After a most eye-opening experience at the Lucas Cave, we only had half an hour to have a quick lunch before our next guided tour of the Orient Cave at 1:30pm.
The Orient Cave is considered one of the most beautiful caves in the world, according to the Jenolan Cave’s official website. While the Lucas Cave is famed for its massive chambers, the Orient Cave is the one with the most extensive and elaborate limestone structures. Its passageway and chambers are much narrower than the Lucas Cave, offering a much more intimate experience. For this reason, the maximum capacity of this tour is only about 26 persons.
If you have not gotten the cave visit tickets prior to your arrival at Jenolan Cave, you could still purchase tickets to the various cave tours at the ticket office in the Information Centre building. As there is a limited capacity for each tour, it is still recommended to book online early for the popular tours. For those who only want to do one cave tour, there are numerous FREE bushwalks around the area, including one easy hike around the beautiful Blue Lake that we saw in our visit to the Lucas Cave.
We made a quick walk to the Visitor Centre for lunch after the Lucas Cave tour. Fortunately, the gathering point for the Orient Cave was just behind the outdoor seating area and we could keep a close eye on tour departure.
There is a building with a small cafe that sells some hot food with an indoor seating area.
Waiting Point for Orient Cave visit. It’s just next to the outdoor seating area.
The queues for food at the visitor centre was astonishingly long and slow, so we only had time to pick up a box of greasy fries and a hotdog. It’s recommended to bring your own lunch, if you could, because the food here is generally expensive and unappetizing.
Our cave guide for the Orient Cave picked us up at the tour waiting area on time and we began a short walk to the back of the Jenolan Caves, where the Cave House is. The Cave House is the only accommodation available at the Jenolan Caves, and is perfect for travellers who wants a wilderness retreat or to have more time to explore more caves.
In contrast to the Lucas Cave which started us off with a long flight of stairs, we were led into a cavity in the rock face to begin our exploration of the Orient Cave. This is actually the Binoomea Cut, an artificial tunnel built in 1954 to allow access to the Orient Cave, which was originally accessible only through the River Cave.
The Binoomea Cut of the Orient Cave. It makes me feel like a miner going off to work in the caves! See the amount of sparkling crystals in the rocks? Even at this stage, we see early signs that the Orient Cave is more heavily decorated in a natural way than the Lucas Cave.
The Orient Cave was discovered way back in 1903, but it was not opened to public inspection until 1917, to allow for the installation of electric lighting and paths. The Orient Cave contains some of the grandest formations in the Jenolan Caves and was steam cleaned to preserve them in 1968.
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This is the very first chamber at Orient Cave that we stopped at. It’s kind of smallish, and a little cramp for our group of about 20. But even at this point, there were impressive structures around and above us.
To let us have a feel of how impressive the structures are, we were given a large piece of limestone to have a good look. That rock may not seem very large, but it weights at least 7-8kg in our hands!
Right at back of the small chamber is a narrow flight of staircase, cutting though the rock formations that will bring us to the next stop in the Orient Cave.
The Persian Chamber is considered by many as the most impressive chamber of Jenolan, not in terms of size, but in terms of the dazzling array of floor to ceiling decorations. The height of the chamber is over 30m, and houses the tallest stalagmite at Jenolan, the Pillar of Hercules at 10m tall.
Due to the angle, we did not manage to take a good shot of the Pillar of Hercules. Here’s a photo taken by Mr. Robert Smieszek that we found on the web on how it look likes. You may want to click here to take a look! 🙂
And here’s a quick glimpse of our cave guide. 🙂
There’s a staircase to bring us to the base of the Persian Chamber to see a range of helicites in more detail.
The Egyptian Chamber
This chamber must be so-named because of the large structures that look like Egyptian shawls sold in the market. It is also home to the second largest shawl in Jenolan.
The Indian Chamber
More structures in the Indian Chamber!
The Indian Canopy located in this chamber is the inspiration behind the logo of the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust.
All too soon, we’ve come to the exit of the Orient Cave. The Orient Cave tour, just like the one for Lucas, takes 1.5 hrs to complete. Overall, it is a relatively easy walk as compared to the Lucas Cave, with only 358 steps to climb.
The experience at the Orient Cave is very much different from that of the Lucas. What the Orient Cave lacks in magnificence in size, it makes up for it in terms of beauty. But for a first-timer, if we were to choose between the two tours, we would still do the Lucas Cave tour, as it is much more comprehensive.
The Blue Mountain Trolley Tours to the Jenolan Caves of the Blue Mountains operates from Katoomba at 9:45am daily and the tour will end at Katoomba at 5pm. For more information on the tours available, visit http://www.trolleytours.com.au/jenolan-caves-tours.
Tip: Do take note that it will not be necessary to purchase a day tour from the tour operators if you drive. The Visitor’s Centre at Jenolan Caves sells the individual cave tours and you could save a sum of money by purchasing the tickets directly from them (it is advisable to book early). As at the point of writing, entrance fees for the Lucas Cave and Orient Cave are AUD32 and AUD38 respectively (total of AUD70). Our Blue Mountain Trolley Tours costs AUD109 (meaning each pays AUD39 more for the transport back and fro between Katoomba and Jenolan Caves). There is no public transport to Jenolan Caves.
Thank you for reading this post! You might want to check out Part 1 of this post – where we review our visit to the Lucas Cave.