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About Mount Etna Caves

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Getting there and getting around

Mount Etna Caves National Park is 26 km north of Rockhampton and about three hours south of Mackay. Turn off the Bruce Highway 24 km north of Rockhampton, or 11 km south of Yaamba, to The Caves township. Mount Etna Caves National Park has two sections. Both area accessible with conventional vehicles.

To access the Cammoo section, travel north through The Caves and turn onto Barmoya Road. Cammoo picnic area is at the end of the road.

To access the Mount Etna section, travel 5 km from The Caves township and turn onto Rossmoya Road, drive a further 2 km and turn left into the Mount Etna car park.

Cave access

Mount Etna Caves National Park protects important roosting caves for some of our significant bats which are easily disturbed by humans. Access to the caves is restricted, and in some caves prohibited, to protect these special bats particularly during their breeding season.

Guided evening tours of Mount Etna's Bat Cleft operate every summer, from December to mid-February, when you can see the spectacular nightly emergence of thousands of little bent-wing bats in their search for food. See guided tours for more information.

Wheelchair accessibility

The Cammoo picnic area has toilets, picnic tables, barbecues and an information shelter which are all suitable for wheelchair access. The first section of the Cammoo picnic area's self-guided walk is wheelchair accessible, although some assistance may be required.

The Mount Etna walking track is not suitable for wheelchairs.

Park features

Ghost bat. Photo: NPRSR

Ghost bat. Photo: NPRSR

Limestone outcrops and dense, decorated caves are protected in Mount Etna Caves National Park. Mount Etna is the roosting site for more than 80 per cent of Australia's breeding population of little bent-wing bats. The park is also one of the few places in Australia supporting a colony of vulnerable ghost bats.

The Archer Brothers, who settled in the Rockhampton area in the 1850s, named Mount Etna after the volcano in Sicily. From 1914 to 1939, the caves were mined for guano, a natural fertiliser, and from 1925 for limestone. During World War II, commandos trained here. The national park was established in 1975 to protect the caves, and a subsequent campaign to save other caves included the protection of Mount Etna.

The area was once submerged by a shallow sea and has been alternately shaped by, and then starved of, water. Limestone from ancient coral reefs formed the rocky karst seen today. As Mount Etna's landscape has evolved, so too have people's attitudes. Once the focus of Australia's longest conservation dispute, Mount Etna Caves National Park now protects the mountain for future generations.

Camping and accommodation

Camping is not permitted at Mount Etna Caves National Park.

Other accommodation

There is a range of holiday accommodation in and around Rockhampton, The Caves township and the Capricorn Coast. For more information see the tourism information links.

Things to do

Experience the rush of thousands of tiny bats flashing past you at dusk during a ranger-guided tour. Photo: John Augusteyn, NPRSR

Experience the rush of thousands of tiny bats flashing past you at dusk during a ranger-guided tour. Photo: John Augusteyn, NPRSR

Have a picnic and explore the stories of Mount Etna Caves National Park at Cammoo picnic area. An information shelter and self-guided walking trail will help you discover more about the park's unique bats, conflict-filled past and remnant dry rainforest.

Walking

Cammoo Circuit (Grade: easy)

Distance: 600 m circuit
Time: allow 45 minutes
Details: Wander along a 600 m self-guided walk through remnant dry rainforest clinging to limestone karst and uncover the secrets this fragile ecosystem holds. Read about the bitter battle between limestone miners and conservationists and how the dispute was finally resolved.

Mount Etna walk (Grade: medium)

Distance: 2.4 km return
Time: allow 1 hour
Details: Expansive views of Limestone Ridge, the historic Pilkington Quarry and old mine workings feature strongly on this walk. Experience limestone landscapes before and after mining from Bench 9. The 1.2 km track uphill to Bat Cleft is quite strenuous with many steps. Only relatively fit people should attempt this walk or join the Bat Cleft tour. Walk in the cooler months or early morning to avoid the heat. This track is closed to independent visitors during the bats' breeding season from 1 November to the end of February. During this time, it is accessible only on a ranger-led guided tour (operating from early December to mid February).

The Mount Etna walk is not suitable for strollers or prams.

Bat Cleft tours

Experience the rush of thousands of tiny bats flashing past you at dusk during the ranger-guided tours. Little bent-wing bats fly out from their roost in Bat Cleft to feed, providing a spectacular natural show.

The Bat Cleft tour takes you up Mount Etna, through remnant dry rainforest and limestone formations to the top of a disused mine. The track then descends across ancient limestone karst to Bat Cleft. Your guide will provide insight into the significance of the emergence flights and the Mount Etna area.

Tours run for about three hours in the evening under torchlight along the Mount Etna walk (2.4 km return). The track is steep and the walk may be strenuous for unfit people. Sections of the track have many steps. Children under 15 are welcome but must be under adult supervision. The track is not suitable for wheelchairs.

When

Tours operate every summer from December to February on Monday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

Bookings

Contact NPRSR Rockhampton to book your tour. Payment is required when you book, as your receipt is your admission ticket.

Minimum booking numbers apply. Book your place early as tours are restricted to 10 people to ensure everyone has good views of the bats.

Contact us

Bat Cleft ranger-guided tour bookings
Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing
61 Yeppoon Road, Parkhurst, Qld, 4702
(07) 4936 0570 (Work Hrs)
0429 630 923 (After Hrs)

Fees

Adult $10.35
Child $5.10
Pensioner $6.80
Family $30.90

What to bring

  • one good torch per person—this is essential
  • one litre of drinking water per person
  • sturdy walking shoes (no thongs)
  • wear shorts or long pants
  • insect repellent
  • any personal medication.

Picnic and day use areas

The Cammoo picnic area is a great place for a picnic. An electric barbecue, picnic tables and toilets are provided.

Viewing wildlife

  • Go wildlife watching. Look for brush-tailed rock-wallabies, brushtail possums, bandicoots and echidnas.
  • Go birdwatching. More than 75 bird species have been seen in the park.

Generate a species list for the park.

Other things to do

Mount Etna Caves National Park is one of the few places in Queensland where you can go caving. Temperatures inside the caves are fairly constant and cool, so caving is a great way to escape the summer heat.

Please be aware caving can be a dangerous activity and you must be responsible for your own safety. Access to some caves is restricted or prohibited to protect the bats, which are very easily disturbed. Caves are a very special environment and easily damaged. Help protect them by not touching the limestone while caving.

If you choose to go caving, always go in groups of at least three people, including an experienced caver, and make sure there are at least three torches within your group.

If you have minimal caving experience, consider taking one of several types of cave tours offered by local commercial operators www.capricorncaves.com.au.

Things to know before you go

Essentials to bring

If you are participating in the Bat Cleft guided tour, remember to bring the right equipment.

Opening hours

The Cammoo section of Mount Etna Caves National Park is open 24 hours a day, year round.

The Mount Etna walk is open to visitors from 1 March to 31 October. Access outside these dates is by guided tour only. The restricted access period gives the little bent-wing bats more protection during their breeding season.

Permits and fees

Fees are charged for the ranger-guided Bat Cleft tour.

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted in Mount Etna Caves National Park.

Climate and weather

Rockhampton lies on the Tropic of Capricorn and can be hot and humid, particularly during the summer months. Summer daytime temperatures are generally around 32°C but can exceed 35°C.

Winter daytime temperatures are significantly cooler and drier, with temperatures averaging 23°C.

Fuel and supplies

Fuel and supplies are available at Rockhampton. For more information see the tourism information links below.

Staying safe

  • Never go caving alone. Always go in groups of three or more, with at least one experienced caver, and ensure each member of your group has a reliable torch.
  • Take care at the Bat Cleft cave entrance. The track is steep and can be slippery when wet. The tour group congregates at the entrance and each person in turn is safely harnessed to view the emerging bats more closely. Your cooperation and care is important.
  • Avoid exploring old mine workings. These sites can have hidden dangers.
  • Stay on the track, you may get lost otherwise. Take a map if possible and follow markers and signs carefully. Let someone responsible know your plans in case you do get lost.
  • Be sun-smart. Wear a hat, shirt and sunscreen, even on overcast days, to avoid sunburn. Drink frequently to avoid dehydration.

For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

Looking after the park

Mount Etna Caves National Park helps protect Queensland's wonderful natural diversity and scenery. Please help keep it special by following the guidelines below.

  • Refrain from touching the limestone. These ancient caves took eons to form and are easily damaged.
  • Protect the wildlife. Remember, plants and animals (dead or alive) are protected.
  • Leave no rubbish. Rubbish bins are not provided so take it with you when you leave.
  • Leave pets at home. Pets can kill or frighten wildlife, and could become lost or injured. They are not permitted in national parks.
  • Be considerate. People visit parks and forests to enjoy nature, not noisy visitors or radios.

See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

Park management

The first section of Mount Etna Caves National Park was gazetted in April 1974. Parts of Mount Etna and the Bat Cleft scientific area were added to the park in 1990.

Nine years later the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) agreed to a proposal by Cement Australia and the Central Queensland Speleological Society to jointly purchase Cammoo Caves. On 27 November 1999 Cammoo Caves was added to the park.

The park now serves as a monument to the ongoing reconciliation between the conservationists who fought to save the park's bats, and the mining company now actively restoring the area.

QPWS manages the park to conserve its outstanding natural features and a management plan will be developed in the future.

Tourism information links

Capricorn Spire Visitor Information Centre

www.capricornholidays.com.au 
Tropic of Capricorn Spire, Gladstone Road, Rockhampton
ph (07) 4921 2311 or 1800 676 701
fax (07) 4922 2605
email info@capricorntourism.com.au

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see www.queenslandholidays.com.au

Further information

Contact us

Bat Cleft ranger-guided tour bookings
Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing
61 Yeppoon Road, Parkhurst, Qld, 4702
(07) 4936 0570 (Work Hrs)
0429 630 923 (After Hrs)

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Last updated
9 December 2014