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Blue Mountains Tourist : Summer 2009 - 10
The dazzling Jenolan Caves system, nestled in scenic wilderness near Oberon, is considered to be one of the most spectacular in the world -- and the oldest at 340 million years. Although the colourful limestone formations evolved over millennia, the way they are presented to visitors is in a state of constant evolution. In a competitive industry, Jenolan keeps up with tourist demands -- offering eye-popping tours of 11 spectacular show caves, a multi lingual self-guided tour, challenging adventure caving, ghost tours, children's tours, underground concerts, bushwalks, native wildlife, restaurants and a range of accommodation, with historic Caves House as the showpiece. Jenolan Caves is thought to be Australia's oldest tourist attraction. In its early days, visitors were shown through candlelit chambers by dignified guides -- appropriate for the Victorian era. Now, Jenolan's tour guides are educators, entertainers and zealous guardians of a national treasure. Recognising early the need to evolve with technology, Jenolan was one of the first places in Australia to install electric lights. It built (and still uses) Australia's first hydroelectricity plant. Recently, Jenolan has redeveloped several caves, including the Orient. The extensive redevelopment involved hiding hundreds of lights and kilometres of cables to present one of the most stunning, environmentally responsible and technically advanced tourist caves in the world. Tours have evolved in response to demand. Once they were designed for people of all ages. But now, in NSW school holidays, Jenolan offers tours which enable children to experience caves in a new and exciting way. Kids from 6 to 18 learn a range of skills -- for example underground mapping and leadership -- on fun tours with names such as 'Stones & Bones'. For several years, Jenolan has run a Saturday night ghost tour. It proved so popular that earlier this year, they increased it to two ghost tours each Saturday night. And now, in response to demand, the Legends, Mysteries & Ghosts tours run two nights a week. The tour explores Jenolan's extensive history of unexplained occurrences. It is a serious, spine-chilling torchlight tour, aimed at adults (and children, age 10 and up). Jenolan also offers an array of weekend cultural events, such as underground concerts. Shortly after the caves were discovered, a surprising aspect came to light -- the Cathedral Chamber in the Lucas Cave had an incredibly pure acoustic, making it a sought- after underground performance venue, which now hosts at least two concerts every month. The Grand Arch is also a spectacular venue for major concerts such as the annual Carols in the Caves every December and Opera in the Caves on Valentine's Day. Visit www.jenolancaves.org.au for cave tours, accommodation and events (concerts, history tours, art workshops, winemakers dinners and balls.) To book, phone 1300 76 33 11. Ever-Evolving Jenolan Caves www.bluemountainstouristnewspaper.com.au summer 2009-10 14