Protecting Our Unique Environment for the Future
Our mission is ‘To manage the natural and cultural heritage and visitor facilities of Jenolan Caves Karst Reserve in an environmentally, socially and commercially sustainable manner’.
Australia's first ecotourism facility
We are very proud of our enduring culture of conservation. From the earliest days of cave tourism, Jenolan has been a leader in developing environmental best practice. We were among Australia’s earliest conservationists. Our early cave guides educated vistors about our fragile environment. They actively protected the cave system, by constructing pathways, using protective wire mesh and by encouraging visitors to follow rules inside the caves. They created Australia’s earliest ecotourism facility.
In 1872, Jenolan Caves were the first caves in the world to be granted legal protection. John Lucas, Minister for Mines, and a regular Jenolan visitor, realised the damage that people were doing to the cave environment. He instigated the first laws to grant legal protection to a cave system. Because of this legal protection (and generations of Jenolan guides enforcing rules) our caves show little damage today.
Jenolan was one of the first sites in Australia to install stainless steel handrails in caves. Previously, galvanised piping leached pollutants into the cave and through into the water catchment. Stainless steel is an inert material which does not leach into the cave environment.
We limit tour group numbers. For example, the Ribbon Cave, a beautiful yet fragile area, is limited to eight visitors per tour and is usually shown once a week only .
Electrical Innovation, to promote conservation
Jenolan Caves built Australia’s first hydro-electric system, finished in 1917. Now our hydro-electric plant provides up to 60% of cave power needs, reducing our ‘carbon footprint’.
In 1880, Jenolan was the first place in the world to use electric lights in caves! We still lead the world in cave lighting. Recently we installed a new energy-efficient lighting system in the Orient and Ribbon Caves and the extensive River Cave, featuring:
In the Orient, Ribbon and River Cave power consumption has reduced by over 80%. A new fibreoptic cable allows monitoring and control of the lighting system from the guides’ office. This year we have introduced LED technology to the Chifley Cave and retro-fitted 240v lighting systems with LEDs.
Air and water quality, chemicals and sewage
The Orient Cave was the first cave in the world to be 'steam cleaned'. All our show caves are water cleaned as needed. This is a technique which Jenolan pioneered, and which ensures that visitor skin particles, hair and lint do not change the delicate equilibrium of the cave ecosystems.
In association with the National Parks and Wildlife Service Karst and Geodiversity Unit, seven water, eight air and 17 radon monitors have been installed in the cave system.
The Jenolan Environmental Audit program includes monthly inspections of chemical storage, waste disposal, leakage from pipes and other potential environmental issues. We act on problems as they arise and prevent adverse environmental impacts.
Downstream from the caves, our small sewage plant provides primary and tertiary treatment with ultra-violet light. Discharged water is 99.9% pure. (If you are really into this, you can view our Sewage Treatment Plant Analytical Results.) Eight flushless urinals save 6.732 megalitres of potable water (and associated sewage treatment and power costs) per year. This saves 85.64 tonnes of greenhouse gases (CO²) from being released into the atmosphere.
Reducing, reusing and recycling
We have an extensive program of waste reduction in our offices and lunch rooms. Paper is reused wherever possible. Plastics, aluminium and toner cartridges are recycled. To reduce paper consumption, we use e-mail wherever possible. We recycle our scrap metal and we dispose of our kitchen and machine oils in a responsible manner.
Fauna surveys and feral animal control
In 2011, we worked with the National Parks & Wildlife Service, to complete an extensive survey of vertebrate fauna. New species were recorded, including a cave bat. Significant rare species (including the Yellow Bellied Glider) were officially recorded for the first time. The final document, The Vertebrate Fauna of the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve, was published in 2012.
Our Animal Sightings Register, where unusual animal sightings are noted, is slowly revealing more about the range and habits of animals on the Reserve. This initiative will provide a valuable long-term record of our wildlife.
The ongoing fox control program is working. Endangered brush-tailed rock wallabies are returning to their old habitats in the Grand Arch, Devils Coachhouse and Lucas Cave. Quoll and lyrebird sightings have thrilled our visitors.
Recording cave changes
Our Cave Record book records any changes in cave activity, noting changes in water flow, drip rate and air flow. This will give us a greater understanding of the caves over time, when used with our daily weather records.
Carbon footprint and fleet management
The Jenolan fleet includes a Toyota Prius hybrid car (40.5% fuel reduction). Use of E10 petrol is Trust policy. Car pooling is practised and encouraged. On-site accommodation is available for a number of staff, allowing many guides, maintenance and hospitality staff to live onsite. These initiatives also reduce fuel consumption considerably.
After 170 years of European settlement, we have a major weed problem, with sycamores, ivy and other garden plants invading natural areas. Since 2008, we have run spring and autumn Sycamore Weedbusting Weekends, in association with the National Parks & Wildlife Service and local Bushcare groups. This year, over 70 volunteers provided almost 600 hours of labour, tackling more than 30,000 square metres of weeds.
For over 20 years, the Jenolan Caves Survey Group has been working on a ground-breaking survey of our
The Jubilee Cleanup Group has removed over 2.5 tonnes of rubbish from the beautiful Jubilee Cave, where it had lain hidden for over 40 years. This ongoing project aims to restore all areas of this lovely cave, seen or unseen.
Ecotourism - Experiencing nature
"Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism, with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas, that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.”
In August 2012, at the Blue Mountains, Lithgow & Oberon Awards of Excellence, we received the trophy for Ecotourism. Last year, at the NSW Tourism Awards, we won a silver award for Ecotourism, and we hope to win gold this year.
Jenolan Caves is an inspiring nature-based experience, facilitated by enthusiastic guides and state-of-the-art technology. You can experience the natural beauty of undamaged caves, rich with crystal formations and pure underground rivers. In addition to our extensive range of show cave tours, if you are more adventurous, you can explore the wilder underground realms, on our adventure tours.
While our activities are mainly focused on the underground environment, we do not neglect the beauty and serenity above ground. You can experience the wilderness reserve and abundant wildlife, via our bush tracks. The Blue Lake Loop Walk and Harrys River Walk are especially popular.
An extended visit to Jenolan is likely to give you at least one encounter with Australian native wildlife. You might see a platypus frolicking in the Blue Lake, one of our 140 species of birds, a wombat, or an eastern water dragon! You may see some bats. Brush-tailed rock wallabies are now regularly sighted in the Grand Arch, after an absence of over thirty years. Spotted-tailed quoll sightings are also increasing.
We promote appreciation of our preservation practices, by talking about them at Jenolan and in cyberspace. We are one of Australia’s great environmental educators. We believe that the best way to develop an appreciation of the environment is to build an emotional connection to it. Therefore, today’s visitors enjoy a wide range of ecotourism experiences, all promoting a strong conservation message.
We encourage visitors to comply with responsible, minimal impact practices. For example, we do not allow eating, drinking or smoking inside a cave. Visitors cannot touch any rock or crystal inside a cave. We carefully explain the reasons for these rules, and we follow them ourselves.
We tell visitors about our significance in developing a conservation ethos in Australia, and about our history as a site of exploration, scientific enquiry and discoveries. We talk about cave geology, ecology and the history of our explorers, scientists and early visitors. It is not surprising that Jenolan is now recognised as a world leader in cave interpretation.
We acknowledge the Aboriginal custodians of the area. We tell their creation story and interpret Aboriginal interactions with the caves and surrounding area. This helps promote respect for indigenous culture and responsible tourism in indigenous areas.
We present our understanding of our history and environment, to a world wide audience, via our website, Podcasts, our historical blogs on Facebook, and the Jenolan iPhone App.
We are developing the first audio tour in a local Australian Aboriginal dialect. Developed in conjuction with the Gundungarra people, the tour will focus on the Aboriginal cultural heritage of the area.
We are also developing three new walking tours, delivered by iPhone app, incorporating Global Positioning System technology:
We have developed our children’s audio tour and activities, to appeal to a younger audience. Our youth tours meet the needs of a very demanding and particular market, by combining ecotourism with adventure.
Each year, in association with the Australian Museum, we present to school students, at Science in the Caves, Science in the City and Science in the Suburbs. These dynamic showcases aim to inspire a passion for nature, and present science as an exciting career opportunity.