Cutta Cutta Caves
Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park
Directions - From the centre of Katherine, head east along Stuart Highway towards Mataranka for 28km until you see the signs for Cutta Cutta Caves. Turn right and drive another 1km along the access road where you will find a car park at the end. The cave tours do need booking beforehand to avoid disappointment.
The Walk - With just under a week in Katherine to explore what this beautiful and rugged part of Australia has to offer, one day was set aside to take a trip to Mataranka. 93yo Grannam was keen to have a sit in the hot springs that the area is famous for but heading into caves was not an activity she was keen on, so it was decided that Caris, Candy and myself would do that first and meet her and Caris' uncle in Mataranka a bit later.
Located a short drive from Katherine, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast at Finch Cafe before driving out for our pre-booked tour of the caves. Caves are pretty rare in the northern part of Australia and this limestone system is one of the most popular tourist caves in the Northern Territory. Home to a variety of wildlife that is specific to the unique conditions of the cave, it is certainly worth booking a tour through Nitmiluk Tours (owned and operated by the local Jawoyn People). Our tour guide for the day was a bright-eyed young girl who was extremely knowledgeable on all aspects of the cave and had helped in research projects around the blind shrimp that are found at the very end of this cave. With what seemed like a full tour, we all shuffled off from the main building and made our way across the dry landscape towards the entrance for the cave. After getting our safety briefing, we all headed down with the guide where she started to explain the features of the cave and the history around how it was discovered and used over the years. Stopping frequently to admire a stalactite or stalagmite formation, explain something about the cave or even spot a Ghost Bat, the going was nice and slow (giving me plenty of opportunities to take photos).
There is a metal walkway for the most part to protect the cave floor and small artificial lights to guide the way. The guide had a flashlight so she could point out various formations but for the most part the light was fairly dim. There are a couple of areas where you have to squeeze through smaller gaps but most people shouldn't have an issue with this. The cave isn't very long but there is plenty to see and take in while you're heading towards the end. Along the way we saw a snake skin, several cool little formations that have been created over the years and the impressive final section with what looks like a kangaroo painted on the back wall (this is natural colouring). Heading back the way we came, I was the last one out as I wanted some clear photos without the crowds. There is a loop walk back to the car park and we were the only ones to do it as all the other tourists rushed back via the entry track we came in on. The extra walk was pleasant as you pass the rock formations on top of the cave and see several depressions that might cave in sometime in the future. Spotting a pretty flower from a Red-flowering Kurrajong, this was a great experience that I highly recommend.
Final Thoughts – This was one of the first things that came up when researching activities around Katherine and is a unique experience when you're visiting the Top End.
I found the guide to be engaging, knowledgeable and really made the tour exactly what you want out of something as touristy as this.
If you're visiting the Katherine area of the NT then make sure to book in a tour at Cutta Cutta (meaning many stars in the local language).
Get out there and experience it!
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