was that the lava tubes can flood every few times in the year (if that). And, what was even more awesome, was that they don’t cancel the tour when this happens, they actually tell you to swim through the tubes. Of course, the tubes do go miles deep, so you pretty much balance yourself on the railing of the walk way under the water (which you would normally be walking on when it’s not flooded), and you sort of do a walk/wade through the water, until the only light you see is glowing from the walkway path under the water. After walk/wading for at least thirty minutes, you turn back to see a small dot of natural light, which is the entrance you came in, and you realise you are pretty deep in the tubes.

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Looking back out over the entrance of the Lava Tube
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Swimming in clear waters of the lava tubes

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Our window of light gets smaller and smaller – sorry it’s a tad blurry, but the only shot I took.

The water itself is fresh water, not rain water. And every few times a year it rises up from the ground (not from the sky), and is some of the freshest water around; and full of calcium too. However, as you are in a deep dark caves, there are of course a lot of cave bats dwelling on the ceiling in sombre silence, un-be-known to the unsuspecting traveller, so they poo in the water – a lot. the tour guide/ranger makes it very clear that even though the water is fresh – do not drink it. Roger that.

Here are some shots I took under the water…. this is the railing we walked along for balance through the water – sorry they are blurry, it was difficult to focus the camera when you can’t put your head under the water.

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It was by sheer luck we had our simmers with us, and that the Lava Tubes were flooded. So happy it turned out this way though, as it made for a spectacular adventure. If you decide to go, I do recommend you go when it floods, as the experience is like none other and way more interesting than just walking through a deep dark cave. I can’t tell you what dates they flood, so definitely give them a call to find out. It’s a fair drive from Cairns though, or any other eastern coastal town for that matter – so definitely book yourself some accommodation.

There is accommodation at the Lava Tubes, which is a renovated vintage train. The train is pretty cool to stay in, so I would definitely recommend it – and there is also a restaurant on site, which cooks up some super delicious foods.

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Balcony views from the renovated train we stayed in.

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