We took part in the 2 hour “Riverbend Tour,” which was a perfect introduction to the world of caving. Designed for beginners and children, this tour allowed us to explore the cave without strenuous climbing or technical skills required. We were able to explore crystal formations, ancient fossils, and learn about the history and geology of the cave. My kids have never been so excited about rocks! Here are some highlights from our tour, although I won’t share all the secrets with you as I want you to go and explore the caves yourself!
Arrival and Orientation
Our guides met us at base camp for the very important safety orientation. Conservation is of the upmost importance for the guides, so being sure that we understand what’s being asked of us as guests was important. After that we received our helmets and started our hike.
If you want to go down into a cave, you must first hike up to the entrance! We were dressed warm with all of us having layers on as the cave temperature is a steady 8 degrees. (It was 32 outside!) However, we were quickly peeling off our layers as we did a steady 25 minute climb uphill.
Throughout our ascent our guide stopped to show us points of interest. This included fossils, huge sink holes, irregularities in the landscape and more. He was very engaging and child centered which was ideal as about 50% of our tour was children under 12 years old.
Into the Cave
Before we were able to unlock the keys to the cave, we had one more review of the expectations of us. Our cave guides are so passionate about conservation, and ensuring guests know how to safely navigate the caves was important.
Down We Go
A steep set of stairs welcomed us at the entrance and within seconds we were transitioning from the outdoor sauna into the deep cool underground. It was three points of contact at all times as we crawled down into the cavern and started to navigate slippery rocks and boulders.
Mother Nature’s Masterpiece
As we slowly made our way through the cave our guide shared his expertise on each stalagmite, stalactite, and crystal formation.
Deeper Into The Belly
As we navigated deeper into the belly of the cave we had to stand lower or risk bumping our heads on the ceiling (which happened a lot anyways). The kids felt like real explorers and were grinning ear to ear as they moved through the damp cave floor.
Ice Cream Rocks
Another point of interest was the flowing ice cream formation. It started three stories above where we were sitting and “flowed” over the edge into the cave floor. The kids said they were hungry for ice cream after seeing that!
While I won’t tell you what we are looking at (I can’t give all the cave secrets away), I can tell you that I now have a whole new appreciation for geology and the unique Eco systems that caves have.
- Dress in layers, the hike up the hill will warm you up but you’ll want to layer up when you get to the cave.
- Wear comfortable shoes that you can easily navigate in. Trail runners or hikers work great (boots in the rainy season).
- Leave the backpacks in the car, they are not allowed in the cave and you won’t need them anyways.
- Was I scared?
- YES! I do not like small spaces and of all the adventures I’ve ever done, this is the one I was most nervous for. However, it all quickly went away once we were at the bottom of the entrance to the cave. I was surprised at how big the opening to the cave was and how easy the transition from light to dark was. I also think the adventure was so exciting that I wanted to see more and quickly forgot about my fears.
- Do you need to make reservations?
- This is a very popular tour and at times can be fully booked, so if you’re looking to take part in one of their guided experiences, I highly recommend a booking. However, if you just want to show up and see if there’s a spot you may be able to do that too. They also have self guided tours where you can rent gear and take a map and explore caves on your own.
- What else is there to do at the caves?
- The caves are about 45 minutes North of Parksville, so if you’re going you might as well make a day of it. (Or you can enjoy one of their lakeside camp sites like we did and spend the whole weekend there!) If you are only here for the day you can hang out at the lake, go canoeing or kayaking, or take part in one of the local hikes.
To learn more about Horne Lake Caves or to book your own adventure visit their website.
Want to see more of our caving adventure, check out our video!