Undara Volcanic National
After leaving Mount Surprise, we decided to visit
the Undara Lava Tubes since they were directly on our route to Atherton
and the Palmer River goldfields.
The Lava Tubes are located in Undara Volcanic National
Park, located about 30 km east of Mount Surprise, and about 15 kilometres
off the Savannah Way.
A total of 164 volcanoes were once active in the
area; referred to as the McBride Province in geological terminology. Massive
eruptions took place some 190,00 year ago and resulted in over 23 cubic
kilometres of lava consuming approximately 1550 square kilometres of land
The extensive Undara lava flows that resulted stretch
for more than 160 km, making it one of the longest single lava flows in
Thermal abrasion, a process whereby hot lava cut
through old flows and surrounding country rock, is thought to have created
the extensive labyrinth of lava tubes that now exist. One of the tubes
formed by the lava flows extends for about 100km.
Although the Lava Tubes are in a National Park,
they can only be accessed by guided tours arranged through the Undara
Lava Lodge which operates on the station adjoining it.
Undara Lava Lodge
The station owner, Gerry Collins, is the sixth
generation of the Collins family who first settled in the area in the
late 1860's and he developed the Lodge and the "Undara Experience"
The Undara Lava Lodge features authentic, turn-of-the-century
railway carriages that have been restored and are used as the principal
accommodation. Caravan and camp sites are also sprinkled through the savannah
vegetation of the Lodge site.
When Gerry established the Lodge he apparently
struck a deal with the Queensland State Government providing his outfit
with exclusive access to the Tubes (currently under review by the Govt.)
and the net result is that to visit them...you have to book on his company's
guided tours...and pay the exorbitant price that is charged for the experience.
At $33.00 per person for a two hour tour that could
have easily been condensed into an hour...it confirms our view about monopolies.
National Parks are for ALL and exclusive arrangements
like this, no matter what the quality of delivery, lead to exploitation
of the public.
The Undara Experience...
...after a short bus ride we arrived at the Undara
National Park and were each provided with poor quality rechargeable torches
before proceeding to enter the lava tubes through a section that had collapsed.
The National Parks Service has installed an extensive
series of steps and wooden boardwalks to negotiate the tubes easily, safely
and without impact to the environment but have not provided lighting of
any kind in the sections open to visitors. Consequently, it was difficult
to take photographs and to appreciate the various elements and features
pointed out by the guide.
How would we rate the Undara Experience?
-Interesting... but a bit like a visit to a rather ordinary cave...without