Speleology is the study of caves and that is what we do. Some of us do maps and surveys, some assist the scientists and researchers in their projects. These include identifying and counting bats, glow worms and crickets, taking mineral samples to understand the age and development of the caves and finding and identifying bones and fossils. When you are a competent caver you may be called upon to assist researchers in their work.
Keeping in mind the VSA is NOT a tour operator. So we don’t take people caving as a one-off. We offer caving activities for those who think they may like to be involved in the community (and will keep caving regularly). If you after one-off adventure experiences, we advise you approach a commercial caving association.
Okay, we just had to get that out of the way. So what’s next?
Fitness & Age
Caving doesn’t require high fitness necessarily, but bear in mind it is very physical, so those with limited mobility or very low fitness may struggle. All VSA participants must be caving with a guardian if under the age of 18. That said, people of all sorts of ages, shapes and sizes successfully navigate most caves – it is pretty forgiving. We aren’t macho about it, so its normally not a problem.
As a new caver you don’t need any fancy gear. The main two items are a helmet and a mounted head torch. We use rock climbing helmets which are widely available and will set you back around $100. As for the torch, there are dozens of choices – everything from cheap $15, to super bright waterproof whizz-bang lights in excess of $1,000. Basics to bear in mind are: Is it waterproof? (Some caves have water). Is it durable and tough? (It will get banged around) and is it bright? (Brighter the better!). You will also need a secondary light source, which can be a small hand held light.
Apart from that the gear is pretty simple, beginners usually buy some second hand overalls from an op shop, Amazon or tradie store, and gardening knee pads from Bunnings protect your knees when crawling. Gloves are good too, the gardening variety work well. Some caves can be cool (especially the caves in Tasmania than Victoria) but thermals are often worn underneath your over suit. For footwear many wear gumboots or rubber ‘dairy’ boots. They are both waterproof and tough, have good tread and ankle support. A tough camera is a GREAT way to remember your caving adventures.
When you get more serious about your caving you will need to buy more equipment but for a basic beginner the gear above is all you need. Simple huh?
Membership (Gear Access and Insurance)
To come caving with us you will need to join the club. You can join as an introductory member at a low cost, and covers you for 6 months. This membership allows you to borrow club gear while on Beginner trips, including helmets and lights, and importantly covers your insurance with the Australian Speleological Federation (ASF). An ASF Magazine and the VSA Magazine ‘Nargun’ subscription is included.
If you enjoy caving and keep caving beyond 6 months you will have the opportunity to join as an ‘associate’ member, at $115 a year for an individual. This is a bargain compared to commercial operators, and we have a lot more fun.
The VSA beginner trips regularly. These trips are often (but not always) in Buchan. All trips organised through VSA are led by an accredited Trip Leader. Buchan is a 4.5 hour drive east of Melbourne in East Gippsland. There are hundreds of caves in Buchan and the surrounds, some of which are suitable for complete beginners and ranging through to difficult longer, deeper and wet trips. Keep your eye on the calendar on this website for your next beginner trip. Homeleigh is the accommodation where we normally stay, it is very comfortable and was established by cavers for cavers, plus at a good price. We normally car pool to get to and from Buchan and trips typically run from Friday night through to Sunday afternoon. This allows us to get 2-3 different caves in for the weekend.
The caves in Victoria are not long or deep by international standards but they are very pretty. We have some world class decoration in many of our caves. We are also lucky enough to have Volcanic caves and granite boulder caves which are more rare.
Dry caving is a very safe sport. There have been deaths recently in the cave DIVING scene, but the VSA is not a cave diving organisation, and while we do have divers in the club, our trips are not of that nature. There have been very few fatalities in Australian caves over the past 50 years. We also do everything we can to mitigate risk. Despite popular opinion, you are safer underground than on the road on the way to Buchan.
When you are ready please complete and send us your Introductory Membership form.
All financial members are covered by the ASF caving insurance scheme on all club trips and events. Members have access to the Association’s extensive library of caving books and journals, and also access to the extensive collection of cave records, reports and maps. Members receive the monthly VSA Newsletter, the quarterly journal Nargun the contents of the latest edition are freely available to be viewed online.