Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
June 2013

Cutta Cutta Caves
location map
Cutta Cutta Caves are 30 kilometres south of Katherine just off the Stuart Highway in the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Reserve. Access to the caves is only possible on guided tours but there is also a Tropical Woodland Walk meandering among the trees allowing visitors to look at the trees and shrubs of this type of vegetation which is common across the Top End.

The nature reserve encloses a region of limestone region where flowing water has dissolved the limestone forming Cutta Cutta cave. Limestone caves are reported to be unusual for tropical Australia.

There are substantial differences between this tropical limestone cave and limestone caves in southern parts of Australia. The obvious one to visitors during the dry season, when the caves are open to visitors, is that these caves lack the continuous sound of dripping water heard in southern caves; at Cutta Cutta, once the dry season sets in the flow of water fades away and the dripping stops as well. Silence remains.

Another difference is that Cutta Cutta regularly floods during the wet season; water level marks can be seen in the cave during the following dry season. Since the cave has a single entry all the water which floods in then flows out again as outside water level drops. Regular flooding of the cave meant local aboriginals had no incentive to shelter in the caves and there is no evidence of aboriginal occupation.

Cutta Cutta cave is long, narrow and fairly flat; about 700 metres long in total. The pathway for visitors penetrates only a few hundred metres. Beyond that the cave narrows and the roof lowers.

Cave walkway The walkway inside the cave is mostly flat and comfortably wide. The camera flash has made the scene appear brighter than it really is.
flowstone Rock formations caused by flowing limestone.
Cutta Cutta Cave - page 2
At least as important as cave dimensions, humidity increases noticeably with distance from the entrance (there is no ventilation in the enclosed cave) and the atmosphere is uncomfortably humid (80% to 90% has been reported) by the time a tour group reaches the innermost end of the path.

Artificial lighting in the cave is subdued but quite adequate. Using solar panels to provide electricity for the lighting has partly prompted the low light level but it is also more appropriate than glaring overhead lights for the cave.

Outside entrance steps Steps leading down into cave mouth.
Interior steps Steps inside the cave entrance leading down to the flat central walkway.
Flowstone Rock formations in the cave typical of limestone caves everywhere - except that these formations are not dripping wet.
Cutta Cutta Cave - page 3
There are steps down into the cave outside the entrance and more steps within the cave. The visitor track in the cave is nearly flat (concrete or aluminium planking underfoot with convenient handrails) and mostly wide enough to walk normally, but there are one or two squeezes through gaps in the rock.

woodland Woodland extending above the caves is the same as Top End woodland anywhere else with the addition of limestone outcrops indicating the underground limestone deposit.
Limestone A limestone outcrop above Cutta Cutta cave. The narrow vertical grooves at the top of the rock face are typical rain-water erosion of these limestone.

GPS Position
Access from Stuart Highway: - 14° 34' 03"S, 132° 28' 29"E

Office in car-park; - 14° 34' 32.7"S, 132° 28' 17.5"E