It is an eerie feeling to walk along a stream which runs through a cave in Tunnel Creek National Park. Especially as it takes some effort to reach that cave. Exploring Tunnel Creek, which is part of the oldest cave system in Western Australia, is well worth the effort. Particularly as you traverse a Devonian Reef that is between 370 and 375 million years old.
Located about 30 kilometres from Windjana Gorge in the Kimberley region, the Tunnel Creek cave has been known to local Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years.
Walking Tunnel Creek
To enter Tunnel Creek National Park you follow the Napier Range until you reach the car park.
Tunnel Creek National Park is suitable for day visits only. The nearest good campsite is at nearby Windjana Gorge.
The entrance to the cave is via a track which leads from the car park. You do enter the cave via a creek bed. This creek is mostly dry except for during the wet season when the system is usually inaccessible.
Inside the cave
The cave itself has a very narrow entrance which does involve negotiating your way through a very limited space between the overhanging rocks, whilst clambering down a short but steep incline to actually get into the cave.
The effort is well worth it, as once inside, the cave is magnificent, and consists of a system of large chambers. Heed this warning, though. The only way to walk through the 750 metre-long cave is through water, so you do need sturdy, waterproof footwear. You will also need to take your own light as there is no artificial lighting whatsoever within the cave. Parts of the cave are pitch black, but there is a section that has subsided which lets in plenty of light. For most of the journey, you can see light where the cave ends, but it is of little help when trying to determine your footfalls.
You also need to be ultra-careful about how you walk through the cave as you will be negotiating a number of surfaces ranging from soft sand through to hard, sharp rock and occasional thick mud, which does envelop your legs and makes it very difficult to move.
The water you walkthrough is not cold and is actually pleasantly warm. Inside the cave you can see stalactites and stalagmites; five species of bats and various freshwater fish and crustaceans can also be seen in the torchlight. It is also possible to see freshwater crocodiles in the cave.
Open to the light
About midway through the cave, a large section has collapsed, letting in light. Here, the colour of the rocks, and the reflected green colouring of the vegetation which bounces off the side of the chasm is quite beautiful.
As you reach the end of the cave you exit upon a quite attractive narrow valley which engulfs Tunnel Creek. This is a very serene place. Eucalyptus trees overhang a stream which gently meanders through a rocky culvert that is bounded on both sides by steep, foliage-covered hills.
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