Spectacular caves and limestone features are the highlights of the 1499ha Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park.
Open daily, except for when seasonal flooding from January to March makes access inadvisable, this small park 30km south of Katherine is home to the only publicly accessible cave system in the NT.
Cutta Cutta Cave has been visited by people from Katherine since the early 1900s, but it was not until 1967 that an area of 259 hectares was reserved as Sixteen Mile Caves Reserve.
The name of the reserve was changed to Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park in 1979.
There is relatively little information on the early European history of the area.
For a period around 1900 the main cave was known as "Smith’s Cave" named after a white stockman said to be the first European to see the cave.
The area is also recorded as being a picnic destination for Katherine residents during the period 1920 – 1960 and during WWII became known as the Sixteen Mile Caves and regularly visited by servicemen. The main cave attracted some fame in 1962 when used for a "cave-sitting" record attempt.
There are many obvious links between the caves and the landscape above that are often absent from similar systems in southern Australia.
Roots of fig trees twine down through cracks in karst limestone formations.
Sink holes open up revealing tunnels to somewhere unknown.
Many plants and animals take advantage of the constantly changing landscape to create a niche for themselves that provides shelter from a harsh and dry landscape.
Short Beaked Echidna will hide in the mouth of the cave waiting for the cool of the evening before emerging to hunt for termites.
Brown Tree Snakes are commonly seen tucked in among the crevices in the cave roof.
They are waiting for the tiny insectivorous bats to start to move around at night.
Many other insectivorous hunters like frogs and geckos use the nooks and crannies created by the weathered karst limestone as shelter while they sit and wait for dinner to wander on by.
Knowledgeable guides conduct tours of Cutta Cutta Cave every hour on the hour from 9am to 3pm seven days a week, bookings are not required.
With the weather warming up a visit to Cutta Cutta is a fantastic way to while away a Sunday afternoon.
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