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Peter--Elizabeth-Sprang---blog-image.jpgRecently, two of Jenolan Caves’ most enthusiastic supporters visited, and stayed for 2 nights. Peter and Elizabeth Sprang first visited Jenolan on their honeymoon, in October of 1957 - 57 years ago. 

They love to stay at Jenolan, particularly in Caves House. They have great stories of previous visits, their honeymoon, the mysterious caves and surrounding gardens, where rambling wisteria and colourful rhododendrons were once tended by a team of gardeners.  One of their best memories is of the wallabies.  In 1957, the creek through the Grand Arch was not yet covered in, and was the thriving habitat of semi-tame brush tailed rock wallabies that were in the habit of charming lunch from the hands of delighted tourists. 

Mr Sprang said that in 1957 he booked their honeymoon through the Government Tourist Office in Martin Place, Sydney. He asked for a room with a bath. They were given a huge room, in which the Duke and Duchess of York are said to have stayed in 1927, at the front of Caves House. But when they arrived, they were surprised to discover that the promised bath was across the hall! 

Nevertheless they loved it - so much so that they have been regular visitors ever since, bringing children, grandchildren and extended family with them on numerous occasions. At age 82, they both enjoy bush walks and cave tours. On this visit, they saw the River Cave and the Diamond Cave.  In particular, they appreciate the grand atmosphere and friendly service in Chisolm’s Restaurant. Mr Sprang said of his recent dinner, “It was the best steak I’ve had for a long time”. 

Originating in England and Austria, Peter and Elizabeth Sprang both thrive in the bracing mountain air of Jenolan. We hope they get to see snow next visit.

main-image--logo.jpgOn May 21, 2014, TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel website, announced the 2014 Certificate of Excellence award recipients. Establishments that receive this award represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on the website. Winners include accommodations, eateries and attractions all over the world. 

This year, Jenolan Caves was very excited to receive a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. On TripAdvisor, most reviewers give Jenolan ‘5 bubble’ ratings, and write positive comments about tours of spectacular caves, adventure caving, themed bushwalks and helpful tour guides. Jenolan’s food and historic hotel facilities are convenient and atmospheric. The World Heritage wilderness location, teeming with native wildlife, is part of the Aussie experience. Although Jenolan is a national treasure, it is still considered one of Australia’s ‘hidden gems’. TripAdvisor gets the word out that Jenolan Caves should be on everyone’s ‘bucket list’.

review2.jpgJenolan Caves has won 36 tourism awards in 6 years, and they don’t mind sharing the secrets of their success.

Although Jenolan Caves is Australia’s longest continually running tourist attraction, they use imagination and technology to constantly refresh the way visitors experience Australia’s most spectacular (and the world’s oldest) limestone caves. Although the caves are awe-inspiring, visitors can also gain an understanding of their history and culture, including Aboriginal culture. Plus they appeal to travellers seeking adventure, health and ecotourism, for couples looking for unique wedding venues and for corporate groups who need conference facilities or team bonding activities that really work.

review1.jpgWhen selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a proprietary algorithm that takes into account reviews ratings. Businesses must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five. Volume and recency of reviews, as well as a business' tenure and popularity ranking are also factored into the algorithm.

TripAdvisor reaches nearly 260 million unique monthly visitors, and more than 150 million reviews and opinions covering more than 4 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions. The sites operate in 39 countries worldwide, including China.

In the corporate world, people of all ages, backgrounds and values are thrown together, for better or worse. Team building activities help to bring out traits which make a team more effective. Currently, all sorts of team activities are on offer - races, murder mysteries, art, cooking, music, circus skills, kayaking, trivia – it’s endless!brain-releases-dopamine-during-adventure

In their quest for effective team bonding activities, some organisations have even discovered the dark world of underground adventures. Exploring caves is a unique activity, with a hint of danger! The very idea of undertaking possible risk makes the brain start producing chemicals that we need for good health.

Why does overcoming risk feel so good?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which acts as the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemical. Prior to doing something risky, the stress makes our brains release cortisol. Once the risk has been successfully negotiated, the brain releases dopamine and the cortisol disappears. This produces a sensation which can range from pleasant relief to extreme exhilaration.

What happens at Jenolan that a group can’t achieve elsewhere?

learn-new-skills-through-adventure-cavinJenolan Caves enables ordinary people to achieve the extraordinary – physically and psychologically challenging ‘adventure caving’. This sounds ‘risky’ and takes people outside their comfort zones. But the facilitators, with years of experience, ensure complete safety.

Jenolan’s Team Building ethos is to create a level playing field, where all participants are equally inexperienced, the environment is equally unfamiliar and where there is some perceived risk. Professional guides are with the participants all the way, as they experience the exhilaration of exploring the world’s oldest cave system, and become real speleologists for the day. 

team-bonding-through-adventure-caving-atParticipants experience the wonders of nature, close up, acquire new skills, help (and trust) each other, laugh, communicate, get dirty and have an experience they can really boast about. Adventure Caving builds confidence and is great for mind, body and spirit. Colleagues help each other conquer anxiety, deep in the heart of a limestone mountain. For some people, it’s life-changing. Participants leave with an intense feeling of achievement and elation.

Get your 'swagger' back.

Jenolan’s facilitator guides find it rewarding also, as they watch their students get their ‘swagger’ back!

corporate-group-exploring-a-spectacular-Importantly, Jenolan’s team activities are not just for the young and fit. Any man or woman, of average flexibility (and of any age), can do it.

Jenolan is only 2.5 hours from Parramatta, on the western edge of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area . They offer other activities also - guided show cave tours, orienteering and self-guided bushwalks. Participants might spot wild platypus.

Facilities include cafe, restaurant, well stocked bar, meeting rooms and accommodation options.

Example of a Jenolan Caves corporate itinerary

Jenolan Caves can tailor a package to meet your group’s needs. However, here is a sample 2-night/3-day itinerary:

Day 1 
  • arrive & hotel check-in 
  • welcome drinks 
  • dinner 
Day 2
  • breakfast  
  • ½ day conference or meeting
  • Adventure Caving 
  • drinks
  • dinner 
  • guided cave tour 
Day 3 
  • breakfast 
  • all day conference or meeting
  • check-out

 
What are the mid-week advantages?

Most corporate groups book activities on weekends. However, you can make it more economical , by booking accommodation at Jenolan Caves, midweek, when facilities and activities are more likely to be available anyway.

Is there a Special Deal?

If your group (20-30 people) books a stay, for at least 2 nights (minimum 10 guestrooms) and a conference/meeting room for 1.5 days, you can have 10% off Jenolan’s Midweek Conference Package and accommodation rates. 

Find out more?

Visit www.jenolancaves.org.au or phone 02 6359 3900. 

In some ways the 1920s was one of the pivotal decades at Jenolan Caves, and were certainly a time of great excitement. Jenolan Caves House, already famous as a retreat for the upper classes of Sydney, was completed with the addition of the magnificent Grand Dining Room in 1926. Now known as 'Chisolms Restaurant', this remains in use today retaining the opulent feel of the era of its completion.

The 1920s also saw the arrival of royalty at Jenolan, with a visit by the Duke and Duchess of York on March 31st 1927. The couple, the future King George VI and the Queen Mother, stayed overnight in Caves House.

The era was one of opulence and the sense of giddy fun that was the 'Roaring 20s', but for the guides of Jenolan at the time it was also a period where guiding was a serious business. The great James Wiburd was in charge, and Jenolan had gained a reputation as the finest place to visit caves in the world. The Guides of the day were proud to be a part of a tradition that was already over 50 years old and took their responsibilities to the public very seriously indeed.

Now, almost a century on, the 1920s are returning to Jenolan Caves on Sunday February 16th. As a part of the Blue Mountains 'Roaring 20s and All That Jazz' festival, Jenolan Caves is running special activities including  a historical guided cave tour of the "Left Imperial" (now Chifley Cave) conducted by Jenolan Guide and character actor David Hay at 11.30am. at 1pm, Jenolan Caves House is holding a Traditional High Tea featuring a 1920s orchestra followed by a guided tour of the fabulous historic building of Caves House. Fun 1920s dress is optional for visitors - why not join the fun and take a trip back to another age at Jenolan!

To enquire or book for any of these very special events, contact the Jenolan Guides Office on 1300 76 33 11.

 

 

How did the fantastic caves of Jenolan form? Why do they look the way they do? What do we really understand about the millions of years of processes that have resulted in the cave system that we can see today, and what else is there to learn?

Ted Matthews, a former science teacher and a Jenolan Guide since the 1960s, has spent many years studying the limestone and the intricate and diverse caves of Jenolan. Here he discusses the geology of the area and theories of cave development both at Jenolan and elsewhere with Cave Operations Manager Dan Cove.

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The history of Jenolan Caves is rich with colourful characters and perilous exploration, interwoven with the wish to protect and conserve the fragile cave system. Jenolan's explorers and early caretakers were amongst Australia's first conservationists of the 19th century, and their efforts resulted in the legal protection and public awareness that have allowed subsequent generations to see them in all their splendour.

David Hay, a Guide at Jenolan, has extensively researched the characters of Jenolan's past. Here he discusses the rich history of the Caves and their exploration and development with Cave Operations Manager Dan Cove.

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Are there Ghosts in the Jenolan Caves?

Many Jenolan Guides and visitors to the caves over the years claim to have had unusual experiences, ranging from the feeling of being watched or followed through to actual sightings of unexplained figures. Today a popular tour, "Legends, Mysteries and Ghosts", takes visitors underground every Saturday and Wednesday nights to explore these unexplained happenings.

Cory Camilleri, a Jenolan Caves Guide, has developed a particular interest in the subject of the paranormal and in the mysteries of Jenolan in particular. In this podcast, Cory discusses these mysteries and possible answers with Cave Operations Manager Dan Cove.

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The Nettle Cave was almost certainly one of the first caves at Jenolan to be discovered and explored by Europeans in the 1830s  as it connects directly to the mighty arch of the 'Devil's Coach-House'. The cave is often referred to as being a "twilight cave", as there are no permanently dark areas - daylight penetrates the cave from three separate entry points. The result is an environment completely different from all the main 'dark tour' areas at Jenolan Caves.

For the reason of its difference, the Nettle Cave was selected in 2006 for development as a self-guided tour, the only such tour at Jenolan. Visitors today can explore the Devil's Coach-House and Nettle cave without a Jenolan Guide, but are accompanied by a digital audio guide offering tour commentary in 14 languages (provided by Acoustiguide of Australia). The trip involves climbing several sets of stairs into the main areas of the cave, however the effort is rewarded by truly spectacular views back through the Coach-House, and the opportunity to inspect areas of crystal formation of highly unusual shapes - a result of the high volume of air movement through the cave. Of particular interest, visitors can view close up the exceedingly rare sight of Stromatolites - colonies of blue-green algae formed in layers of calcite crystal. Amongst the oldest forms of life on Earth, Stromatolites are rarely found outside of marine environments (such as the famous Shark Bay in WA). Within the Nettle Cave, several large and bizarrely shaped examples are clearly visible - their odd shape early earning them the nick-name of "craybacks" or "lobster tails".

The Nettle Cave cannot be toured as a standalone trip, as it is so different from all of Jenolan's other guided tours. However, with any purchase of a full price guided tour, visitors are automatically provided with a ticket for entry to the Nettle Cave as well. The image below is of the Nettle Cave in the 1920s.

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The Chifley Cave is the largest of the caves in the Northern part of the Jenolan show-cave system. Originally known as the "Left Imperial Cave", the tour was renamed in honour of Ben Chifley, Prime Minister and the local member of Federal Parliament in the early 1950s.

A fantastic tour for children, the Chifley Cave is relatively easy and, at an hour's duration, one of the shortest guided tours. The cave itself falls into two quite distinct sections. The first half passes through areas of relatively dry formation - the result of high air flows. This area is historically significant as it was here in May 1880 that the first ever electric lighting was trialled in a cave! Some of the old electrical fittings are still on display. This area also features coloured lighting - today rare in Australian show-caves. However, as the tour continues into the cave the group will notice the cave transform around them. Crystal begins to sparkle, natural colours to emerge and the cave becomes increasingly active with distance from the main area of high air flow. The second half of the tour takes in some of the most spectacular chambers at Jenolan, including the Lucinda Chamber - described by explorer Jeremiah Wilson as the finest ever found and named for his wife! Then there is the massive Katie's Bower named for the first person to ever explore this part of the cave...a young girl in 1881 lowered down a rope by the tour party that included her father!

There is a great deal to see within the hour, another reason that this tour is popular with families as the group is largely on the move. The tour is also one way, with the cave doing a great loop that begins and ends in the Grand Arch.

Guide David Hay in 19th Century Costume examines the Chifley Lighting.

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On Saturday December 10th a much loved event returns to Jenolan caves, this year celebrating its 20th year - Carols in the Caves! The highlight of Jenolan's annual event calendar, Carols is a multi award-winning phenomonen - winning Gold again at this year's Regional Tourism Awards of Excellence.

The annual Carols in the Caves is a celebration of Christmas held in the magnificent natural amphitheatre of the Grand Arch. There are two concerts held, with a 2pm matinee and an 8pm evening performance. In both cases, the Grand Arch is transformed into a Christmas wonderland, with performers on stage as well as (on occassion) appearing from high up, perched on rocks or between the stalactites and stalagmites. A variety of performers from across the region donate their time and talents to the event. This year will also feature celebrity MC Peter Vickery of TVs MasterChef fame! For the past six years the Carols have been produced and directed by Domino Houlbrook-Cove - Jenolan's Manager of Corporate, Functions and Events. Domino has the further distinction of having performed in all 19 Carols concerts to date! Classically trained as an Opera singer, Domino was once known as the 'Singing Guide' of Jenolan.

Carols in the Caves is a charitable event, with all monies raised going towards the Children's Hospital at Westmead for research into childhood cancer. Over the past four years Carols has raised in excess of $50,000 to this most worthwhile cause, and it is hoped that a record donation can be made in 2011.

Tickets for the 20th Annual Carols in the Caves are available via Ticketmaster, or by calling Jenolan direct on 1300 763311. It would be wonderful to see a record crowd in 2011 for this special day, to join together in one of the most spectacular venues in the World to celebrate the spirit of Christmas.

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